Ethnic marketing has been triggered by a “wake-up call” from the most recent U.S. Census reports. Parenthetically, the very definition of the word ethnic has caused some confusion among those who desire to plow the fertile ground. As defined by the New Collegiate Edition of the American Heritage Dictionary, ethnic is “an adjective used to describe, or pertains to a social group within a cultural and social system that claims or is accorded special status on the basis of complex, often variable traits, including religion, linguistics, ancestral or physical characteristics.”
The population trends given by the US Census Bureau portend dramatic shifts in the US population. According to the US Census, the population of African-Americans, Asians, and Hispanics will increase significantly over the next fifty years. The proportion of African-Americans is expected to grow moderately from 12.6% of the total US population in 1995 to 15.4% in 2050. The proportion of Asians will grow much more rapidly from 3.6% in 1995 to 8.7% in 2050, while the proportion of Hispanics will grow from 10.2% to 24.5% in the same period.
A new America is emerging and the business conglomerates are discovering, much to the disappointment of previous marketing analyses, “one size does not fit all.” In the early history of the US, immigrants came for religious freedom and an opportunity to build a new nation without government interference. These groups built on European culture in order to create a new evolution that catered to their needs. Until recently, the new immigrants have largely been ignored as though this country was the proverbial homogeneous “melting pot.”
How Do Businesses Do It?
Consider these advances made by a few companies:
• In 1993, companies like Proctor & Gamble, Anheuser-Busch and Coca-Cola spent $734 million promoting their goods specifically to the Hispanic market.
• Estee Lauder has a successful line of All Skins cosmetics targeted to ethnic women.
• Chemical Bank has installed Russian-language automated teller machines in areas of Brooklyn where most Russians live.
• In California, Vons Supermarkets developed a separate chain to cater specifically to Hispanics.
• Hospitals, like the Samaritan Hospital near Hollywood, now serve kimchi to their Korean patients and bean curd to Chinese patients.
• Bandages now come in shades of brown as well as pink. Crayola has introduced a box of skin-tone crayons.
• J.C. Penny, Montgomery Ward and Sears have announced plans to sell merchandise specifically targeted to Black and Hispanic consumers.
• Carnival Cruise Lines has dedicated an entire cruise ship called the Fiesta Marina to the Hispanic market.
• J.C. Penney offers merchandise such as linens with bold African prints and cosmetics for women of color.
• Sears offers a broader selection of smaller sizes in all apparel categories as well as a pantyhose line with a variety of shades and sheer textures to complement a black woman's skin color and accommodate her figure.
• Spanish-speaking television stations have been inundated with ads from old-line companies such as McDonald's (which issued a "Mac Report" series of Spanish informercials) and AT&T (which now offers telephone calling plans targeting Mexico).
• Sara Lee plans to continue aggressively marketing its Hanes brand through Spanish-language cable TV and radio in Chicago and Miami.
• Proctor & Gamble produced an ad-supported line extension of Cover Girl cosmetics for black women. They began airing spots aimed at blacks for Crest toothpaste, Tide detergent and Downy fabric softener.
• General Mills became the first cereal company to introduce a product specifically for Hispanic consumers. Called Bunuelitos after a sweet Mexican pastry, it was designed to appeal to this niche's propensity to buy presweetened cereals.
• While black Barbie dolls once looked exactly like white Barbies with the exception of their skin tone, New York-based Olmec Corp. recently came out with a Barbie-type doll with black features called Imani.
• Food 4 Less Supermarkets Inc. opened Latin-oriented Viva Markets in Los Angeles, while Lucky Stores has increased its selection of Mexican foods.
What Can We Learn?
The church in this, the beginning of the millennium, must grapple with its own strategy for evangelism. Successful businesses are adopting the old cliché, “Know thy market.” Our evangelism must be grounded in an imperative to design programs that consider demographics, lifestyles and interests of the groups we want to reach. Our message needs to be culturally relevant. This message cannot be relevant unless there is input from the group to be reached.
Unless local congregations are prepared to hire on its staff someone from a minority group to spearhead the new multicultural evangelistic effort, it may be advisable to wait for a more propitious time. Newcomers to the church would be encouraged to join only if they can see minorities in decision-making places in the church.
I suggest a four-pronged approach to making the US church truly multicultural.
1. Strategies should be developed to start churches that are ethnic and community oriented.
2. Churches should be started among immigrant groups, with emphasis placed on the specific felt needs of the respective groups.
3. Intentional strategies should be developed to start multicultural churches.
4. Assistance and strategic planning should be made available to mono-cultural congregations who would commit to become multicultural.
• Nazarenes should make a personal commitment to be involved in ministries among ethnic groups.
• Nazarenes should learn about their communities and develop plans for outreach in their communities.
• Nazarene districts should develop an Ethnic Ministry Strategic Planning Committee to start and fund churches in changing neighborhoods.
• Nazarene districts should identify and purchase church buildings that would otherwise be sold by the relocated congregation.
• Nazarene institutions of higher learning should accelerate efforts to expand degree programs with offerings in multiple languages and diverse cultural settings.
• Nazarene districts should invest in ministry preparation that is geared specifically to ethnic groups, and developed with their input.
by Oliver R. Phillips