Sunday, March 16, 2014

Search Trends in the Multicultural Market

I have many times said that Google is probably the most useful company in the world.  They are making information availability pervasive and usable. They have a service called Google Trends that traces, in relative terms, the prevalence of searches of specific terms and expressions in their search engine. They do not provide actual frequencies but percentages of a total represented by the tallest point in the distribution and that is equal to 100.

I thought it would be interesting to check and see how different searches in the United States reflect the sentiment of those who search for multicultural and related marketing topics. The first search I did was for the term “Multicultural Marketing.” The resulting graph is below:

Surprising and thought provoking, this graph shows that there was a moment in recent history when Multicultural Marketing in the US was very salient. Interestingly as the recession took root searches for multicultural marketing diminished in relative frequency, but then stabilized over time up to the present. It is important to note that Google trends started approximately in 2004, so it is difficult to know what the popularity of terms was before that. What about Hispanic Marketing?

The search incidence for “Hispanic Marketing” had its peak in 2004 and then decreased to relative stability since 2009. The term “Latino Marketing” shows a similar tendency so I am not posting it here. Google reports that there is not enough data to report trends for “African American Marketing” or “Asian Marketing.”

The concept of “Total Market” has become popular in recent times. The problem with this term, however, is that it has more than one meaning and it is difficult to sort the searches for the meaning associated with marketing in general. With that word of caution, the graph shows a surge as “Total Market” has been a novelty in recent years.

Total Market searches reached its highest point at the end of 2008 and has been relatively high until the present day. I thought I should compare all these trends with their relative frequencies against each other.

In this chart the color blue stands for “Total Market,” red for “Hispanic Marketing” and yellow for “Multicultural Marketing.” This graph provides a relative perspective on the prevalence of the three topics. Hispanic and Multicultural marketing seem to have stabilized and run in parallel. “Total Market” however has actually increased in relative interest over time.

It is difficult to make generalizations based on these data.  It, nevertheless, is interesting to observe how the marketing community has shifted its interest from Hispanic and Multicultural Marketing to Total Market.  This is somewhat unsettling to people like me who believe that culturally based marketing is important for touching the emotional cords of culturally diverse consumers.
As I have stated elsewhere, total market approaches may be appealing as an energy and money saving compromise. However, that is likely to backfire; marketing is precisely about reaching large groups of consumers that share something in common with relevant messages and products. Culture is what makes groups of humans unique, because it identifies what they share, including values, beliefs, and perspectives. It is what we are brought up with and what makes us see the world in special ways. Culture influences perception and perception is reality. It is very difficult to have an overarching approach that touches consumers deeply without taking culture into consideration.

Powerful tools like Google Trends can help us understand how marketers and consumers think and feel. Enjoy experimenting with it.