Ethnic Marketing: McDonald's Is Lovin' It
The BBW50 chain taps Latino and black culture for mainstream ads By Burt Helm
The music industry has long sold black culture to white Americans. Now McDonald's (MCD) is doing much the same. It's taking cues from African Americans, Hispanics, and Asians to develop menus and advertising in the hopes of encouraging middle-class Caucasians to buy smoothies and snack wraps as avidly as they consume hip-hop and rock 'n' roll. "The ethnic consumer tends to set trends," says Neil Golden, McDonald's U.S. chief marketing officer. "So they help set the tone for how we enter the marketplace." Golden says preferences gleaned from minority consumers shape McDonald's menu and ad choices, which are then marketed to all customers. The fast-food giant's strategy is a departure from the way companies typically market to American households. Usually, a company works with an agency to develop advertising aimed at the general market, then turns to boutique multicultural agencies to create versions tailored to blacks, Hispanics, or Asians. McDonald's still creates ads specially tailored to minority groups, as it has for over 30 years, but minorities exert an increasingly influential role in its mainstream advertising as well. The company thinks they provide early exposure to new trends. "Most companies think they can box in Latinos, box in African-Americans, and then run the general market ad," says Steve Stoute, chief executive of Translation, which advises brands, including McDonald's, on how to reach young adults. "McDonald's will take an ad that could be primarily geared toward African-Americans and put a general market advertising dollar behind it." The move reflects a demographic shift under way in the U.S. as a whole. As whites head toward minority status by mid-century, according to Census Bureau projections, Hispanics, Asians, and black populations are growing faster. California and Texas, the two largest states, are...
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