When a Walmart or P&G uncouples its multicultural budgets, is it time for MC agencies to tremble or cheer? More than anything else, the creation of autonomous MC budgets signals a welcome turning point-however nascent-in the branding community. The message, to our thinking, reflects an attitude change long overdue. MC budgets, like the MC marketplace itself, suffered a kind of second-class citizenship. The days of the entrenched, bifurcated view-dividing markets between multicultural and mainstream-are passing, if not already gone. And with good reason: MC population and purchasing power are growing far faster than the mainstream, in a marketplace reversal without equal in modern American commerce.
MC budgets have a long, arduous history of fighting to the surface. Champions at the product level often fought for the crumbs. This too is reversing. Upper management is now taking the lead, promoting not only independent MC budgets, but the incentives to assure the investments are optimally deployed. We can argue this should have happened well before now. But we in the multicultural arena know that cultural change, at whatever level, arrives slowly. That the two largest retail marketers in the world, Walmart and P&G, have initiated the change suggests others will not be far behind.
Speaking of culture, the culture of MC agencies has thrived-owing to budget constraints-on agility, nimbleness and leverage. You could say those three elements underpin online marketing and branding. So it is no stretch to say MC agencies are, by birth and pedigree, totally in sync with Internet culture. Most MC clients recognized this, but didn’t necessarily have the autonomy to take advantage of it. As MC budgets go independent, MC agencies may well see more intensive investment in digital media, since research shows an accelerating level of engagement among MC consumers, often outpacing mainstream counterparts.