Marketing to different cultures challenging and rewarding

Roberto Garcia
Roberto Garcia

Phil Castle, The Business Times

Businesses face challenges in marketing to different cultures. But those firm that do it right can find a growing customer base for their products and services, according to an entrepreneur who was involved in multicultural marketing for some of the biggest brand names in the country.

Roberto Garcia was scheduled to lead a presentation on multicultural marketing in Grand Junction as well as speak at an event hosted by the Western Colorado Latino Chamber of Commerce.

In a telephone interview beforehand with the Business Times, Garcia discussed the challenges and rewards of multicultural marketing as well as his latest venture, a company that’s developed a smartphone application that provides simultaneous translations of movies.

While he was born and raised in Mexico, Garcia has lived in the United States for about a dozen years. He earned a bachelor’s degree from the University of Notre Dame and master’s of business administration degree from the University of North Carolina at Charlotte.

He became involved in multicultural marketing with an advertising agency and worked with such brands as Budweiser, ESPN and Mars Chocolate. He subsequently joined Budweiser and was involved in developing and marketing new products.

Multicultural marketing presents challenges, Garcia said, starting with the different languages involved. It’s important for businesses to listen to customers and what they’re saying about products and services. But it’s more difficult when those customers literally speak a different language.

Some marketing efforts work on a universal basis. But other efforts must be tailored to a given culture, Garcia said. He cited as an example a campaign offering encouragement to people afflicted with cancer. Marketing efforts to Anglo-Americans encouraged them to fight cancer on an individual level. Marketing efforts to Hispanics emphasized the support of family and the community.

Marketing to different cultures must take into account the values of that culture and what’s considered important, Garcia said.

Multicultural marketing offers rewards, though, in reaching growing groups of customers, Garcia said. Ultimately, multicultural marketing will be required to keep pace with changing demographics, he added.

According to Census Bureau projections, the proportion of Hispanics in the U.S. population is expected to more than double from 17 percent to 31 percent by 2060. Asians are expected to increase from 5 percent of the population to 8 percent. Much sooner, around 2028, what are now racial and ethnic minorities will become a majority among adults ages 18 to 29.

There are opportunities for businesses of all sizes — from large multinational corporations to small firms — to bolster business through multicultural marketing, Garcia said.

Garcia himself hopes to serve customers who speak different languages with Listo, a company he founded to develop a smartphone application that provides simultaneous translations for movies.

The app uses the different soundtracks studios produce in up to 25 different languages in distributing movies to foreign markets. The app samples the sound in a theater to detect a kind of acoustic fingerprint and then synchronizes the foreign language soundtrack with what appears on the screen, Garcia said.

The app can only be used with headphones and also dims smartphone screens when its in use.

Garcia said Listo isn’t yet available, but   the concept has generated a lot of interest and he’s working with studios to resolve issues related to intellectual property rights and security to bring the app to market.

Meanwhile, Garcia has won the Arch Grants startup global competition as well as the emerging business of the year award presented by the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Metropolitan St. Louis.

Garcia said he came up for the idea for the app during a screening of an “Iron Man” movie. He watched as a father and son seated in front of him were ejected from the theater because the son was quietly translating the movie, line for line, for his father, who apparently spoke only Spanish.

Garcia said he’s working to develop Listo to avoid that situation from recurring, but also to take advantage of an opportunity to serve different cultures.