Are you a global brand looking to create advertisements for the United States to reach Americans? If so, let's tackle this topic by asking the major question:
HOW does a brand (not based in the US) from any industry, [effectively] communicate their specific message to the United States using ads?
For starters, realizing that the US — although considered a "western culture"
("Western culture, sometimes equated with Western lifestyle is a term used very broadly to refer to a heritage of social norms, ethical values, traditional customs, belief systems, political systems, and specific artifacts and technologies that have some origin or association with Europe.")
through the values instilled in us all of how to go about life, what to pursuit, etc., — we cannot forget it is also a "melting pot" of different cultures.
What the term "melting pot" means is that the US is comprised of different cultures that meld together — or blend, mix, or merge — to form America. In essence, American culture is a group of different cultures. Therefore, cannot be defined under one category...simply, Americans.
Let's look further into this cultural melting pot. We'll do so by first keeping in mind the differences between "race" and ethnicity":
"Race" is usually associated with biology and linked to physical characteristics such as skin color, hair texture, etc.. While "ethnicity" is linked to cultural expression and identity. In other words, "race" is to physical traits and what you inherit, as "ethnicity" is to how you live based on what you learn.
What this really means is this:
A group of people that identify themselves of the same culture, won't necessary all look the same. And a group of people that may look "the same," won't necessarily all be of the same culture.
Take me, for example: My experience has proven that the majority of people, when thinking of an "American," they think of a white skinned individual with blond hair and light colored eyes. But guess what? I am an American (born in America) with brown skin, light brown hair and brow eyes. If you were to look at me, you would associate me as anything BUT American, if you were to go by the stereotype I just mentioned. (I have lost track of how many times I've gotten asked what my nationality is while IN America. So there you have it; it's a stereotype here, too.)
But let's keep going...
With my parents being Brazilian and in me being born and raised in America, I have a mix of "American ideals" and "Brazilian values" all wrapped into one. So not only is my race not the "typical" American image people are keen to assume when looking at Captain America, my ethnicity is a mix of what living in America has taught me and what my parents have instilled in me from the Brazilian culture. (And yes, there are also white skinned individuals with ethnicities that aren't so obvious to what the world sees as the "stereotypical" American.)
Case in point? Don't make the mistake of putting people in the American boxed label.
If you leave this blog post with one taught, leave with this:
A UNITED group of races and ethnicities MAKE UP AMERICA.
Like me, there are many in the US that would agree. It's what, in my opinion, keeps things interesting in America. Because you think you know, but you really have no idea what each individual "is" and how each individual "lives".
And while on this topic, let me also refer to a misconception that really doesn't help brands in their research. I'll give an example: Brazilians. Brazilians are often grouped under HISPANICS here in the US. We are not Spanish speaking but we are geographically located in a continent that is predominantly Spanish speaking. HOWEVER, never group Brazilians and Hispanics. THESE ARE TWO DIFFERENT GROUPS WITH DIFFERENT CULTURES AND DIFFERENT LANGUAGES.
What does this mean to you and your team when looking into building campaigns for your brand to target Americans? First off, don't simply consider what you know to be the values, beliefs, and traditions of "western culture" when it comes to Americans. Because it doesn't even scratch the surface of what the US is comprised of.
My piece of advice?
Consider the notion that yes, it is very possible to be inclusive and resonate across diverse America through your communications initiatives. How? Well, first off, outsourcing and working alongside a trusted global brand and communications strategist in the US that brings an outsider perspective of your brand and knows what to look for when researching and providing recommendations to your team. It's not enough to provide statistics of the "types of races and/or ethnic groups" that reside in the place you will be deploying your campaign. It's necessary to first know what your brand's message is and to what means you'd like to share it (i.e. commercial, activation, etc.), how to cross-communicate it in a way that will resonate, locally, gain an understanding of your brand's local validation prior to campaign deployment (if the brand already has market share in the US), and provide the best form of assistance to make sure your initiative isn't considered tone-deaf.
It's why Projects by AG exists...
If you are working on a campaign for the US market, I can provide research and share consumer insights based on your advert concepts, letting you know if it will resonate with the desired segment audience you want to target. I'll provide cultural feedback and recommendations on visuals, messaging and creative concepts to address your needs and help you meet your overall goals. Contact me here.