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By Mari D. González
I am pleased to learn that there is a newly formed national professional organization that addresses cross-cultural understanding in marketing –The Cross Cultural Marketing and Communications Association (CCMCA). This organization will facilitate and expand a much-needed cross-cultural perspective in the U.S. Thus, the idea that there is a dominant culture to which everyone should adhere is beginning to lose popularity. This acknowledgment informs us that the exponential growth of U.S. micro cultures, or so- called minority groups, can no longer be ignored.
In the last few decades, the conversation on ethnic marketing has paid a lot of attention to Hispanics. At the beginning of 2013, driven by census results in population growth of Asians, African-Americans, and Latinos and by a larger display of political power from those emerging groups, we began to hear less about Hispanic marketing and more about multicultural marketing.
Nevertheless, the term multicultural had already lost its distinctive meaning because it has been overused. “Multicultural” became the kind of I-feel-good-using-it-but-do-not-know-what-it-really-means expression. It lost meaning because many people used it thoughtlessly. Most people do not dare to learn about the culturally different unless they live in Oakland, CA, where there is greater diversity and they are likelier to make friends with people of other ethnicities.
On the other hand, cross-cultural, which means looking at similarities and differences, places social groups on a level playing field. Cross-cultural communication promises to see groups without any hierarchy, to cross over and even get closer to another cultural group. In cross-cultural communication, we learn by looking at how these cultural groups see themselves as opposed to how they have been perceived by the macro or dominant culture, which in this case, would be considered top-cultural instead of cross-cultural.
As a professional interculturalist who has done cross-cultural analysis in marketing, I could not be more delighted that a nation-wide professional marketing organization now exists and has the potential to address domestic, as opposed to international, issues related to culture in marketing and communications. This is an internal, inside the country, analysis of the relevance that the many ethnicities and social groups have in this country instead of, for instance, looking at the Chinese or the European markets.
Since I published the article “Cross-Cultural vs. Intercultural,” it has consistently been the top post according to Ixmati Communications’ WordPress dashboard statistics. This article also prompted comments from two subject matter experts.
Leo Salazar wrote:
“Well written, Mari. One learns by writing, and the more I write the more I realize how little I know. I welcome the learning offered by experts such as yourself, who take the time and trouble to help me understand. It’s unfortunate that the particular writer on the Mashable, oops, I mean the well-respected social media blog, wasn’t open to your contribution.
You have, indeed, pointed out a very fundamental difference in terms. Most people who have a good command of the English language should understand that “inter-” and “cross-” have completely different meanings. You travel the interstate to go cross-country, but you can’t take the cross-state to go inter-country.”
Leo is the principal at Effective Intercultural Business. He specializes in learning and development in an intercultural context. He’s based in Amsterdam, Netherlands. More about Leo @srLeoSalazar
Joe Ray wrote:
“Good explanation, Mari. I have been working on presentation that includes some of these aspects and knew there were subtle yet contrasting differences in the terms.
I seem to hear the term cross-cultural thrown about more so than intercultural when navigating through the Latino market universe. However, much of my interaction is also with Native American tribes and have noticed that one term they use quite a bit is intertribal.
Your explanation was clear and very helpful. Much appreciated!”
Joe is the Creative Director at Estudio Ray, a branding agency that specializes in connecting with Latino consumers and in Hispanic marketing. He is based in Phoenix, Arizona. More about @JoeRayCr8iv