Sunday, 20 January 2008

Multicultural communication or the key for a successful ethnic PR in France

After a few days without leaving any thoughts on this blog, I started thinking about what makes diversity work in our “mixed ethnic” countries. And I thought it works best when this diversity is one whole mix, part of one whole culture: a multicultural culture. So is multicultural communication the future for an ethnic PR in France? That’s anyway what works best for the moment, simply because the idea of gathering people is much easier to accept than the idea of splitting them up.
Of course, there is the risk of stereotyping a perfect homogeneous society where all the groups are exactly complementary; and some could also fear that communicating on multicultural societies would lead to giving up some aspects of ethnic group identities and keep only some of them, in order to fit in the whole general identity… Well, maybe here is the limit of ethnic PR in France: in the public sphere we could all belong to one French identity, and in the private sphere… Everybody does what he or she wants!
That may sound like a utopian theory, but I think it’s actually becoming true. I’m not saying that ethnic communities are disappearing, melting in one only French culture (and I think that would be sad!), but I just look around me and see how things are lived in the young generations. For example, let’s talk about the French football team: in 1998 some pointed out all the different ethnic origins of the team, where we could see more Black and Arabic people than Whites… But until I heard this comment, I actually didn’t pay attention to this! To me these footballers were just the French team, and I didn’t care about their skin colours… And of course I was not the only one to think this way. Therefore, I believe that this will be the way of thinking in France in the future…So, probably traditional ethnic PR and Marketing, targeting specific communities, will still play a minor role in the country, while multicultural communication will make more and more sense.

Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Mecca-cola: communication failure or unsuccessful provocation?

I’ve discovered the existence of Mecca-cola only recently, while I was doing researches to feed this blog: that’s an alternative drink for Coke launched in France by Tawfik Mathlouthi in November 2002, while the anti American feeling was raising in a few places in the world. The slogan is simple: "No more drinking stupid, drink with commitment". It is all about combating "America's imperialism and Zionism by providing a substitute for American goods and increasing the blockade of countries boycotting American goods," Mr Mathlouthi told BBC News Online.

That was a typical French provocation, and probably a smart way to do an ethnic communication “a la francaise”… But it seems that it’s been a short-term media buzz, not leading to a big change in drinking attitudes, even in Muslim communities; and even if in January 2003 two million bottles, each holding 1.5 litres, had already been sold, and the drink was being exported to Britain, Germany, Belgium, Italy and Spain. Some of my friends have heard of this and some, like me, haven’t. So is that the French ethnic PR limit? An attempt to specifically target an ethnic community not followed up by fear of threatening the national cohesion?

I guess the product was probably a bit too provocative, even in a country like France that loves being the troublemaker. I think the media coverage was not that big because that would have questioned too much the integration of the Muslim community, not talking about the Jewish one…
I personally like the Mecca-cola idea, but who knows? Maybe I’d feel uncomfortable drinking it in Paris with a Muslim guy who would be proud to display his religious and political views, strongly linked with his ethnic origins, and would be defiantly looking at the other table where people would be drinking coke…I could think this could lead to some unnecessary aggressiveness, and that maybe anti Americanism could easily turn into some anti Occidentalism…

BBC News Online

Monday, 7 January 2008

A more and more mixed world

Today I’m thinking of our more and more mixed societies, especially in Paris where I’m from, and in London where I live. This will definitely have an impact on future generations, about how approaching different ethnic groups; hopefully, knowing more about our differences, we’ll have less racism and the different cultures will coexist and even interact more naturally… And that’s what I can already notice in my generation. Then, maybe instead of talking about ethnic marketing we could talk about ethnic minorities management, which means the management of social groups that share common things. Juergen Schwoerer, Director of Sociovison, said that we should look at groups according to their common values rather than the language they speak or their skin color: “If we think that an ethnic group is homogeneous, we are out of the reality”.

The first step would be knowing and studying ethnic communities. For Esther Flath, associate Director of Sorgem, there is 2 ways of approaching ethnic marketing: “Or companies target specific ethnic communities, or they wonder if there are different practices about their product, which may be useful to know. Since we ask these questions, it’s essential to study the differences between representation and practices. There is nothing wrong with looking at different targets. But we need a very strict ethic in order to take all precautions to avoid discrimination.”

There is here a big richness to discover: surveys show an increasing opening of people to foreign practices or cultures: the huge enthusiasm for world cuisine or world culture can testify this. Indeed, we can say that today and tomorrow’s social reality is that the world is more and more mixed… Maybe France doesn't adapt enough to this new reality and is too scared of the risks implicated in targeting ethnic communities? Let's see if the young generations will find a way of producing a strong "french ethnic PR"!...

Marketing magazine website

Saturday, 5 January 2008

L’Oreal, a French ethnic marketing’s typical example

In the USA, ethnic cosmetic have started to be promoted for a while: society's image of beauty is no longer reserved for the all-American blond-haired, blue-eyed bombshell. Exotic, ethnic women like Jennifer Lopez and Beyonce Knowles have caught America's eye, as well as the eye of cosmetics manufacturers, as many ethnic women show no fear of experimenting with color.

In 2003, L’Oreal opened an ethnic beauty research centre in Chicago, focusing on hair and skin. While much of the lab's efforts focused on skin and hair care needs of people of African descent, research expanded to cover the Asian, Hispanic and Caucasian populations. "You can't understand one group without comparing it to another ethnic group, said Dr. Victoria Holloway, director of the institute and assistant vice president of research and development for L'Oreal USA. In the USA, ethnic consumers account for 51 percent of all hair care sales and spend double the percentage of their annual income on hair care products, when compared with Caucasians…

I guess the French market must offer the same kind of potential. That explains why L’Oreal created new cosmetic products -for all its markets- adapted to all types of skin and hair: for exampleTrue Match, a foundation available in 24 shades that promises to match any skin tone precisely, or "Color Riche Accords Naturels" also called "Nude Colours" lipsticks, made for revealing each type of skin’s beauty.

As L’Oreal is one of the biggest French brands, maybe this will light the way to other companies? Anyway the adverts have been smart enough to convey a very positive message about ethnic differences; maybe that’s easier as it isn’t targeted to one specific ethnic group but to all women, so it displays an obvious tolerance message…

BNET Research Center

Friday, 4 January 2008

How approaching French ethnic diversity?

Here are some translated extracts from an interview to Julien Landfried, Director of the Observatory of Communities, and Jean-Christophe Despres, General Director of Sopi, 1st –and only- multicultural communication agency:

Jean-Christophe Despres: “In the agency, we do different kinds of researches in order to approach the country’s diversity, like crossed ethnologic and sociologic surveys. We’ve also created a behaviour database, under the supervision of an ethic comity. The segmentation by ethnic groups has enabled us to state the first differences between the ”born here” and the “migrants”, that also need to be divided into subgroups. Then, we can establish communication strategies tailored for each group.

Julien Landfried: In these cases, Sopi’s marketing speech seems to me a bit ideological towards ethnic minorities. Ethnic marketing’s aim is promoting the use of a “community product” responding to a specific need: for example, a cosmetic product for black skins or casher meat. So ethnic marketing has nothing to do with the idea of identity. Indeed, identity can’t summarize all characteristics and needs of a person.

Jean-Christophe Despres: One to one marketing is more and more used. Its aim is to create the most personalised link with the targeted persons. So how, in this approach, doing as if the person’s origin has no importance? It’s better to give a fairer importance to identity.”

Then, they both agreed that in order to avoid excesses, we shouldn’t categorize people too much, in an opportunistic way, and use stereotypes. Jean-Christophe Despres also highlighted that all communities are not homogeneous, and that understanding someone’s identity is very complex. Julien Landfried added that we should identify real needs and not make up some new ones according to political conceptions. Otherwise, we would end up putting people into ghettos… We shouldn’t reduce anyone to his or her ethnic community.
To me, that’s the biggest risk, in all parts of life: I’ve always hated people who categorize other people, and who think they have understood everything about them… Maybe it’s because I’m French? Therefore, I think that, of course, there is a chance for ethnic PR to be more developed in France, but their practitioners will have to be very careful to show an obvious tolerance towards ethnic groups: otherwise, in a country like France, they will be totally dismissed!

Website of UJJEF, Communication et Entreprise

Thursday, 3 January 2008

Ethnic marketing and representation

Here is Marc Drillech's view about ethnic marketing, that I think intersting to read on this blog: "Once we’ve admitted that advertising’s role is not replacing politics, but that its aim is to build performing brands able to stand out in the commercial market, and that our citizenship is the same for all kind of activity, we can then talk about how ethnic minorities are represented in another way.

First of all, let’s kill this ethnic marketing concept, which has become a rag-bag used to throw in all ideas, all strategies which refer to ethnic minorities. Specific cultures always had, in France and in other countries, products, brands, sale places, offers, responding to their cultures. The fact that ethnic marketing is developing in a France more and more split into different ethnic communities is a social fact, that transforms the country, but whose market, reality and potential needs to be level-headed. When a product goes out of its “cultural limits” in order to be adopted by all the French, like pizza or couscous (remember Garbit couscous: “it’s good like over there”), it’s not new or even surprising.

But the representation question is different, because it’s fundamentally a politic question, because it’s the source of constant conflicts, because it makes us think about integration and national identity, because it questions marketing approach and companies and advertising agencies’ choices."

So does that mean that the real problem is not about targeting, and therefore differentiating ethnic communities, but more about how these communities are represented? That would raise the question of a "political correct" ethnic marketing, that could fit french integration's expectations...

Notes à partir de Critic-hall - Le Blog de Marc Drillech tagué avec 'marketing ethnique' :
(Thoughts translated from Critic-hall – Marc Drillech’s blog tagged with “ethnic marketing”)

Monday, 31 December 2007

Is there an alternative ethnic PR suitable for France?

Here are the different types of ethnic PR and Marketing:

The ethnic icon: it’s the oldest and the most stereotyped; it’s the other’s presence in the advertising’s sphere. It’s been almost 150 years that Black, Oriental, Asian or Jewish people are used as symbols in order to claim the merits of an authentic product (Banania, Uncle Ben’s, Vahine…)

The heroic icon: it’s represented by real people who are perfect examples of a successful integration, like Zidane, Ronaldo, Dessailly… They are not only “part of the decorum”, but actively promoting the message.

The multicultural communication: it’s the “politically correct” trend; it’s giving life, in created images, to a reflection of the society where we are talking in (Orange, Benetton…)

The strict ethnic Marketing: it’s the one that makes the debate today in France; however, it’s less depreciatory than the ethnic icon, which, in most of cases, makes the other appear inferior, in a pure colonialist and racist tradition. It’s also less depreciatory than the multicultural communication which most often uses the other as a part of the decorum, and not as a real actor. This 4th trend concern most often products with an ethnic target (Mecca-Cola, kasher and halal products, specific phone cards for the 3 Maghreb countries…)

RESIS, Reseau d’information Strategique pour les Entreprises,
in Altema, le journal des tendances de la consommation, Dossier, Avril 2004.
(RESIS, Strategic Information Network for Companies,
In Altema, the consumption trends magazine, Feature, April 2004)