Ethnic marketing to the global millennial consumers: Challenges and opportunities

Tana Licsandru, Charles Cui

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingConference contributionpeer-review


This paper reports on an exploratory study on the global millennial consumers’ perceptions of ethnic targeted marketing communications in a multicultural marketplace. Millennials are the most ethnically diverse generational cohort that has ever existed (Carpenter, Moore, Dohert and Alexander, 2012; Pew Research Center, 2010), yet little is known about their interpretation of ethnicity depiction in advertising and how they draw from advertising imagery to infer their ethnic identity, integration and welfare in the diverse society. Within the broader framework of the global consumer culture, this paper draws on theories of multiculturalism and ethnic identity to investigate whether ethnic marketing communications and race-based segmentation are still applicable in the current marketplace. Twenty in-depth interviews were conducted with an ethnically heterogeneous sample of millennial individuals living in the UK. During the interviews a photo elicitation stage was employed. The data collected were analysed inductively, following the six step thematic analysis technique (Braun and Clarke, 2006). The findings of the current exploratory research provide new insights into the global identity of the ethnic millennial consumers, whose liberal views of ethnicity, immigration, equality and multiculturalism determine positive affect towards diversity depiction in advertising imagery. Boundary conditions to the assumed benefits of ethnic based segmentation and targeting are discussed, highlighting the opportunities and challenges of reaching to this diverse audience. Particularly, our findings show that multi-ethnic embedded marketing communications are likely to effectively enhance the multi-faceted identity of the global millennial consumer and to promote a sense of acceptance and belonging to the broader society. On the contrary, depiction of mono-cultural primes in marketing communications does not appear to be equally effective in the multicultural marketplace, triggering “multiple identity blindness” (Kang and Bodenhausen 2015) and inadvertent generalizations. This paper contributes to insights into millennial consumers’ experience in the multicultural marketplace, whose evolution to adulthood has paralleled the unprecedented development of the global consumer culture. A series of propositions are provided to be tested in further research. A cross-generational investigation of consumer perceptions of ethnic embedded marketing communications may also be considered in future studies by researchers in the area of international marketing and ethnic consumer behaviour.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationProceedings of 2016 Royal Bank International Research Conference, June 24-26, Wuxi, China.
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2016


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