Some brand strategies have more appeal to bi-cultural consumers

By our News Team | 2022

As bi-cultural consumers become more common in the US, business schools are researching how brands can better resonate with them.

Bi-cultural consumers such as Asian Americans or Hispanic Americans are the fastest-growing demographic in the US, and one of the challenges marketers face is how to build brands that resonate with consumers who have assimilated norms from different cultures and are able to code-switch between behaviours in response to social cues.

According to a recent paper co-written by a team of consumer marketing experts from the University of Illinois, so-called ‘paradox brands’ – brands that can straddle contradictory meanings or possess opposing characteristics – are more appealing to bi-cultural consumers than traditional singular-meaning brands.

Their research will also have wide appeal for African marketers, given that so many people on the continent are bi-cultural.

Bi-Cultural Consumers

Photo by Fauxels from Pexels

Because of their higher levels of cognitive flexibility through their multi-cultural milieu, bi-cultural consumers in the US evaluate paradox brands more favourably and choose them more often over traditional brands that lack contradictions, said Maria A. Rodas, a Professor of Business Administration at the university’s Gies College of Business and a co-author of the research.

“Bi-cultural individuals constantly toggle back and forth from one culture to another, whether it’s switching languages or responding to different cultural stimuli,” she explained. 

“They have this cognitive flexibility that other consumers might not have in that they’re constantly comparing and contrasting things from their respective cultures, and that makes brands that are contradictory more appealing to them. The net effect is that bi-cultural consumers become more strongly engaged with the paradox brand, resulting in more favourable evaluations.”

Bi-cultural consumers are a huge marketing opportunity

“Bi-cultural consumers are a huge opportunity for marketers because they’re the fastest growing demographic in the US, yet we know relatively little about what brand strategies work for them,” added Carlos Torelli, a Professor of Business Administration and a co-author of the paper. 

“Our research demonstrates that building a paradox brand can be a particularly successful approach to win over bi-cultural consumers.”

The researchers tested their hypothesis through seven studies, including a field study of consumer brand preferences and subsequent evaluations of the process responsible for those effects, providing evidence for the causal links between cultural background, cognitive flexibility and paradox brand evaluations.

Paradox brands were defined as brands whose identities incorporate seemingly inimical traits or contradictory meanings. Examples include the Janus-faced characteristics found in the “rugged-yet-sophisticated” brand personality of the automaker Land Rover, or the opposing values found in the “traditional-but-trendy” brand of fashion company Burberry.

The studies show that bi-cultural consumers, with higher levels of cognitive flexibility, engage more with paradox brands, which leads to more favourable paradox brand evaluations compared with mono-cultural consumers.

“All of this is driven by the greater cognitive flexibility found among bi-cultural consumers,” Rodas said. 

“Paradox brands invite that kind of engagement due to opportunity for divergent thinking. And stronger brand engagement contributes to more favourable brand evaluations and choice. But the overall picture is that our conclusions go against one of marketing and advertising’s bedrock principles, which is that successful branding involves a single, clearly expressed and unambiguous claim about a brand’s position.”

The findings point to opportunities for brands and marketers to appeal to a rapidly growing segment of consumers, the researchers said. 

“Marketers are well aware of the opportunities that exist in developing brands that would appeal to bi-cultural consumers, and are responding with increased budgets and tailored marketing campaigns to target this group,” Rodas noted.

Read the full research here: https://academic.oup.com/jcr/article/48/4/633/6302569

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    Dr Kin Kariisa

    Group CEO - Next Media

    Dr. Kin Kariisa is an extraordinary force at the helm of Next Media Services, a conglomerate encompassing NBS TV, Nile Post, Sanyuka TV, Next Radio, Salam TV, Next Communication, Next Productions, and an array of other influential enterprises. His dynamic role as Chief Executive Officer exemplifies his unwavering commitment to shaping media, business, and community landscapes.
    With an esteemed academic journey, Dr. Kariisa’s accolades include an Honorary PhD in exemplary community service from the United Graduate College inTexas, an MBA from United States International University in Nairobi, Kenya, a Master’s degree in Computer Engineering from Huazong University in China, and a Bachelor’s degree in Statistics from Makerere University.
    Dr. Kariisa pursued PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radboud University in Nijmegen, Netherlands. As a dynamic educator, he has shared his expertise as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at both Makerere University and Radboud University.

    Dr Kin did his PhD research in Computer Security and Identity Management at Security of Systems Group, Radbond University in Nigmegen, Netherlands. He previously served as a lecturer of e-Government and Information Security at Makerere University in Kampala, Uganda and Radbond University in Netherlands.

    Dr Kin did his postgraduate courses in Strategic Business Management, Strategic Leadership Communication and Strategies for Leading Successful Change Initiatives at Harvard University, Boston USA.

    • Other current and previous roles played by Dr Kin Kariisa:
    • Lecturer of e-Government and Information Security to graduate students at Makerere University, Kampala and Radbond University in the Netherlands
    • Director of Eco Bank Uganda Limited, one of the largest banks in Africa
    • Chairman of the National Association of Broadcasters, an umbrella industry association for all Television, Radio and online broadcasters in Uganda.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Nile Hotel International, that owns the leading hotel in Uganda, Kampala Serena Hotel.
    • Chairman of Board of Directors of Soliton Telmec Uganda, the leading telecom company in Optic fibre business managing over 80% of optic fibre in Uganda.