“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think. We try to write in the vernacular” ~ David Ogilvy

How is that this nugget from Ogilvy, the father of advertising, is still just as relevant in the digital era as it was in the late ‘40s when Ogilvy, Benson & Mather started the makings of an advertising revolution?

The concept of creating a powerful branding strategy, one that marries a product name with a product with the sole objective of fostering “brand loyalty” remains Ogilvy’s single-most important legacy. It’s what both fledgling and season ad executives even today want to create in their campaigns.

As such, there are dozens of commandments of advertising, each one worth its weight in gold, but have you wondered what’s the one thing agencies have been missing in their marketing strategy, the secret sauce if you will, that could help them nab new clients?

Is there a silver bullet?

Yes. For starters, there has been a slow but steady shift in the cultural makeup of the target audience in every major market in the world.

David Fletcher, head of research at Mediaedge.cia in the U.K. makes several astute observations supporting this fact in his report, Reaching the Ethnic Consumer: A challenge for marketers.

“These days, many in the ethnic communities exist to a large extent in a plural culture,” notes Fletcher. “There’s a spectrum that you move along. You can, for instance, define yourself as both British and Asian, and, depending on the context, one will be to the fore.”

If you substitute the word “British” with “Canadian” Fletcher’s observations still hit the mark.

This means there’s clearly a niche for culturally-relevant marketing. But, are the brands optimizing the opportunities? Yes and no.

Two decades ago, brands could get away with targeting a single cohesive audience by hammering their message at a given frequency—television commercials, radio jingles, billboards, etc. Then came the concept of segmenting the audience.

Adding insulting to the mix

Targeting, in turn, led to micro-targeting, and somewhere in the haste of grabbing a coveted market share with their ethnic audience, brands became complacent. They handed over the all-important task of wooing a segmented audience to mainstream agencies with stellar marketing credentials but with no clue about cultural sensitivity.

Fast-forward to circa 2018. It seems as though strategic targeting at times has resulted in colossal blunders, blunders that have single-handedly managed to offend an entire country. We would like to serve a recent example as a classic cautionary tale.

In a previous blog, we talked about the Chinese customers and their appetite for luxury brands. So, Dolce & Gabbana, an elite fashion house, decided to release a series of advertisements in Shanghai, ahead of its runaway launch—The Great Show.


The campaign backfired spectacularly and ended up insulting the Chinese consumer. The badly produced ads filled with stereotypes, clichés and a blatant disregard, showed a Chinese woman valiantly trying to eat Italian food with a pair of chopsticks. The other commercials in the campaign were equally insensitive and condescending.

The lesson here? There’s a fine line between cultural sensitivity and racism. If you are a brand it can cost you more than your reputation.

Maple Diversity Communications Inc. is a multicultural agency that has aced cultural marketing. Interested? Contact us.