The case for multicultural marketing in health no longer needs making

PM Report HEADER IMAGE featuring Roger Sternz, CEO VMLY&Rx Frankfurt 4x3
CEO VMLY&Rx Frankfurt CEO Roger Sternz shares his thoughts in Germany's PM Report

The case for multicultural marketing in health no longer needs making. We understood its importance long before COVID, but the pandemic has raised the stakes, highlighting how deep understanding of culture and community is always at the heart of effective health communications. The current challenges around vaccine hesitancy are a great example. These challenges – like so many others in health – are often rooted in cultural beliefs that will never be overcome by broad-brush messaging. If we want health advertising to change behaviours, campaigns must speak directly to the needs of diverse audiences, and translate the science in their language and on their terms. Understanding and responding to cultural nuances is critical.

There is no doubt that our industry is making a determined effort to bring greater diversity and inclusion to the creative process. We’re beginning to see real progress among our clients and their partners. But multicultural marketing is about much more than bringing a rainbow of colour to creative execution – it’s about acknowledging and connect with cultural nuances right across the value chain, from drug discovery and clinical trials through to commercial launch and beyond. The art of ‘ethno-marketing’ isn’t confined to the final portrait – it’s in every dab of paint that builds the picture.

Fundamentally, creative diversity is a strategy not a tactic. It should start long before a product is conceived – when companies are determining where they want to play – and must be considered at every step of the brand life cycle thereafter. There’s still some way to go before we’re even close to getting this aspect right.

It’s not enough to ensure our ad campaigns have the appropriate balance of cultural representation, we have to be multicultural ourselves. Thankfully change is happening. Right across the industry – both in pharma and agency-side – companies are recognising the importance of having a diverse workforce and acting on it. It’s also underpins our ability, as a communications agency if we want to make science meaningful and inspire human connections. It’s only by building inclusive, multicultural teams that we can fully understand the cultural interplays in the communications process and develop creative campaigns that connect with our audiences. Our teams must reflect a definition of culture that is itself diverse. After all, culture isn’t limited to race and ethnicity, it encompasses everything from age, gender, gender identification, religion, socio-economic status, literacy, neurodiversity and much more besides.

The health industry’s renewed focus on diversity is encouraging. Fittingly, a new culture of meaningful multiculturalism is establishing itself across the sector – and it’s beginning to bear fruit. 

This comment from VMLY&Rx Frankfurt CEO Roger Sternz was featured in a wider article in German in PM Report.