Trends on Tuesday: The Total Market Approach

Apr 21, 2015

Your audience is not homogenous. No matter the agency, target audiences are not only diverse, they are diverse on a multitude of factors. Recently, evolving trends in multicultural marketing have gained attention as organizations adjust their marketing and outreach strategies to meet 21st century realities.

Close-up of raised, multi-ethnic hands.

Marketers who recognize the need for a coherent, effective multicultural strategy have turned to the Total Market Approach (TMA). A coalition of marketing agencies, clients and associations led by AHAA: The Voice of Hispanic Marketing released an industry-sanctioned definition of TMA in September. An article by summarized the definition:

“Utilizing a Total Market Approach means beginning campaign planning with a complete understanding of a diverse consumer and including multicultural audiences in your focus without relying on a one-size-fits-all approach. This requires dividing your team into multiple smaller teams–each tasked with one specific audience–and making sure they all adhere to the larger strategy.”

Will Sullivan, Director of Mobile for the Broadcasting Board of Governors (BBG), said TMA offers a more blended focus on marketing and product strategy than traditional multicultural marketing.

“Government agencies specifically are tasked with serving all of their constituencies, not just specific segments or buckets, so a Total Market Approach makes sense,” Sullivan said. “For example, the U.S. Postal Service has to be able to deliver mail to everyone — from the concentrated masses of people in mega cities but also the rural farmer in the outskirts of Wyoming.​” provided specific takeways for using TMA to improve your efforts:

  • Reset and review. Consider whether you have truly begun campaigns and strategies from the standpoint of the Total Market.
  • Bring everyone under one roof. Whether you’re relying on in-house marketing or working with several agencies to execute your strategies, it is critical to get everyone on the same page.Think of your marketing strategy as a potluck dinner, where everyone has something to contribute. Focus on developing more specific approaches within smaller, demographically targeted teams.
  • Research. If your marketing team isn’t intimately familiar with the cultural nuances of your diverse customer base, you’re guaranteed a poor ROI. Invest in tools if needed, and conduct customer focus groups to navigate unknown territory.
  • Test. Consider testing your Total Market campaign in a smaller market before rolling it out on a national or global scale. Track your results, and return to the drawing board if they fall short of expectations.

Sullivan suggested that government agencies can also start by building 4 to 6, multi-dimensional character personas that aren’t just limited to ethnicity. He provided specific tips:

  • Describe your different groups of customers and primary use cases by different and sometimes conflicting demographics: age, education, upbringing, class, family makeup, and hobbies.
  • Share these personas with everyone involved in the project from leadership to technical support.
  • Consider drawing a caricature of these personas and giving them names so your team and organization stakeholders can easily picture and refer to each persona. The team named each of their personas as they worked to improve customer service.

Sullivan noted that personas also help with agile product development.

These TMA principles apply broadly and can be used by federal agencies to better meet the needs of an increasingly diverse public. DigitalGov offers a usability starter kit which contains resources on personas. There are also several usability case studies on personas, including a recent one featuring the National Cancer Institute and Spanish language personas.