Cultural Fluency: A Revolutionary New Framework for Winning in Today’s America


As part of our 2017 executive Roundtable series, co-hosted by Google and A+E Networks, we unveiled a new framework for understanding culture in America. For years, marketers have been looking at culture through an ethnic-only lens. This no longer works. It’s time to look at consumers from a much broader vantage point. And that’s where Cultural Fluency comes in.

Multicultural Marketing is Broken

Mutlicultural marketing is facing a host of obstacles including:

  • Shifts to more inclusive, integrated programs or “Total Market,” that create more questions around execution
  • Decentralization and disbanding of multicultural centers
  • Decrease in media dollars for dedicated work leading to poor multicultural performance and business results

Unfortunately, Total Market isn’t doing much better. What’s going on?

  • Total Market segmentation lacks cultural depth and actionability
  • Cultural insights and nuances often overlooked for the sake of more efficient, generic insights that might appeal to everyone
  • Multicultural segments are being addressed via casting and work that is often stereotypical or too simplistic

Introducing Cultural Fluency

The U.S. consumer landscape is changing dramatically. Culture cannot be captured through census driven definitions. So, to overcome the hurdles presented by dedicated and total market strategies, we present a new dynamic framework. This helps brands navigate the nuanced and complex American culture. We call this Cultural Fluency.

Cultural Fluency is the ability to understand and navigate the intersection of cultural identity and values.

The approach relies on the two major currents of culture – values and identity. Cultural values range from how rooted a person is to his or her own culture, to their openness to exploring and learning from others. Cultural identity ranges from an individual to a more collective one.

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