How Cross-Cultural Is Your Brand?


How Cross-Cultural Is Your Brand?

By Jose Villa

What does it mean to be cross-cultural? The broadest definition from defines the term as an adjective: combining, pertaining to, or contrasting two or more cultures or cultural groups.


Globally, the concept focuses on communication and interactions between cultures across borders. In the U.S. the term has entered the marketing lexicon and quickly become synonymous with multicultural marketing: the practice of marketing to an audience of a specific ethnicity outside of a majority culture (e.g. Hispanic marketing). 


There has been steady growth in marketing and media tied to culture as the American population has become more ethnically diverse. The growth in cultural marketing, or incorporation of cultural factors into marketing to influence consumer behavior, has spurred the creation of newer and more sophisticated marketing models, such the Total Market Approach embraced by so many brands. A new model for cultural marketing and definition of cross-cultural has emerged against the backdrop of a rapidly diversifying American population and society.


Cross-cultural marketing – marketing that targets similarities across ethnic groups, leveraging ethnic insights to reach across multiple ethnic markets, including the general market.


This emerging cultural marketing model reflects the ability of a brand to cross over to multiple cultures. This phenomenon has been occurring in American society with a small but growing group number of brands. It is this specific "crossover" ability that has led our agency to develop a diagnostic index to determine whether a brand is well-suited for a cross-cultural marketing approach.


We are calling this cultural diagnostic the Cross-Cultural Index (CCI) and it measures how cross-cultural a brand is today on a zero to 100-point scale. The CCI comprises five different metrics:

  • the multicultural customer composition of a brand today (i.e. what percentage of their customers are Hispanic, African-American, Asian and/or other ethnic groups)
  • the current and past, multicultural marketing investments by the brand
  • the brand’s presence and/or availability in significant multicultural geographic markets
  • the value (e.g. customer lifetime value) of their multicultural customers vs. mainstream customers
  • the brand’s ethnic origins


Using this Cross-Cultural Index, we can calculate a cross-cultural score for a brand. A low score is 35 or less. Brands scoring 36-65 have an average cross-cultural score. Those with a CCI of 66 and above have the characteristics ready for taking a cross-cultural marketing approach.


A brand's CCI is not set in stone. It is fluid and can be moved by a variety of marketing decisions. Most importantly, we can also look at a brand’s Cross-Cultural Propensity (CCP), to determine the future "cross-cultural" potential of a brand. I will delve into this further in a subsequent post.