My colleagues and I have been anxiously awaiting the holiday season, since it’s the perfect time to slow down and reflect on the year past. Now that the holidays are upon us, I contacted multicultural marketing experts Anthony Key, director of multicultural marketing for Penguin Random House, and Christine Hung, executive director of audience development for Knopf Doubleday, to chat about the future of multicultural marketing. Here are some insights from our conversation.
What was your multicultural marketing highlight of 2021?
Anthony Key: This year, our corporate team laid the groundwork for establishing an always-on presence. Rather than acknowledging multicultural communities only during cultural moments or designated observances, we created a blueprint for communicating with these readers and celebrating authors year-round. The All Ways Black channel is a great example. We partnered with influencer Cree Myles, shared access to our authors companywide, and invested resources in this new brand that celebrates multiple aspects of the Black experience.
Christine Hung: Here at Knopf Doubleday, Daniela Ayuso, associate manager of digital marketing, launched the Elevate Asian Voices campaign to strengthen and uplift the Asian and Asian American community. In doing so, we partnered with Korean drink company MÀKKU and home goods brand Whiled, who sponsored giveaways. We also interviewed a few of our authors, including Qian Julie Wang and Asako Serizawa, who told us about their favorite Asian authors and Asian-owned businesses. And of course, we were thrilled to help readers discover books by Asian authors. This campaign gave us the space to reflect on AAPI heritage amid flares of anti-Asian racism that embroiled conversations worldwide.
Susette Brooks: My first major initiative at Penguin was the Inclusive Image campaign. I’ve read several studies that say most American consumers don’t see themselves culturally represented in advertisements, so I set out to orchestrate advertisements for our books that featured diverse groups of people in front of and behind the camera. The first test of this campaign is under way. I want to get to a place where all readers will find themselves in not one or even two, but many of our images. We want to show our readers that we see them and we hear them. And I’m also really thrilled about working with photographers who may not have otherwise had the opportunity to get their work in front of millions of people.
What are you looking forward to in 2022?
AK: I’m working toward creating long-term multicultural platforms, rather than temporary campaign moments. I mentioned earlier that All Ways Black has been a catalyst for developing an always-on presence, as well as audience-first platforms meant to amplify multicultural authors and reach multicultural readers year-round. I’m especially looking forward to this because these platforms will create opportunities for our authors to use our bullhorn to reach many more new readers. This will really be a team effort, so we’ll need their support and enthusiasm.
CH: In 2022, I’ll be working with Daniela on looking inward to identify opportunities to educate my team of marketers on new multicultural approaches. We want to find new ways to support their work and give them access to tools and resources that will enable them to create innovative campaigns and reach readers who may not have previously been a part of our ecosystem. Our focus will be creating new processes that make their outreach efforts more effective.
SB: When I started my role in February 2021, I was intent on listening: listening to my colleagues explain their challenges and listening to what readers need from our brands. I will be walking into 2022 with much more knowledge and a clearer path to success. Many of the initiatives that I dreamt up this past year, including the Inclusive Image campaign, will take greater shape: more money invested, and more books added to these experimental campaigns. 2022 is also the year that we should see more results. Multicultural marketing seems like a nebulous endeavor, so I look forward to using time as an advantage toward proving concrete results.
What can authors do to support multicultural marketing efforts?
AK: Two things: I would like authors to make sure they’re using the most inclusive language possible so they’re not inadvertently eliminating audiences and to partner with us as we roll out new initiatives and platforms throughout the year.
CH: In the spirit of collaboration, I hope to see our authors partner with each other to help amplify authors of color. Also, partnerships with content creators from diverse communities who tell their own stories will have enormous appeal to multicultural audiences. I think ultimately we must work together to ensure representation and authenticity in every corner of our industry. I also want to encourage our BIPOC authors to be your authentic selves because we value you and the truth of your experiences.
SB: I hope authors continue to advocate for themselves by knowing their intended readers, insisting their campaigns include outreach to multicultural readers, and demanding to see people of color contributing in editorial and marketing meetings. We need to be working together to ensure diversity and inclusion is baked into every step of the publishing process so we’re reaching the widest possible audiences.
Susette Brooks is Director of Multicultural Marketing and a DEI Divisional Officer for Penguin Publishing Group.