Australia’s multi-cultural society presents challenges and opportunities for marketers. This paper presents a framework for analysing multicultural marketing in terms of the interrelations among three types of factors i.e. the multicultural marketplace in Australia, international markets and the multi-cultural resources that exist in Australia. We argue that Australia’s cultural diversity, as well as that of other multicultural societies, is a valuable resource for recognizing and responding to the opportunities presented in international markets. A number of case studies are used to illustrate the ways in which opportunities in the domestic and international marketplace can arise and be responded to as a result of the multicultural dimensions of a society. The cases are drawn from winning entries in the annual Australian Multicultural Marketing Awards. While developed in terms of Australian society the ideas are relevant to all culturally heterogeneous societies.

Among the key issues facing all countries is the increasing internationalization of the world economy. International competition is being faced both at home and abroad as tariffs are reduced, markets deregulated and commerce transcends national borders. An important challenge for Australia is how it carves out its destiny in the fast growing Asia-Pacific region. This presents many opportunities for business but also many challenges and difficulties in conducting business across diverse cultures and business systems. Here we will argue that Australia’s rich cultural diversity is a valuable resource in recognizing and responding to the opportunities presented in international markets, particularly in Asia.

Australian society is culturally very heterogeneous because it is the product of a migrant population and its descendents. It has become home for people from many different cultural and geographic backgrounds and their descendants. Up to the 1970s, the waves of migrants came mainly from Europe, particularly the United Kingdom, although there was a wave of migrants from China in the 1850s, during the gold rush. In the last decade or so there has been an increasing number of migrants from Asia, adding to the multicultural makeup of the society.

Multiculturalism was often seen as a problem in the past. Indeed, attempts were made to reduce cultural heterogeneity by restricting immigrants to white Europeans – the so called “White Australia” policy. In general, emphasis was placed on the problems and costs involved in migrants adapting to Australian customs and practices and learning to speak English, if that was not their mother tongue. Another type of problem is that of tensions and conflicts between ethnic communities of historical origin being introduced into Australia , such as the rivalry among Serbs and Croatians from former Yugoslavia, or the attitudes of Chinese and Korean people towards Japanese as a result of wartime and occupation experiences.

More recently the focus has shifted to a greater emphasis on the benefits and opportunities that may arise in a multicultural society (e.g. Harris 1997; Office of Multicultural Affairs 1995). We propose a framework for analysing how multiculturalism can play a role in boosting the domestic and international competitiveness of firms – how synergies arise out of the cultural diversity. The framework is not only applicable to Australia, although the examples used to illustrate and support it are drawn from there. It is relevant to any society seeking to evaluate and better utilize the strengths and contributions of its cultural resources

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