[Case Study] Telecomunications Multicultural Grassroots Engagement

6 min read
September 14, 2017

Chinese Consumer Engagement
If our Non-Traditional student campaign challenged us to use a wide array of tactics, this campaign tested our knowledge and access in a number of markets to develop a truly multicultural grassroots engagement strategy.  

From the early days of our relationship, the AT&T marketing team was amazing.  They preach diversity and embody it as a cultural practice.  This is the sweet spot for Highbrid when exploring synergy.  When your partners share similar moral and cultural value systems, you have the perfect canvas for an effective project.


A product of the Bell Telephone Company, AT&T was founded in 1983 and today grosses over $163 Billion dollars, landing it #9 on Fortune’s 500 list. While they’ve clearly enjoyed a ton of success, the telecommunications business has drastically changed in recent years.  Upstart competitors have attacked the lower part of the marketplace with pre-paid services, no cost phones and all-inclusive packaging, chipping away at the company’s marketshare.  Additionally, the marketplace has increasingly gotten more diverse and the new multicultural immigrant consumer has come up for grabs.  In response, AT&T adjusted both their product and service models, added more competitive offerings and acquired, Cricket Wireless, its value driven subsidiary. 


While it’s one thing to offer clients the service they want, it’s another thing to convince them to buy it.   AT&T’s Diversity Marketing division tasked us with helping them to develop relationships in the Chinese, Latino and Caribbean communities in the northeast. Here's a brief on what our strategy was, how we executed and what we learned.  


Initial Objectives

  • Develop a direct conduit to 1st generation Chinese immigrant consumers
  • Establish brand loyalty amongst the Latino mobile consumer market
  • Build trust amongst the Caribbean diaspora   
  • Generate hyperlocal brand engagement
  • Gather qualitative intelligence
  • Establish long-term community meaningful partnerships

Balancing Three Distinct Markets

As with most campaigns, time was of the essence and with three distinct markets to dissect, there was a lot of work to do. With the high level of compliance with AT&T corporate standards, attention to detail was extremely important.  Bells and whistles would only become complicating factors.  We had a lazar focus on building quality relationships and what it would take to do so. 

Winning Over 1st Generation Chinese Immigrants

For the Chinese demographic, we focused our attention in three geographic areas, Manhattan’s Chinatown, the Chinese commercial district in Sunset Park and Bay Ridge, Brooklyn and the center of the Chinese residential community, Flushing, Queens neighborhoods in New York. Unlike many Western immigrant communities, American assimilation is very low.  90% of the consumers in these communities do not speak proficient English and less than 2% are fluent. Not only is language a barrier to entry for many American brands but perhaps more importantly, culture.  Cultural sensitivity was extremely important as well as understanding the nuances of each community.  One common thread amongst them is their exclusive jitney transportation system or “China Vans.”  These vehicles provide the Chinese community important commuter access to each of these three areas for the cost of a cup of coffee.  Having worked with the operators in the past on various projects, we knew this would be an excellent opportunity to leverage AT&T Messaging. 


Chinese Brand Ambassador Program

By branding a portion of the fleet with AT&T’s $40 unlimited offer, the messaging would not only resonate with the immediate Chinese consumer but integrate seamlessly with the general marketplace on the highly trafficked highways, to and from each community, thus providing the client with increased impressions and added value.

We take a lot pride in our cultural diversity and no better is that illustrated than with our Chinese brand ambassador team.  Fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese or Fujianese and English, our team was tasked with building these relationships.  While many in the community recognized AT&T branding, they were unfamiliar with their services, product offerings and relied heavily on assimilated family to help them make buying decisions.  Our team understood and was there to answer questions, introduce plans and most importantly, find solutions that worked for their unique situation. 


The team canvased these neighborhoods throughout the campaign engaging existing and prospective customers and gave free rides to AT&T customers on branded vehicles during high traffic days, select days during the holiday shopping season and Chinese New Year as a customer appreciation experience.     

Latino Tax Season Engagement 

Latino Grassoots Marketing AT&T

In the last ten years, more telecommunications services have been launched targeting the Hispanic diaspora than any other demographic.  With their historic reliance on Top-Up services and phone cards to communicate with family and friends back home, the market became flooded with providers promising to integrate these services within their mobile device. 


As such, we knew consumers were inundated with options.  Our engagement had to communicate clearly that AT&T was the solution at the time they were prepared to make a buying decision.  Our marketing strategy was simple, demonstrate the value of leveraging tax refunds to upgrading one’s mobile device. 


AT&T’s data indicated their greatest concentration of Latino customers were centralized in Sunset Park and Bushwick in Brooklyn and a cross section of the Bronx.  Many of these communities remain cash-based and traffic at Liberty Tax preparation centers in January and February was extremely high.  We noticed that many of these centers were in close proximity to our targeted AT&T stores.  The plan was born.  Our team negotiated a partnership that would provide added value to Liberty customers processing returns while driving foot traffic to AT&T corporate stores.  Customers got their taxes done and a great deal on a wireless device.

Gaining the Caribbean Diaspora Consumer Trust

The Caribbean marketplace has historically been our sweet spot.  The most misunderstood of all the markets we service, West Indians consumers are perhaps some of the most brand loyal in the world.  Often mistakenly grouped with African American, Caribbean consumers, especially recently immigrated, couldn't be more dissimilar.  Additionally, each individual diaspoa (Jamaican, Trinidadian, Haitian) all have very destinctive characteristics and exhibit unique buying behaviors.  This can prove challenging when attempting to develop a comprehensive strategy.  


However, In our years reasearchin the marketplace, one of the common threads amongst all of the Caribbean submarkets has been a need for communication access.  Being connected with family and friends is what drives them.  For most, its why they immigrate and why they work so hard; all to provide a better life for their loved ones back home.  Our goal was to show them the value of AT&T as an "all-in-one" solution for their, often complex, telecommunications needs.  


Trust is the gateway to the Caribbean consumer loyalty.  Our strategy was to find this elusive marketing holy grail.  Like the Chinese market, the use of the independent jitney services known as "dollar vans" was a key means of communicating our brand messaging.  These services are indigenous to the Caribbean and trusted amongst the diaspoa because they're owned and operated by trusted tastemakers within their community.  Consumers know and recognize them and value their opionions.  Unlike a city bus, its not unusual to have riders engage in discussions with drivers on topics ranging from politics to gossip.  We evangelized these tastemakers by educating them on AT&T services and leveraged thier established trust with consumers to extend to the brand.  Seeing success in this strategy, we scaled to other valued tastemakers including leaders within the faith, political and business community.      



This campaign was, by all accounts, extremely successful and provided a framework for several subsequent marketing innovations Highbrid has launched like our digital street team.  Today, AT&T is a top carrier in the Latino and Chinese communities in New York City. This is in large part due to our relationship building campaigns.  For a more detailed breakdown of the entire program and to view the qualitative and quantitative results, download the full case study below. 


AT&T Multicultural Grassroots Engagement Case Study

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