The power of ethnic audiences is apparent in everyday life. But inherent risks exist when messaging previously meant for a minority group becomes part of the mainstream.

In its fourth year, the just-released Yankelovich Monitor Multicultural Marketing Study points to the impact of the "commercialization of culture," or repeated use of certain cultural elements to reach broader audiences. In 2004, 37 percent of non-Hispanic whites thought Hispanics were influencing everyone's lifestyle; today, it's 44 percent.

The result may mean less authentic messaging for Hispanics and African Americans, the study reports, if the same marketing strategies are used to reach ethnic consumers. "We're calling it cultural pinpointing. It's about understanding that today there's a lot of borrowing going on from the ethnic marketplace," said Sonya Suarez-Hammond, vice president of multicultural insights for Yankelovich in Chapel Hill, N.C.

Read more: Cultural pinpointing