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Although I hate to admit when strangers steal my thunder, occasionally I can shove my ego aside long enough to offer up a high-five. If I ever meet Carlos Martinez and Robert Spallone, I promise here to do just that. For now, I hope they’ll accept this electronic one. Martinez and Spallone penned their July 2010 piece in Advertising Age titled “How to Connect With the Digital Latino” months before I penned a Blogging Out Loud piece on industry terms (real or otherwise) my Vertical Marketing coworkers and I would love to see go mainstream. But somehow, I missed theirs: the digital plaza. Say it again: the digital plaza. Now, close your eyes and imagine a bustling city center where children play, ladies exchange gossip, and men sip coffee while debating the day’s news. The plaza is an integral part of many vibrant cities, especially those in Europe and Latin America. But sadly, it’s lacking here in the United States. Unless you re-imagine it online. There the digital plaza is thriving, and leading the charge is the Hispanic/Latino community. “The unspoken need for social interaction has become a part of every Latino, even when they live in a relatively plaza-less culture, such as the United States,” Martinez and Spallone write. Numbers agree. An estimated 71 percent of Latinos use their mobile devices for activities such as SMS, MMS, email, surfing the Internet and gaming functions, compared to the market average of 48 percent. Moreover, as of 2009 nearly 23 million Hispanics were online, and smart marketers from leading companies such as AT&T, Budweiser, Ford, P&G and Toyota were responding. Offline, other brands continue to prove that the plaza — whether digital or traditional — is the springboard for the Hispanic community.
Maybe I’m just blogging out loud here, but it seems like smart marketers should not only embrace the concept of the digital plaza, but they should target the community that helped define it. As new opportunities emerge online though, let us not forget the power — or the powerful message — of face-to-face interaction.
This past weekend, Mexican beer giant Tecate ingeniously tied its sponsorship of a boxing match between American “Sugar” Shane Mosley and Mexican-American Sergio “The Latin Snake” Mora to Mexico’s Bicentennial Independence Day weekend. While the fight’s promoters were clearly targeting Mexicans and Mexican-Americans with their theme of “200: Celebrate and Dominate,” the beer maker offered up tangible in-store promotions and included a $25 rebate on the HBO pay-per-view fight with purchase of a 12-pack of beer. While the fight itself was a draw, Tecate was clearly the winner here. Intentionally stepping into and reaching out to a community makes a big statement, especially in the Hispanic market, where a University of Chicago study recently showed that maintaining cultural identity is of greater importance to many Latinos than assimilation to American culture. As we head into National Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15 through Oct. 15), businesses such as the American Heart Association, Macy’s, Verizon and the San Francisco 49ers are doing just that. Macy’s stores nationwide will host a series of discussions on family, tradition, heritage, and healthy living, as well as offer participants the chance to sample fall trends with demonstrations by Lancôme. The AHA will be on hand talking to customers about the importance of practicing a heart healthy lifestyle, and they will share samples of modified traditional recipes. In New York, communications leader Verizon is sponsoring a mural contest, the winners of which will be featured in a national arts magazine. And in San Francisco, the 49ers and partner Coors Brewing Company will host a Football Fiesta, replete with Latin music, traditional dancing and food. Some $20,000 will be donated to the National Latino Peace Officers Association of the Bay Area for scholarships and training programs. Vertical Marketing recently did something similar for Ventura Foods and Gold-n-Soft, when — in addition to identifying the untapped Hispanic market and setting up bilingual in-store promotions and sweepstakes — the agency created a campaign that celebrated Latino culture and lifestyle. Sponsorships of the L.A. Galaxy and area youth soccer leagues honored the community’s passion for fútbol and celebrated family and community. By introducing Gold-n-Soft in a way Hispanic consumers could relate to, the agency helped build both the brand and brand loyalty, and ultimately drove sales.
While Martinez and Spallone offer up some tips for engaging in the digital plaza, we’ve seen that they’re relevant offline, too: walk among the people, listen to the rhythms of the conversation, be authentic and “dare to be personal.” It seems as if these would be hallmarks of any good marketing campaign, but in the Hispanic community they’ve proven to be especially effective. Reaching out to a demographic on their terms, taking notice and taking interest in their lives works.
Authentic, personal, relevant marketing. Go steal some thunder.