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More than 50.5 million Hispanics live in the United States; and for marketers, Cinco de Mayo serves as a valuable reminder of the myriad ways to target this fast-growing and powerful demographic throughout the year. That said, the question in the headline has recently been asked of us and our answer is a resounding: “Sí.” Hispanics represent 16.3% of the U.S. population, and they spend an estimated $1.5 trillion annually. One in six U.S. adults is Hispanic, Spanish is the third most-used language on the Internet, and according to Nielsen, Hispanic adults are 25% more likely than the average U.S. consumer to follow brands on social sites. With retailers touting in-store promotions from brands such as Corona Light and Modelo Especial in advance of the Cinco de Mayo celebration, Blogging Out Loud spoke with Steve Medina, president of Vertical Marketing Network’s Hispanic Agency Partner, Tenzo Group, and Vertical Marketing Network Account Executive Cristina Vazquez about why your Hispanic marketing efforts matter now more than ever.
Blogging Out Loud: What’s the most exciting trend in Hispanic marketing?
Steve Medina: Insights are driving better results. Some brands still utilize traditional themes of soccer and family to create their programming, but the real trend is to dig deeper to understand Hispanics more powerfully. It’s not that soccer isn’t relevant, but Hispanics are well-traveled and need to be taken to deeper levels.
Cristina Vazquez: Over the last two to four years, I’ve noticed brands have started to include in their messaging everyday conversational Spanish. For instance, I’ve seen billboards and listened to radio spots that include commonly known idioms in Spanish, as well as some slang. This shows brands are taking a step to further understand the Hispanic consumer and how to communicate with them.
BOL: What do you think is the greatest challenge for a brand looking to break into the Hispanic marketplace for the first time?
SM: Commitment! From priority at the top of the organizations to insights, resources, skills and expertise building, innovations, processes, and execution – they’re all commitments! Brands must find relevancy and continually build a relationship with the consumer. Companies need commitment at the highest levels to make it an imperative, not a tactic. Hispanics have vibrant and dynamic cultures, and the companies that have a commitment to them with priority, understanding and solutions will build sustainable relationships that benefit both.
CV: Some companies are still taking their general market campaigns and simply translating them into Spanish, thinking they’ll get the same message across to the Hispanic consumer. More than mere translation, it’s important to convey the meaning with the appropriate combination of words that the Hispanic consumer will understand and identify with.
BOL: Have any brands caught your attention in their use of Hispanic marketing?
SM: An interesting case is Bush’s Baked Beans. From a company in Tennessee — founded in 1904 — to make canned vegetables and make their business in beans, it has made a real commitment and investment to the servicing of the Hispanic consumer. They’ve built an integrated marketing approach that involves prepared foods that reflect different Hispanic traditional recipes. They’re also implementing efforts around them to create stickiness (a relevant website, recipes, content, social and soccer sponsorship). This also involves getting more shelf space in less Hispanic retailers and competing in more Hispanic dominant stores that are dominated by Goya and other Hispanic brands. They have competency in beans, but now their insights, innovations and solutions over time will determine their success in the category.
CV: Certainly! One brand that made its way onto the Hispanic market and resonated with that audience is Gold’n Soft Margarine. Vertical Marketing Network developed a multi-faceted integrated program that included Hispanic TV, out-of-home advertising, Spanish-language web presence, celebrity chef endorsements and grass-root youth soccer sponsorships. As a result, Gold’n Soft tripled in sales in five years, and it became the #1 brand of margarine among Hispanic households and the top margarine brand within major Southern California Hispanic retailers.
BOL: Any statistics that are especially hard-hitting for marketers?
SM: The fact that net immigration for Mexico is now reported at zero or less creates a significant shift in the U.S. Hispanic consumers and their cultural progression. The growth of U.S.-born Hispanics is now at 63%, and it will dominate and drive Hispanic growth in the United States. Bi-culturals do not fit the standard cultural themes that marketers have used in the past, as they are comfortable in multiple environments and are cultural curators between more and less acculturated Hispanics and non-Hispanics. The diversity and complexity among Hispanics requires deeper insights from countries of origin, acculturation levels, language use and preference, demographic and psychographic factors. Hispanic brands, brands that have been created in the United States for and/or by Hispanics and U.S. brands that have brand propositions that are relevant and resonate with bi-culturals will be competing for this exciting opportunity.
CV: Despite the fact that Hispanics comprise 16.7% of the U.S. population, we are now seeing a growing number of bilingual Hispanic consumers; second- and third-generations are becoming more affluent, educated and early adopters of technology. This means a “one size fits all” approach no longer suffices. Not only should marketers assess the market, purchasing power and growth potential, but also they also need to take into consideration the subgroups within the Hispanic population. For example, marketers want to develop different tightly targeted and culturally appropriate campaigns to reach the mainly Cuban subgroup in Miami and the Mexican subgroup in the Southwest.
BOL: Any other thoughts/observations?
SM: The use of language is still an interesting dilemma. The proper use is situational, and marketers are still learning the nuances of how to implement it and when. The use of Spanish is more commonplace and accepted now, and conversely, the increase of English dominant and preferred makes it less of a requirement. “Spanglish” used to have a more negative connotation, because it used to mean a chopped up version that a non-Spanish speaker tried to use to get a point across, or vice versa for non-English. Now bi-culturals with equal fluency in each language understand that some things are better said — or have richer meaning — when coming from one language or the other. Functionally, English can work for understanding with bilinguals, but situationally, the use of Spanish, being the language of their heritage and pride create greater connections. It remains situation-specific.
CV: Hispanics are here to stay, and so too should be Hispanic marketing. By doing a little homework and identifying the key variables between the Hispanic sub-groups, marketers and brands can develop strong and long-term relationships with Hispanic consumers.