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Hispanic Marketing: Are We Doing It Right?

Jun 22, 2012

By Laura Morales, Hispanic Media Relations and Business Writer

Ever notice how popular Cinco de Mayo has become in the United States? And have you noticed how many brands are now using the holiday – which incidentally, is not Mexico’s Independence Day to market to Hispanics.

Of course, “Hispanics” isn’t a monolithic category into which you can lump the 52 million-plus Latinos who make up the nation’s fastest-growing ethnic group. But there is evidence, like some Cinco de Mayo promotions, that not enough marketers appreciate the kind of cultural diversity that exists within America’s Hispanic population.

After all, Mexican-Americans are the group most likely to have a genuine connection with Cinco de Mayo – a regional celebration of a mid-19th Century military victory over France. To be sure, Mexican-Americans are by far the most numerous Latinos in the United States, but what about all the Americans with roots in Puerto Rico, Cuba, Venezuela and all the other Spanish-speaking countries? The truth is, there’s a lot of diversity in how Hispanic Americans define themselves.

A question to those of us in the marketing and PR sphere: are we doing enough to reach this key demographic? Let’s not forget that, overall, Latinos are the country’s fastest-growing ethnic group and as marketers, overlooking this fact is to do so at our peril.

Let’s take a look at the numbers. In early 2011,  the Census Bureau, which conducted the 23rd Census in 2010, reported that Hispanics make up 16 percent of the US population. Last year, the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies also released a report which showed that, in 2010, the top 500 advertisers allocated only 5 percent of their total ad budgets to target Hispanics in the United States.

5 percent spent to target 16 percent of Americans: far from a commensurate amount, clearly.

While the exact impact of Hispanic buying behavior and increasing economic clout on marketing and ad spend decisions remains to be seen, it’s obvious that marketers who funnel more of their budgets to reach Hispanics are likely to see rewards. Yet another AHAA study, this one released in March 2012 found that, between 2006 and 2010, the more a company spent marketing to Hispanics, the more its revenue grew.

Having spent a great deal of time discussing this issue with colleagues and peers in the advertising community, there are a number of critical areas  that companies looking to tap into the Hispanic market should think about. And deeply.

First, the Hispanic community is far from homogeneous. Hispanics have origins in about 20 countries, each with its own history, culture, traditions and usage of the Spanish language. Marketing campaigns should acknowledge this diversity and remember where their target audience comes from. Just because we all speak Spanish doesn’t mean that our Spanish or thinking is the same.

Second, remember there are generational differences. First-generation immigrants are a lot more likely to speak  Spanish only, whereas  second-generation Hispanics are much more likely to be fluent in English and their kids even more likely.

Third, and this is a biggie: mobile, mobile, mobile (I love this topic)!

Back in 2008 Pew predicted that, by 2020, mobile devices will be the dominant force in the way we communicate online and how brands interact with consumers. When you consider that 43 percent of Hispanic-Americans – compared to a 36 percent adoption rate for non-Hispanics – use smartphones, it  makes all the sense in the world for marketers to make robust investments in reaching Hispanics through their mobile devices.

Of course there are many other considerations we need to think about and we’ll be addressing these in a series of posts here about Marketing to Hispanics over the coming months.  For now though, I’ll leave you with a favorite quote of mine from Mexican comedian, George Lopez:

It’s not even about black and white anymore, because so many people are from mixed backgrounds and mixed ethnicities, and it’s just a great time to be able to pull all that together.”

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