Latinos: Tough Market, But Worth the Risk

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New York -- The Latino marketplace will continue to grow, Hispanics will remain hard to reach, but the payoff in terms of spending can be huge.

Those were the basic themes -- ones familiar to cable operators looking to touch Hispanics -- discussed at the Museum of Television & Radio here Tuesday as part of “Advertising Week in New York City” festivities.

Isabel Valdes, marketer, author and principle of Valdes Consulting, pegged the “true size” of the U.S. Hispanic market at some 48.6 million -- a total that includes 4 million people living in Puerto Rico. That number would represent 16.5% of the U.S. population, with that ratio expected to jump as 500,000 Hispanic households are added each year.

To reach them remains no easy proposition. Jackie Bird, CEO of Grey Global Group’s Wing Latino unit, said “culturally relevant messaging” is critical. Incorporating the Latino aspects at the outset of a campaign can be critical to its success, she added.

Bird noted that it was not prudent for marketers to “adjust their general market campaigns” to attempt to meet Hispanic, Asian and African-American targets.

Israel Cancel, manager of multicultural initiatives for spirits marketer Schiefflin & Co., said decisions have to be made regarding whether to run Spanish-language ads, or if companies can reach bilingual Hispanics with general marketing messages.

Valdes said such cultural considerations as family continue to influence purchasing and brand decisions in the home. She pointed to an example in which U.S. Army recruitment ads aimed at teens and young adults should be presented in English, but ultimately, the decision to enlist would be made by the family, so running Spanish-language ads would also likely prove useful.

For product purchases, “There is a two-step decision-making process -- mother has to be involved,” she said, adding that marketers like Kraft Foods Inc., Stokely-Van Camp Inc.'s Gatorade and Frito-Lay Inc. have run different creative to get family members interested supported by messages aimed at convincing mom.

All of the panelists -- including Carol Robles-Roman, New York City’s Deputy Mayor, who leads the Big Apple’s Latino Entertainment Media Commission -- emphasized the value of grassroots and event marketing as part of integrated campaigns.

In addition to playing to Latinos’ predilection for having corporations touch them in their communities, grassroots activities and on-premise marketing can show executives how effective such pursuits can be in moving products.

Although Latinos overindex in consumer purchasing against a number of categories, the panelists felt that those ratios may be vastly understated because many of the outlets Hispanics frequent -- small neighborhood shops, as well as warehouse-club-type locations -- don’t report sales data to measurement groups.

In turn, those retail-measurement shortcomings continue to constrict marketing and advertising budgets that might otherwise be allocated against this heavy-consuming segment.

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