Hispanic Marketing: A Critical Market Segment
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April 2004

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Hispanic Marketing: A Critical Market Segment

By Laura Sonderup

Capturing the Loyalty of a Critical Market Segment
Multiculturalism is redefining what it means to be American today. With the changing appearance of the U.S. population comes new definitions of the U.S. consumer and new dilemmas for marketers trying to reach those whose tastes, customs and language may differ from what is commonly know as "general market". Culturally relevant marketing plans will become increasingly critical as the population becomes more diverse and the buying power of U.S. Hispanics becomes more significant.

The biggest mistake that a company can make is to view the U.S. Hispanic market as homogeneous. Acculturation levels, language preferences and country of origin make for unique sub-groups within the segment.

The Hispanic market's current size, formation of larger households, heavy concentration in the top, youngest, trend-setting markets in the U.S., accompanied by their speedy wealth creation and high consumerism are at odds with the neglect of investment across most advertising and marketing categories. It is imperative for U.S. marketers to reanalyze and immediately adopt new strategies in the way in which they have historically allocated corporate marketing resources.

Hispanics - One Market or Más?
"Latino" or "Hispanic", as a description, refers to an origin or ethnicity, not a race. There is no one monolithic "Hispanic market." What, if anything, unifies Hispanics? For the most part, the language. Spanish stands as a symbol of difference for U.S. Hispanics; wherever they're from and regardless of their history, Spanish is a key to their individual and collective pasts.

Country of Origin
The single most important segmentation factor among U.S. Hispanics may be their country of origin. The U.S. Hispanic market is comprised of subcultures from over 20 countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Spain, with the majority (63%) of Mexican heritage. The culture, beliefs, opinions and consumer behavior patterns of U.S. Hispanics are not identical, as a result of the influence of differences in their native countries' geography, indigenous ancestry and colonial origins.

Acculturation vs. Assimilation
U.S. Latinos tend to "adopt and adapt" to customs and habits in the U.S. without shedding traditions and value systems. Along that line, marketers, and those trying to tap into the Hispanic segment, cannot simply transfer directly to the U.S. Latino market the conceptualizations or marketing strategies that work with more traditional, general market consumers. Latinos are assimilating to prevalent U.S. culture, but they are not, and probably never will be, fully assimilated. Instead, theirs is a path of acculturation. It is a process of integration of native and traditional immigrant cultural values with dominant cultural ones.

¿Habla usted español?
Language is one of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon. Spanish is likely to remain the language of preference among U.S. Latinos. In fact, Univision is now the #5 network in the United States, behind ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

When asked about advertising effectiveness, 38% of Hispanics surveyed found English language ads less effective than Spanish ads in terms of recall and 70% less effective than Spanish ads in terms of persuasion. Many younger and acculturated Latinos mix languages into a form of "Spanglish," in which they speak English peppered with Spanish words. But when it comes to selling, 56% of Latino adults respond best to advertising when it is presented in Spanish.

Communication Channels for U.S. Hispanics
Research shows that while Hispanics consume every type of media, they do seem to have a special attraction to television and radio. Nevertheless, the air-time used to identify a product or service at an in-depth level is typically too brief and too incomplete to be effective, thus the "sale" will not be closed. However, the combination of direct mail, broadcast and print makes it possible for the Hispanic consumer to obtain additional information and "close the sale" -- with each medium contributing to the total communication story.

Television
  • The visual confirmations provided in television advertising are extremely important, especially so for Spanish-dominant Hispanics.
  • 49% of U.S. Hispanics who watch television during prime-time hours, watch Spanish language programming.
  • 40% of Spanish-dominant Hispanics regularly watch English-language programming.
  • 30% of English-dominant Hispanics regularly watch Spanish programming.
Radio
  • Radio is a proven, effective medium in targeting Hispanics.
  • The most unique aspect of Spanish-language radio stations is the time spent listening.
  • The Hispanic population often listens to the radio all day.
  • The entire family may listen to one station and tune in, on average, 26 - 30 hours per week. This ranks more than 13% above the general population.
Print
  • Minority newspapers are an inseparable part of the local minority community. They deliver what no mass medium can -- news that is specifically geared to the needs and concerns of individual minority communities.
  • Newspaper readership skews to Adult 34-54 age group with an average HHI of $40k+
Event Marketing
  • Events create excitement, reinforce image, and allow you to hand-deliver your marketing message face-to-face with your target audience. However, many company's efforts at selling themselves to Hispanics are limited to sponsoring the occasional Cinco de Mayo celebration -- these half-hearted efforts will not effectively capture the attention of Hispanic consumers.
Direct Response Marketing
  • The process of acculturation influences the Hispanic consumer's perception of direct marketing. While most consumers in the general market dismiss direct marketing materials as junk mail, Latinos -- particularly recent immigrants -- welcome it as a means of becoming a more informed consumer.
  • Overall, Hispanic households are 3.5 times more likely to respond to a direct mail solicitation than a non-Hispanic household;
  • 72% say they always read their mail, including direct marketing;
  • 60% of the direct mail sent to homes is in English;
  • 52% of the respondents speak only Spanish in their homes.
Translation vs. Transcreation
Marketers cannot simply transfer directly to the U.S. Hispanic market the conceptualizations or marketing strategies that work with the general market. Many factors -- historical, contextual, cultural, demographic, financial -- place Hispanic consumers in a different category. Brand awareness and usage levels are often dramatically unlike general market patterns and different product attributes are deemed important by Hispanic consumers.

Direct translations and usage of general market strategies tend to miss the emotional and culturally relevant elements. Some results will be there, but not with the sales volume, strength and recall that a truly culturally-attuned marketing and advertising effort can attain.

Make no mistake, the integration of generations and diverse countries of origin within the U.S. Hispanic market has created a complex culture that requires experience and research to understand. What is needed for a successful Hispanic promotional campaign is a sensitivity to what is important to Hispanics - and senior corporate executives willing to initiate a reversal of underinvestment in the Hispanic market by creating new allocation levels in their business and marketing plans for reaching Hispanic consumers. The opportunity is growing. The time is now.

Interested in targeting the Latino market?
At Heinrich Hispanidad, we offer our clients a full complement of direct response, print, broadcast and interactive solutions, managed by a culturally diverse team with multilingual capabilities. We focus on helping a variety of companies communicate effectively to the domestic Hispanic consumer with culturally relevant marketing. Marketing that gets results.

Laura Sonderup is the Director of Heinrich Hispanidad, a division of Heinrich Marketing, Inc. Laura has been a featured speaker on ethnic marketing at numerous local and national conferences. She serves on the Board of Directors for LARASA and is an active member of the Denver Hispanic Chamber of Commerce, The Rocky Mountain Direct Marketing Association, Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, National Council of La Raza and The DMA Directory Council. Laura can be reached at (303) 239-5235 or lsonderup@heinrich.com.

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