You’ve heard of the four ‘Ps’ of marketing, and there are also the lesser-known four ‘Rs’ of Hispanic marketing. First, I want to advise you this is not a comprehensive guide to Hispanic Marketing – there have been books written about the subject. This is the 30,000-foot view that is meant to be an eye opener. There are actions to take as first, basic steps. Here we go.
You would think it obvious that there is a huge opportunity for marketing to Hispanic consumers in the United States, but it isn’t. One recent study showed that in a survey of 150 marketing executives, 55% stated they did not have the support of their CEOs for multicultural marketing programs and 60% said they did not have the support of their board of directors. Are they living under a rock? Apparently so, because the missed opportunity is HUGE! How HUGE?
According to U.S. Census data, the Hispanic population in the United States is 54 million strong and now represents 17% of the total population. Just so you have an idea of how large this is, if the U.S. Hispanic population was a Spanish speaking country, it would be second only to Mexico in size! Here are some other factoids that will probably surprise you if you don’t live in these areas or are not marketing to Hispanic consumers:
- Did you know Colorado is over 30% Hispanic?
- Would it even occur to you that states such as Idaho, Kansas, Utah, Oregon, Washington, Connecticut, Rhode Island, and Massachusetts are over 10% Hispanic?
- Would you believe that Charlotte and Raleigh, North Carolina; Salt Lake City, Utah; Oklahoma City, Seattle Tacoma, Las Vegas, Minneapolis-St. Paul and Kansas City are among the 15 fastest growing Hispanic cities?
Hispanic buying power shouldn’t be ignored either. It is now estimated at over $1.5 TRILLION!
I have been marketing to Hispanic consumers almost my whole life. I like to say that I am half Cuban (Mom) half Colombian (Dad) and All American (I was born in the U.S. but have also lived in Cuba as an infant and worked and lived in the Dominican Republic as an adult). I also consider myself fortunate and blessed to have provided Hispanic marketing services to some of the largest companies in the world. I don’t say this to boast, but rather to make the point that many of these companies who are household names treat Hispanic marketing as an afterthought – from a strategic, planning and budget perspective. Basically, they try to “trans-create,” as they call it, general market efforts into multicultural efforts – it seldom works.
There are, however, others who get it. I have never done work for them but McDonald’s is a company that gets it and does an excellent job with multicultural marketing. Having a multicultural strategy ensures that marketing initiatives targeted at this important market will be effective and efficient. And of course, you need to dedicate resources against it, and it’s not just dollars. If you live in Texas, you may have heard of Pizza Patron. Pizza Patron, a 100-store pizza operation started in Texas by Antonio Swad, couldn’t service Spanish speaking customers and hired Hispanic employees who could offer great service to patrons. He also offered huge pizzas for larger Hispanic families and unique Hispanic-inspired toppings. Today the chain enjoys great success and has expanded into other states. Hispanic marketing is integral to their strategy.
Unfortunately, I know all too well first hand that multicultural budgets tend to be underwhelming and are the first to be cut when times are tough. The opportunity does not justify the behavior.
As a marketer, Hispanic consumers should be respected as a market, as customers and as a culture. Some very basic cultural values include:
- Family – A strong sense of family is an important value and is even so for Hispanics who are very acculturated. It is about having a responsibility to family as well as frequent interaction and support. Furthermore, family extends far beyond nuclear family to include distant relatives, multiple generations and even close friends. From a marketing perspective, it is important to know that decisions are often made collectively.
- Respect – Showing courtesy and having certain behavior to people of a certain age, gender or status. This is critical when marketing to Hispanic consumers or you risk insulting the audience you want to capture. I once tested a television ad for a food manufacturer that feature a grandmother hitting her son because he liked a particular canned food more than hers. Grandmothers are revered and are not associated with such behavior. Needless to say, the audience wasn’t thrilled about it.
- Fatalism – Believing a person has little control of health and illness as it is a matter of fate or God’s will. This has considerable implications on healthcare marketing.
- Religiosity – Being spiritual and having a responsibility to God. A higher power and personal behavior/action determine destiny. Needless to say, marketing communications should not poke fun at a higher power or religion (most Hispanics are Catholic but that is changing).
- Sympathy – Avoidance of interpersonal conflict. Hispanic consumers do not like seeing conflict in advertising. They tend not even to like a brands referring to the shortcomings of competitive brands.
The following is almost an unbelievable story. I was doing a study on Hispanic consumers and their potential as mobile phone customers back in the 90’s. During the study, one executive from a prominent cell phone carrier stated: “These people will never be able to afford cell phones.” I have to be fair. Back then cell phone plans were all post-paid and were pretty expensive. Nevertheless, how wrong this person was. Hispanic consumers now over-index on use of mobile technology and have leapfrogged technology. It is their primary source of internet access. Respect or pay the consequences!
Last but not least, Hispanics are all about relationships – it’s a core value. We value our relationships immensely. You have to go out their, meet them, greet them and shake their hands (figuratively at least). As a small business you can do this literally, large companies and institutions have a harder time but some, like McDonald’s and Pizza Patron, have been very successful in doing so and have reaped the benefits. Obviously, token efforts and pandering are readily recognized; it has to be a log-term commitment and you must genuinely care.
There are volumes and volumes to be discussed about Hispanic marketing. If you’d like to know more about it, please leave me a comment.