April 07, 2020

(HispanicAd.com has an open invitation to members of our industry that wish to submit commentary with observations on the state of Hispanic advertising during this new normal. In his most recent contribution to HispanicAd.com, Louis Maldonado, partner and Managing Director of d expósito & Partners, a leading communications firm in the ad industry, offers an opinion piece on COVID-19 and its impact on the U.S. Hispanic market.  His commentary offers advice on how brands should behave with regard to the U.S. Hispanic market during this global pandemic, framed within the context of “Love in the Time of Cholera,” by Nobel Laureate, Gabriel García Márquez, for added relevance to today’s times.)

by Louis Maldonado

For decades, Hispanic advertising agencies have encouraged brands to foster connections with Hispanic consumers through culturally relevant advertising and communications campaigns. At 60 million strong and accounting for 18% of the total US population, this rapidly growing consumer group has been driving growth for several categories and brands for decades. What’s more, several brands would have seen their growth remain stagnant or decline had it not been for Hispanic consumers purchases.

Now, more than ever, Brands need to ensure their campaigns reach multicultural audiences in a way that’s culturally relevant and in their language of preference. On March 24, Pew Research Center reported that Hispanics are more likely to see their health and finances be negatively impacted by COVID-19 through lost business and layoffs. While many are working from home during this time of social distancing,  doing so is not as feasible for many, particularly Hispanics. According to the Economic Policy Institute, not only are Hispanics more likely to be deemed as essential staff, they are more likely to be in jobs where work cannot be done from home. To make matters worse, Pew also reported that the digital divide is most likely to affect Hispanic and African American communities. While smartphone penetration is at par with non-Hispanic whites, Hispanics and African Americans are 41% more likely to be without a computer at home. This is a stark disadvantage at a time where we have never been more reliant on technology to educate our children, apply for unemployment and other assistance programs, and procure many of the goods and services our families need.

Many brands have stepped in to help all consumers during these unprecedented times. To help workers experiencing income loss due to social distancing protocols, Miller Lite created their virtual tip jar and promoted in both English- and Spanish-language media. Additionally, Amazon partnered with Lyft to hire up to 100,000 drivers to make home deliveries, and AT&T launched a $10 million Distance Learning and Family Connections Fund to give parents, students and teachers tools they need for at-home learning, and they have expanded their low-cost options for home Internet service. These efforts can potentially help many families, but are Hispanics that prefer consuming Spanish-language media aware of these programs? While Congress is implementing the much needed stimulus packages, corporations will have to continue doing their part to help people overcome the new challenges we face, over the long term.

This pandemic has shown us how interconnected we are, not only with our fellow human beings but also with the companies and brands we all rely on for daily life. Conversely, companies depend on people; not only as consumers or as tax payers, but as essential workers throughout the entire supply chain. These workers staff the farms and factories, then transport goods to retail outlets that are staffed and cleaned by others, and Hispanics make up a disproportionate percentage of all these workers. While I am not suggesting that one group is doing more than another or should be favored over another, I am shining a light on how brands need to be there for all groups, especially those that have significantly contributed to their success and now find themselves vulnerable due to our new reality.

To borrow from the Colombian, Nobel Prize winning author, Gabriel García Márquez, we now need love in the time of coronavirus. Brands need to show their sense of purpose and empathy, doing so with communications and programs that are relevant to everyone and in their preferred language. This is not a time to overlook anyone, and companies and their leadership will be judged by what they say and do during this time of crisis. While marketing has historically been ROI-driven to maximize shareholder wealth, brands must now have a higher perspective and behave in ways that ensure they have a strong supply chain and customer base coming out of this pandemic. It is time for companies to show appreciation for the success consumers helped brands achieve while helping themselves ensure future revenue streams.







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