October 18, 2017

  By Isaac Mizrahi - Co President, Chief Operating Officer of ALMA

Picture this, you’re a senior marketing executive and your Hispanic ad agency has just presented a creative idea for your next campaign. You like the direction but suddenly you ask the question: “Have you seen what our General Market agency presented? Why wouldn’t that work for Hispanic? What’s not Hispanic about it?”

Pressured to find synergies and budget efficiencies year over year, the temptation to adopt a “one size fits all” approach that may not only save production and agency fees, but could also save valuable time by reducing the number of meetings is a reality facing many marketers in America.

And it’s a challenge that general market agencies are more than eager to take on. Some help by acting as orchestrators of partner agencies and creating “synergies” by crafting single briefs based on universal insights and by coordinating double shoots. Others support the quest for efficiencies by offering fully integrated services which they achieve by hiring a few Spanish-speaking executives and presenting themselves as capable of also doing Hispanic marketing (which only demonstrates how ill-prepared these agencies are as they equate Spanish-language proficiency to Hispanic Marketing expertise).

For their part, Hispanic agencies feel the burden to justify their client’s investments but their recommendations are often received with a level of suspicion; after all, any recommendation for creative development may increase the agency’s scope and compensation.

But the reality is that the process of deciding whether a brand would benefit from a segmented creative strategy should be neither subjective nor driven by cost. Clients and agencies should instead come together on a rational, fact-based decision process that takes the emotion out of the process while working to maximizing brands’ ROI.

The below is a summary of the process we at Alma developed and have implemented with many of our market-leading clients. Over the past few months this model has been presented in industry meetings and has been adopted by other agencies and their clients with positive results.

A defining feature of our model is that by definition, it does not aim to have a communication strategy that creates a different brand positioning, voice or tone. Alignment on these elements are non-negotiables as the goal should never be to create a different brand to reach Hispanics.

Rather the goal of the approach is to identify whether there are opportunities to sell the brand’s story in a more relevant way. And this is determined based on a series of planning stages.

The first stage is focused on the Business opportunity.  Based on our observations, it is amazing how many clients and agencies seldom start the debate around Hispanic specific executions by analyzing the issue/opportunity the brand is trying to tackle. This is a fundamental step as the Non-Hispanic side of the business and the Hispanic side of the business may be in distinct business life stages. For example, several marketers still see the opportunity to grow penetration and frequency of consumption with Hispanics while for Non-Hispanics the strategy can be more focused on market share protection and up-selling/cross-selling.

If your business challenge/opportunity is different between Hispanics and Non-Hispanics your creative brief should probably be different too. Different creative briefs may require different creative executions and that has nothing to do with language or culture. It’s just a regular business decision based on need-driven segmentation.

For example, a financial institution focused on selling life insurance to its customers may notice that Hispanics tend to have lower penetration when it comes to Life Insurance and other financial services. Understanding the reasons behind these behaviors may allow brands to craft a more effective message.

The second stage is all about Consumer’s insight, and it is mostly associated with the industry or product in question comes into focus. While the business opportunity may be the same between Hispanic and Non-Hispanic segments, when launching a new product for example, the consumer insight could be very different and different insights may require different approaches.

One great example is McDonald’s Mango-Pineapple Smoothie launch back in 2011. The General Market agency’s launch brief positioned Mango and Pineapple as exotic options. However, Mango and Pineapple are anything but exotic among Hispanics, these are staples of our food habits that are highly associated with positive memories from childhood.

Because of this, McDonald’s approved a different creative strategy for the smoothie launch, which proved to be a results-driving move. Sales among Hispanics over-indexed the national average by almost 27% and achieved a staggering 73% over-delivery against its Hispanic goals.

The third and final stage on our model is focused on creative execution. You may have a similar business challenge and your agencies may have found a universal insight based on common consumer’s insights. Hence, you should be all set for the same creative execution, maybe a voice over in Spanish, or a double content shoot, with the assumption that the creative idea should be the same, right?

Not so fast, one of the biggest opportunities with the Hispanic segment lies in the fact that cultural nuances may impact the way the segments receive and process advertising messages.

This was briefly discussed on my Forbes article from 4/4/17 named “Is Marketing in Spanish Still Relevant to Hispanics?” where we presented a summary of the latest studies on the topic from Facebook and Nielsen. The Nielsen study specifically gave us cues that culture impacts the way Hispanics react to advertising as they may prefer a different type of storytelling. My colleague Angela Rodriguez, VP of Consumer Insights at Alma expands on it:

“Holidays, festivals and traditions are the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the transference of culture. Those visible acts are the minimal cues we can use to show empathy, the easy answer to what’s Hispanic about it. To truly understand a culture, we must understand the non-visible; the myths and legends that a culture values and the indirect ways that communication happen.
Just like international business demands that we know when to bow and when to shake, culturally relevant marketing communications must reflect the non-spoken subtleties. Good marketers will speak Spanish to Hispanics. Great marketers will know that Hispanics prefer emotionally-driven narratives over rational appeals, that stories with lessons are less appealing that stories that bring folklores to life, and that telling why something matters is often more important than getting to the (price) point.”

For example, back in 2004 when I had the opportunity to lead Nextel’s Hispanic Marketing efforts we had some concerns that most of the situations featured in our General Market messages were associated with construction, transportation and other blue-collar jobs, given the high popularity of Nextel services among these types of jobs.

However, we knew from research that while Hispanics proudly worked disproportionally in these professions, a significant number of  Hispanics would preferred situations where they were portrayed on more aspirational jobs, elevating the image of Hispanics beyond the expected or traditional. Because of this learning, we shifted our creative approach to portray situations that were more aspirational, like white-collar or entrepreneurial jobs. This is just one, basic, example of many that can be given around situations, setups, dialogues and other elements that could enhance or decrease creative effectiveness.

At this stage the combination of deep consumer knowledge and craftsmanship on creative storytelling can offer brands an opportunity to standout. Any agency can translate ads to Spanish and use stereotypical cues to try to create relevancy. This may create a false sense of efficiency to some clients, but mismanagement in the area of creative storytelling may decrease effectiveness and ROI and while also damaging the brand’s equity.

The challenge to consider this model is that until recently the only available part of the tradeoff between efficiency and effectiveness was how much savings a brand could generate by just adapting a GM creative and adopting a one size fits all approach. The answer is that for a single production the efficiencies could be measured in the hundreds of thousands of dollars.

However, now we know more that the flipside of saving money by forcing less relevant insights to connect with Hispanics is a significant reduction in  ROI. A recent Nielsen study showed that translated “one size fits all” insights driven ads may have a ROI equal or lower than its General Market, English version, while High effective ads based on original Hispanic insights can drive ROI from 3 or 4 times higher than their General Market counterparts, meaning that any savings a marketer may achieve on agency fees or production can be eliminated by a negative ROI from the media investment when creative is less effective.

If you’re a marketer, it’s time to update your perspective on the opportunity to create segment specific creative executions, from how much you’re to how much you’re missing by not doing it.

We hope the suggested model in this article can help you and your partner agencies have an unbiased debate on such an important topic. After all, let’s not forget all marketers’ job is to grow their business and mistaken decisions around Total Market are actually hindering the ability to capture the potential growth the Hispanic segment can provide, impacting the overall bottom line.




It does not matter if you work in general or multicutural marketing. Anyone working in any dimension of marketing or advertising shares the responsibility for effectively connecting brands with consumers and make a precious marketing dollar invested work like two dollars. Too many marketers ask “will this work with Hispanics?” What instead they need to ask is “will this optimize my media investment?”

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