April 01, 2008

Honestly, I cringe every time I read something that essentially equates good marketing with TV, whether you're talking about English-language or Spanish-language TV.  So when I recently read about Nielsen's "fusion metrics" I thought I had traveled back in time.  Why is it that in our infinite desire to get marketers to take Hispanic consumers seriously we resort to a TV-centric mode?  Why not implore marketers to look inward--get a full understanding of a brand's essence and truly analyze the entire Hispanic marketplace so you can zero-in on the ideal Hispanic consumer segments?  Don't get me wrong, Spanish-language TV can be a integral part of a solid Hispanic marketing plan but that's because it makes sense for the brand's growth and its ideal consumer prospects.

With the continued explosion of English and Spanish-language online, the growth of Hispanic print, and the increasing blur between General Market and ethnic media, why do we have to make statements like "mainstream marketing to this diverse group is a recipe for failure?"  Tell that to Puma, who with a zero investment in Spanish-language TV can attribute 38% of its sales to Hispanic customers.   If we accept the notion that "American" culture is being "Latinized" and Hispanic culture is gradually being integrated into the larger culture, then what is "mainstream?"  How did Puma do it?  By immersing itself in the essence of its brand--including identifying precisely the brand's functional and emotional  benefits--while simultaneously identifying the best consumer prospects within the vast American landscape.  This strategically important exercise is based on the idea that you first need to identify what Steve Stoute, founder of Translation Marketing, calls consumers' "mental complexion."  You cannot expect to grow sales among Hispanic consumers if you do not get to know them well, and if you fail to leverage your brand's essence and growth drivers.

Rather than starting with a TV-centric attitude, you should begin your Hispanic venture by embracing a more holistic approach.  You will get that much closer to reaching your brand's growth goals when you avoid starting with Nielsen number-crunching.  You have to identify consumers' emotional connection moments, whether that means lounging on your couch in front of the TV, sitting in Chavez Ravine while watching the Dodgers pound the Yankees, standing in front of a Calle Ocho music stage, or actually reading the copy of an ad posted above the urinal you're using at your favorite bar.  It's not just about TV reach levels, it's about degrees of engagement.

It really does begin and end with metrics.  If a marketer does not know where it's starting--how many Hispanic consumers does the brand really have--then there's no way it can identify where it wants to be five years from now.  But the metrics should be reliable.  Even if you do subscribe to Nielsen, Simmons or Scarborough, you also have your own internal information, also known as SALES data!  Or what about proprietary quantitative studies your brand is already conducting (i.e. ongoing brand tracker)?  If you're a marketer with a national footprint, and you're not incorporating a Hispanic component into all of your research and sales analysis, then you're really short-changing your brand's growth potential.

It's all about identifying your natural constituency, and speaking to them in their "language."  And it's also about navigating through the proverbial Hispanic "brand loyalty" ethos.  Barack Obama's Latino experience in Texas is a case in point.   Obama had to contend with the simple fact that Hillary Clinton is a known quantity among Texas Hispanics, and he is still "unknown" to most Texas Latinos, yet he tried to compete with her on her terms--by virtually matching her on the Spanish-language TV front.  And he still lost the Hispanic vote to Clinton, 66% to his 32%.  However, with the more English-dominant 18-29 Latinos, he garnered 48% to Hillary's 51%.  Obama's failure was that he focused on Spanish-language TV.  Hillary's overall margin of victory in Texas was much narrower than her huge Latino lead, so had Obama paid more attention to the emotional connection moments of his natural Latino constituency perhaps young Latinos would have been really fired up enough to help him take Texas.

We're constantly advising our clients on their marketing strategies to Hispanics, and sometimes we end up recommending Spanish-language TV.   But our analysis always begins with an inward look: where does our CLIENT'S brand sit with Hispanics today, and what sources are Hispanics tapping into to make their purchase decisions about our CLIENT'S product category?  The landscape is vast and robust.  Leverage it.


Hello Manny, As a marketing specialist for Clear Channel Communications, I agree with you 100% on the article: "Avoiding the real recipe for failure with Hispanics". Marketing has become increasingly mobile and it must follow wherever the consumer goes, When you talk about connecting with consumers you see radio advertising as an effective option as well? Thank you Rose Torres

I think you're right on the mark. The "hispanic" population has multiple segments that behave (and speak) very differently. If we assume that one spanish language marketing channel will cover the segment - it would be a poor plan at best. As always, know your customer and how they behave, then put the plan together. Don't jump to a solution withoutdoing your research. Most likely, these days, most companie would be looking at a multi channel/lingual appraoch. Thanks for the obama example!

Thanks Manny for those enriching words. You rock!

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