Marketing to Hispanics 3 Things Every Business Owner Needs to Know:

30 August 2006,   By ,   0 Comments

Marketing to Hispanics
They’re the fastest growing minority group in the U.S., and their estimated buying power is scheduled to hit $992 billion by 2009. But reaching this group is far more complex than hiring a translator.

“ I know I need to do it, but I don’t know what I need to do.” This is the most common statement Nuevo Advertising owners Pedro Perez and Roseanne Avella-Perez hear from new clients. Nuevo is the only ad agency in Southwest Florida to specialize solely on Hispanic marketing, and everyone from government agencies to businesses across the state rely on Nuevo to connect their business with this multifaceted demographic.

SRQ Magazine Sarasota

SRQ Magazine Sarasota

Fact: Nearly half (47.8%) of Hispanic Households have four or more members
Source: U.S. Census

Fact: 59% of Hispanics claim to speak Spanish all the time, with another third saying they speak Spanish at least half of the time. Only 4% of Hispanics claim to never speak Spanish
Source: Market Segment Research

Fact: One in five teens are Hispanic. By 2020 the Hispanic teen population is expected to grow 62 percent compared with the 10 percent growth in the number of teens overall.
Source: Selig Center for Economic Growth

“ We’re talking about 15 percent of the community that’s not being targeted,” says Perez. “I don’t think you can afford not to market to Hispanics at this point.” But marketing to the Spanish-speaking population goes far beyond hiring a translator.

But marketing to the Spanish-speaking population goes far beyond hiring a translator.

Here are three things every business owner needs to know before marketing to this group.

Rule #1: Not All Hispanics are Alike ( Or, There’s a big difference between a first generation Mexican and an American-born Cuban )
Perez is the first to admit that the rules of marketing are no different when it comes to Hispanics, it’s just a bit more complicated. Take the number one rule of marketing, “know your audience.” For Hispanics, that means nationality, culture, generation and age.

Nationality and Culture

At the most basic level, Hispanics in our area can be divided in to two groups: those who have only lived in the U.S., and those who immigrated from somewhere else. Of the Hispanics in our area, the Mexican population makes up 32 percent, according to the U.S. Census. Puerto Ricans are a close runner-up at 27 percent, while Cubans make up 13 percent. Each of these groups has their own history, culture, dialect and preferences. Which is why, as Perez says, “we don’t translate, we culturalize.”
Nuevo client Nicole Paksoy is the Director of Creative Development for AAA South. Her office had been talking about reaching out to Hispanics for a couple of years before launching a campaign earlier this year. “We think our product and service works well with Hispanics,” she says. “In general, they are family oriented and often have multiple generations living under one roof.” AAA’s family memberships and the ability to use the service no matter what car a person is riding in are attractive benefits to tight-knit groups.

Paksoy admits that their first approach was to do straight translations. “But we’ve gotten smarter about it. It’s not just about what translation you use, it’s making the whole purchase experience relevant to the way they live.” AAA’s Hispanic-oriented marketing tends to be more vibrant and colorful and uses images and wording that speaks directly to the Latinos in this area. “You can’t use the same materials you’d use in Puerto Rico,” says Paksoy. “That wouldn’t work here.”

Generation and Age

To add to the complexity, the length of time your audience has lived in the U.S. will play a large role in how you communicate with them. “Foreign-born Latinos are very different from U.S.-born Latinos,” says Perez. Foreign-born Hispanics tend to be older, more conservative, and are Spanish language dominant; while third generation and American-born Hispanics are younger, bi-lingual and have higher household incomes. But that doesn’t mean you should rely on English advertising to reach the younger, wealthier demographic.

“ Research is showing that younger Hispanics are proud to be Hispanic,” says Paksoy. “They speak Spanish and are interested in their roots.” Then again, they may be proud to speak English. “Culturally, it’s a challenge,” says Paksoy. “But it’s fun.”

Given the diversity within this group, how do you know what segment you should target? “We look at where their business is, and we go out one, five and ten miles from there,” says Perez. Once he knows who he’s talking to, Perez can pinpoint exactly how to reach them.

Rule #2: There’s More to Reaching Hispanics than Univision
Perez says many people are not aware just how much Spanish-language media is out there. The greater Tampa Bay area, which includes Sarasota and Manatee counties, is home to a growing mix of Spanish-language media, including newspapers, magazines, television and radio stations. Each caters to a unique demographic, and even come with their own set of rules. For example, some television stations require ads to use Spanish exclusively, while others allow bilingual or “Spanglish” messages.

When it comes to determining what media vehicles will best serve his clients, Perez creates an extensive report which defines who lives in a businesses target area, their culture and generation, buying power, as well as media habits. “We can tell what TV shows they watch, what publications they read and when they listen to the radio,” says Perez.

“ Most clients want to know the size of the Hispanic community where their business is located. We create a whole profile for them,” he says. Once complete, Perez says 9 out of 10 clients hire him to execute the roadmap. He then relies on his diverse network of focus group participants to gauge whether a client’s product or service will be a good fit for the Hispanic market. “It’s been very effective,” he says.

Rule #3:. Hola! They’re in the door. Now what?

You’ve defined your segment, you’ve developed your creative and finalized your media plan. Time to sit back and wait for Hispanic customers to flood in? Not so fast…

“ Just like with any other marketing, you have to think about your entire sales cycle,” says Perez. For example, say Perez’ report shows primarily a first-generation Mexican population within a 10-mile radius of your store. Chances are, you’ll be advertising in a 100% Spanish publication, which means, if your ads are effective, you’re going to have customers in your store who don’t speak English.

“ You don’t want to advertise and then not know how to service them,” says Perez. And it’s not just about the sale. “Who is going to handle customer service after the sale?” asks Perez. “It’s about the whole cycle.”

Carey Reynolds is the Director of Strategic Planning & Communications with the Manatee Sarasota Eye Clinic & Laser Center, a company who has been a long time advertiser in publications such as La Guia and El Mensaje Latino. In the clinic, Spanish-speakers have access to a wide variety of Spanish-language brochures, literature and even portable DVD players to view educational videos about the two most common eye diseases. A large bilingual staff, as well as a bilingual doctor, ensures Spanish-speaking patients can ask questions and get the answers they need.

“ Hispanics are such a vital part of the Sarasota Bradenton area, and they deserve to know about the advancements and treatments available. It’s our duty to provide them with that service,” says Reynolds. While the clinic doesn’t specifically advertise for bilingual employees, it’s a huge advantage if a candidate can play a dual role. The clinic also encourages Hispanic employees to refer potential employees, thus creating a grassroots word of mouth that is so effective among community-centric Hispanics.

However, not every business is so fortunate. Perez acknowledges finding bilingual staff can be challenging. “It’s our number one issue right now,” he says. “Whether it’s blue collar or white collar, finding bilingual employees has become an incredibly large sour point for everyone.”

Avella-Perez recommends finding Hispanic employees through local job fairs, community centers and even churches. “Hispanics are very community-oriented,” she says.

“ But they don’t have to be Hispanic,” adds Perez, who says that the presence of a bilingual employee, no matter what ethnicity, can go a long way in bridging the gap between you and your customer.

Paksoy, the AAA executive, was fortunate to already have a Spanish-language call center staff in place prior to launching her Hispanic marketing campaign. But she has had to make other back-end adjustments, including hiring bilingual staff in the marketing department. “We’d get translations back and I had no way of knowing what they said,” she says. She’s also evaluating AAA’s membership structure, which typically allows for one primary member, an associate member (usually a spouse) and children. “We normally wouldn’t include a mother-in-law as an associate member because she’s not immediate family,” she says. But with multi-generational families under one roof, Paksoy acknowledges they may need to look at membership differently.

Non-Profits: More responsibility, More Barriers
“ It would be one of the happiest things I could ever accomplish in my life,” says Sarah Lansky, Director of Marketing and PR for G. Wiz, on the subject of serving Hispanics. “It’s a whole segment of our market we haven’t tapped in to.” Lansky knows that the role of G. Wiz as a non-profit hands-on museum is to offer a place of fun and learning to the entire community, and reaching out to Hispanics is critical to fulfilling that responsibility. Although Lansky has recently begun to work with Nuevo Advertising, she admits she has a long way to go.

Exhibit signage and instructions for the museum’s interactive activities are still only in English, and on-floor “explainers” and front desk staff are not bi-lingual. “Our goal at the museum is not just to educate kids, but parents, too,” she says, adding that while children in Hispanic families may be more likely to speak English, their parents may not. “It’s our responsibility to give them the support they need to interact as a family.” Lansky hopes to start incorporating bilingual signage, literature and take-home activities this year, but that effort requires significant funding. “It’s the biggest barrier right now,” she says.

Fact: The Tampa/St. Petersburg/Sarasota Market ranks 23rd in the top U.S. Hispanic markets. Source: Synovate 2006 U.S. Diversity Markets Report

Fact: By 2007, the Hispanic population is expected to reach 42 million. By 2020, it is estimated that one in five Americans will be Hispanic. Source: Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies

Fact: Nearly half (47.8%) of Hispanic households have four or more members.

Fact: The average age of the Latino population is 26 years (compared with 37 years for the general population). Source: U.S. Census

Fact: One in five teens are Hispanic. By 2020 the Hispanic teen population is expected to grow 62 percent compared with the 10 percent growth in the number of teens overall. Source: Selig Center for Economic Growth

Fact: 59% of Hispanics claim to speak Spanish all the time, with another third saying they speak Spanish at least half of the time. Only 4% of Hispanics claim to never speak Spanish. Source: Market Segment Research

Hispanic or Latino?

The simple answer is it depends on who you’re talking to and where they’re from. A good rule of thumb is to simply ask your client which terms they prefer.


The terms Latino (male) and Latina (female) refer to an individual who was born in or whose family originated in Latin America. Many prefer Latino to the term Hispanic because it excludes Europeans and reinforces their origin in civilizations that predated the Spanish Conquest and/or because it is a Spanish word. Latino is very popular in California, New York, New Jersey and Illinois.


The term Hispanic is frequently used as well. The United States Government first coined this English-language term for use in the 1970 Census. It is a word that, for many, elicits a very strong connection with Latin Americans’ Spanish heritage. Hispanic is popular in Texas and Florida. Source: 2004 Public Relations Tactics. Via ProQuest Information and Learning Company.