Tilde Herrera HeraldToday.com – Marketing to Hispanics in Spanish Colombian-born Ricardo Diaz is open to varying cuisines and American products but admits Spanish-language advertisements get his attention fast. “They don’t have to because it’s their country,” Diaz said of United States-based companies that choose to target the Hispanic community. “But money talks.”
And since the 2000 census, more companies than ever are listening. Hispanics, the fastest growing demographic in the country, are projected to enjoy the most substantial increase in spending power during the next 15 years. But the group’s diversity, coupled with the language barrier, can make Hispanic marketing a challenging prospect.
“All Hispanic communities are growing,” said Pedro Perez, vice president of Nuevo Advertising Group in Sarasota.
“Any Hispanic marketing done is not a hard sell.”
The $4 billion Hispanic advertising industry is outpacing all other sectors of advertising, according to the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies.
Some companies, such as Anheuser-Busch, have courted Hispanic and African-American consumers for years, said John Saputo, owner of Gold Coast Eagle Distributors, an Anheuser-Busch franchisee.
“We have at Anheuser-Busch try to be ethnically relevant in our marketing efforts,” Saputo said. “We recognize the power, the burgreoning ecomonic power, that is blossoming throughout the country.”
According to an Associated Press story about a Census Bureau report issued Thursday, there are 41.3 million Hispanics in the United States – or one in every seven people. In all, the U.S. gained 2.9 million people from 2003 to 2004, and half of them were Hispanic.
Census figures show that in 2000, 9.3 percent of Manatee’s population was Hispanic or Latino.
According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, Hispanic buying power is projected to reach about $1 trillion by 2008, a 357 percent increase from 1990.
But marketing to Hispanics isn’t easy because of the subsets within the population.
No broad marketing brush
Although two-thirds of the Latino population is of Mexican origin, there are approximately 17 different groups represented, according to Dr. Roger Selbert, a trend expert and owner of Growth Strategies, a California-based research firm.
That variety makes it difficult to paint with a broad marketing brush, Perez said.
“The problem is no one knows how to do it correctly,” Perez said. “Everyone wants to do something but they’re afraid of offending people or the message is not what they want it to be.”
Perez cites an infamous blunder by Microsoft in its marketing of products in Latin America. The company’s Spanish language version of Windows XP software gave users the option of specifying gender. The choices: “not specified,” “male” or “bitch.”
Many others, Perez said, have made the faux pas of not understanding their target audiences.
Success often depends on a multi-pronged approach.
“Whatever marketing is done, it’s not a question of putting an ad in this publication and waiting for calls to come in,” Perez said. “What I’ve found is putting an ad in a publication without having an actual ad campaign is like hunting for ducks, shooting up in the air and hoping you hit a couple.”
Perez said companies that recruit bilingual employees to serve the Hispanic customer base have a leg up on the competition.
Others are trying to break the mold by brand building and brand development through grassroots marketing.
“Create some connection between the community and the product,” Perez said. “Include them in the conversation.”
Anheuser-Busch has tried to make inroads into the Hispanic community in Palmetto by becoming part of it.
“The most successful (marketing approach) has been the grassroots soccer league sponsorship,” said Andrea Saputo Cox, director of marketing for Gold Coast Eagle Distributing, which handles Budweiser and Bud Light in Manatee and Sarasota counties.
Soccer Marketing and Promotions, based in Miami, acts as an intermediary between adult soccer leagues and sponsors.
“The way the program works, we ID some of the key soccer leagues in certain areas around the state,” said President Tom Muloy. “We go out to the (league) president and say, ‘Look, we want to be around. This is what we want to do.’ ”
The sponsor subsidizes uniforms, gives T-shirts to players and special bags to coaches, sets up tents during games, sends coaches to training clinics, and allows coaches to use distributor facilities.
Anheuser-Busch has about 15,000 players in its sponsored leagues throughout Florida and Georgia, Muloy said.
Francisco Valle Jr., president of the Latin American Soccer League in Palmetto, said players value the sponsorship but he doubts it has a significant impact on the choices they make as consumers.
“Everybody drinks whatever they like,” Valle said. “If you drink Pepsi, you wouldn’t start drinking Coke because you’re supposed to.”
Valle’s sentiment echoes something over which many marketers salivate: brand loyalty is traditionally fierce among Latinos.
The local market share of Anheuser-Busch products is strong, Saputo said. But he believes the outreach, and its positive impact on the local Hispanic community, should not be overlooked.
“If we have positively influenced 1,000 Hispanic soccer players and they tell 10 people, we’ll have positively influenced 10,000,” Saputo said.
Using sports to market to the Hispanic audience can work well, many said.
Saputo said Anheuser-Busch sponsored events, such as a rodeo and wrestling matches, sparked large attendance.
Perez, working with Tampa Bay Storm and WRMD Rumba 680 AM, also led a successful campaign to increase Hispanic attendance at the arena football games.
During the most recent season, Perez arranged for a live radio broadcast of the games in Spanish, which was well-received by Rumba’s audience, said Rumba General Manager Maria Chacon.
“It is difficult to measure because we base a lot of it on the feedback we get from our listeners,” Chacon said. “We were also on site for the final game and the response we received was overwhelming.”
Information from the Associated Press supplemented this report.
June 20, 2005