Face-to-Face, One-to-One Marketing and Hispanics
by Luis Garcia

What does it mean when someone tells you Hispanics are a "relationship marketing" population? Relationship marketing is, literally, marketing that is meant to engender a "relationship" between consumer and advertiser. The definition of this relationship is dependent upon the advertiser's goals and can range from the purely transactional to the extremely personal, which requires some knowledge of consumer motivation. One aspect of relationship marketing to Hispanics, "face-to-face" initiatives, is extremely crucial.

Though "face-to-face" maketing is closely tied to bilingual personnel, its executions deal more with understanding the importance of friendship to Latinos. Some marketers assert that Hispanics value old-fashioned personal touches and appreciate the value of forming long-term relationships. The mistake most often made, however, is when business people ask for their business before seeking to establish friendly relationships in the community. One could say that Hispanics prefer to do business with friends, in addition to being business associates.

The importance of personal attention has prompted many companies to execute face-to-face marketing efforts in areas of high Hispanic concentration. Many music labels, for example, employ face-to-face street techniques to reach Hispanics who may not consume much mainstream media because of language barriers, or who might want more information about a product on the spot. In fact, street teams, once considered a guerilla marketing technique, have been increasingly used to market to Hispanics at events, as well as at everyday locations like malls and theaters. Well-trained street teams can help "put a face" on a brand story, potentially creating lasting affinity between consumers and companies.

Festivals have become a mainstay of most companies' Hispanic advertising campaigns since they allow for a level of one-to-one marketing that even sports events can't match. At festivals, people are relaxed and are open to being offered samples, coupons, and promotional offers. Two behemoths of the Hispanic marketing circuit are Calle Ocho, in Miami, and Los Angeles's Fiesta Broadway, both of which attract hundreds of thousands of potential Hispanic consumers (as well as other ethnicities).

But marketers are also keen on discovering more local events in key target cities. For example, festivals celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month or Cinco de Mayo are fast becoming outlets for numerous advertisers. They might offer smaller crowds, but they still tend to offer a less competitive environment, and if a company has franchises or divisions throughout the country, local events do more to engender trust among Hispanic consumers that a typical national or regional event could.

Direct marketing.is another effective way to engage in face-to-face communication. Buick, for example, has sent mailers to Hispanic Buick buyers in various stages of the ownership experience. With a large percentage of Hispanics asking for more direct mail, this approach becomes an effective tool that can be used to establish friendly relations lasting long periods of time. Unfortunately, most companies limit the use of direct mail to promotions or couponing, and do not realize its' power as a branding tool. The key is to make your messaging clearly extend a friendly acknowledgement of the Hispanic consumer's importance to your business or brand without selling anything specifically, or your attempt to establish a relationship will appear to be just another sales pitch.

Personal contact with Latinos can also be further accomplished by using Hispanic celebrities as spokespeople or by partnering with influencers who are as accepted part of the Latino community. The Texas Rangers baseball team has used grassroots marketing with local chambers of commerce and similar groups throughout Texas, realizing how important it was to find partners in the Hispanic community that can facilitate one-to-one relationships with Hispanic fans.

Toyota's strategy for advertising to Latinos has for years been explicit about using Hispanic talent in its ads. Banco Popular even used Don Franciso, the popular host of Sabado Gigante (the equivalent of The Price is Right in Latin America), as its spokesperson when it officially entered the U.S. market in 1998. In 1997, Pepsi pulled out all the stops when it had Mexican soccer star Jorge Campos endorse Pepsi domestically and internationally. The company then produced a commercial that featured him and actress Selma Hayek. They again made headlines by bringing on Shakira as a celebrity endorser in 2002, not just for Hispanics, but for the general market.

Sometimes hiring employees that sound Hispanic helps build relationships. Phone representatives who are relatively non-acculturated are often the most effective communicators. Since accents vary, using an American-accented speaker in advertising, trying to speak Spanish may cause suspicion. One telemarketer observed that they hire people of different Hispanic backgrounds to act as references to the staff on cultural subtleties in accents, as well as dialectical differences.

While budgets and time play an important part in determining the marketing mix, face-to face initiatives should be considered a high priority when addressing the Hispanic consumer. This technique is fairly adaptable, and can range from a local event presence to extensive options such as hiring policies. There is no doubt that face-to-face initiatives do help advertisers create deeper links with Hispanic customers and should be included in relationship marketing efforts to build brand credibility and trust within the Hispanic community. If your current Hispanic marketing program does not include a relationship marketing component, you might want to have a little face-to-face with your ad agency.

Luis Garcia is the founder and managing director of Garcia 360, a San Antonio-based Hispanic communications agency specializing in integrated strategies. Garcia 360 helps clients assess opportunities in the Hispanic market, prepare services for their consumers/influencers, develop marketing plans, and creative to achieve business goals.

Contact Visibility Public Relations for additional information.

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