Hispanic Marketing Update
Os Pido Posada – A Hispanic Christmas Opportunity
Welcome to Posada season! Every year Latino families across the country join their neighbors in recreating the procession of Joseph and Mary as they try to find hospice, or “posada.” The ritual started in sixteenth century when Spaniards brought to the tradition with them as part of their religious overhaul of the New World.
Posadas are supposed to start on the sixteenth day of December and continue for nine consecutive evenings until Christmas Eve. Due to time and financial constraints, however, a modern day posada will usually take place in one evening and rarely has the religious overtones of the past. In fact, Posadas have started to become very popular in Latino communities as an expression of culture, akin to Day of the Dead celebrations that are making a comeback. Cities like San Antonio, Phoenix and Los Angeles all have been having public posada celebrations for years.
The posada procession consists of Joseph, Mary and their followers singing hymns and engaging in the traditional Posada exchange with a variety of homes that they seek shelter from. The lyrics (you can find a copy on www.mexconnect.com) are a creative and entertaining way to teach people, especially children, about the birth of Jesus, charity, and above all the spirit of Christmas. In our colonia, the posada will usually start at one end of the neighborhood and end at the host’s home. This home is where the manger is built and the baby Jesus is finally put in the crib.
My grandmother’s ceramic baby Jesus has been used for the last twenty years during these processions. She had it blessed by a priest ten years ago at San Juan De Los Lagos, cementing his celebrity status during this time of the year. He has two missing fingers and a large gash in his right arm from being dropped by yours truly during one of my stints as Mary, but that never stops my aunts from buying him a new baptismal outfit every year for the posada celebrations. Once the Holy family has found shelter the real fun begins, with food, sweets, piñatas and alcoholic beverages making their way to the open neighborhood party. Mexican hot chocolate and tamales are a main-stay, as are bags of candy for the kids, called aginaldo.
A Retail Bounty
Why should this matter to your business? For one, the number of retail industries that this celebration touches is phenomenal. Clothes for the baby Jesus alone can help retailers stand out during the holiday season. Posada recordings for the processions, along with posada branded goody bags, plates and napkins are also a good promotion for companies like Hallmark or other gift/party/paper manufacturers. Do I need to mention the benefit to food retailers? And then you have the event itself. An excellent grassroots opportunity for a company to sponsor, create or give away to a community, especially those who are looking for better ways to build relationships in niche market places.
As with many Latino holidays, companies must be careful to respectfully integrate these traditions into their marketing mix to avoid insulting the religious origins of such celebrations. However, as Latino traditions become more popular as a means of heritage and culture, there is an opportunity to incorporate some of these tactics as promotional or corporate initiatives that can help you cut through the clutter with authenticity rather than the same old Spanish translations.
Thanksgiving (November 2004)
Dia del Guajolote…
When you think of Thanksgiving, do you think of tamales and beer? (Maybe the beer, since most of us want to blur out Aunt Edna's constant complaining about our posture, but the tamales?) Yes, tamales…and salsa on your turkey and sometimes even some tripe to go with your gravy. What I am describing is the beautiful reality of cultural integration happening across the U.S. as Hispanics make "American" traditions their own and vice versa.
Typically, when we think of Thanksgiving, we think Pilgrims and American Indians. We this turkey, stuffing, green bean casserole and cranberry sauce. We think one-day family reunion with a big feast, thanks and goodbyes. But to Hispanics, what it means and how it is carried out is a little different.
Mainly, the appeal of Thanksgiving to Hispanics is that it results in a very positive cultural value: family getting together. Thanksgiving, like Christmas, offers Hispanics a holiday to gather and engage in celebrating the fact that family is alive, healthy and together.
At its core, Thanksgiving is everything right with the world from a Hispanic point of view - a day of hope, blessings and communal rejoicing. It has come to be as celebrated by the U.S. Hispanic population like any 'cultural" event, like Dies y Seis, but for different reasons. During Thanksgiving, Hispanics are not celebrating their culture, but who they are as people and what they have to be thankful for, a request that is considered as valid as remembering independence.
The fact that America is becoming 'Latinized' should not distract us from the reality that Latinos are also "Americanized." So that means that you should consider Hispanic advertising as a continual effort, not just relegate it to the cultural celebrations that happen a handful of times a year.
Thanksgiving season is a major shopping holiday between food and pre-Christmas sales. Advertisers spend millions of dollars trying to capture share of voice, share of market and share of dollars. And yet, we systematically forget that there are niche markets, some who speak different languages, that are also seeking the same invitation to spend money as the 'mainstream" population. By simply taking some of our media money and shifting it to augment some Spanish language media, for example, our clients can reach a larger audience for the same price.
Grassroots efforts are also sorely confined to just 'Hispanic Holidays" when they can be used much more effectively throughout the year to develop brand loyalty and incremental sales. But we continue to relegate Spanish or Hispanic specific events and efforts to the outsold, overrated and, at times, unimaginative "cultural fiestas.'
To be clear, these cultural celebration have their place and advantages as they are specific to Hispanics, but as more and more advertisers seek ways to market to this group, we should be aware that traditional "American" celebrations are just as fair game. Take the Fourth of July. There is the same sort of excitement among Hispanic Americans as there is for Cinco de Mayo among college students.
Thanksgiving is in fact an ideal 'Hispanic Holiday" in that it captures the entire family in one place at one time. In addition, these visits involve the weekend, where Hispanic families will go out together to shop and get ready for Christmas. This means you do not just have the opportunity to talk to one desired demographic, but potentially more (think grandmother, mother, daughter and grandkids). The environment of blessings and gratefulness is also an ideal setting to speak to Hispanics, who are known to be more optimistic about the future than many other populations and are open to messages that inspire themselves and their children to move forward.
Turkey Tacos are Good
There are only 20 out of 50 states in the U.S who do not have at least four percent of their population of Hispanic origin. It is reasonable to assume that in decades to come many of the traditions which we think are exclusively Latino will be adopted by other populations and vice versa. It is also reasonable to assume that as the population grows, it will no longer make sense to relegate efforts spent against it to four or five key time periods in the marketing calendar. So what are you waiting for? Pass the plate!
Typical Thanksgiving Fare at my Mexican Grandma's House:
Hispanic Heritage Month - a Hindrance Or…?
September 16th Hispanic Heritage month kicked-off its 2004 tour de force. It will have burned a hole in marketing manager's pockets everywhere, manifesting itself mostly in print ads in "Latino" publications and sponsorship money to Latino causes. It will highlight great accomplishments that Hispanics have made to the U.S. and so forth, mimicking another ethnic homage that occurs in February. Then it will wrap up and most companies will check off Latino marketing from their to-do lists and move on to the holiday blitz. Sound familiar?
The reality of today's Latino population as a highly sought after market, is no longer falling on deaf ears. You have either already put it on your list of "need-tos" or have been told by your CEO that it should be on that list. So what have you done with this newfound freedom? Have you spoken with your research guru to identify gaps that need filling to strengthen your learning about the market? Have you overlaid a yearlong Hispanic calendar of events to your general market efforts to see where you can leverage your current spending on activities that might overlap in taste and effectiveness? Have you made sure your customer service is trained to chit chat professionally with Latino callers, who tend to spend 2-3 minutes longer on the phone with reps than the average mainstream consumer? Have you considered how parents are still the gatekeepers of children in Latino households and that all your messaging needs to satisfy both the kid's need for coolness and the family's need for safety and relevance?
Or, are you one of the aforementioned marketing managers who spend on Hispanics only during Hispanic Heritage Month and neglect the population the rest of the year?
Don't fret. There is help for you.
Start by taking inventory of what you ultimately want to accomplish with this market. Corporate goodwill, sales, brand preference? This goal will help set the parameters of where and how you will most likely spend money. Follow this with a research assessment. What do you need to know to accomplish your goal? What pieces of information or insights are you missing? Once you have discovered this, stake your claim. What is the main message you want to communicate? Who is the best one to communicate this message and in what context? This naturally leads to year-round execution, especially since after you have conducted this assessment of goals, insights and messaging, you will see that your communication to Hispanics needs to be conducted 365 days a year- not just 30.
There are ample opportunities for marketers to treat Hispanic Heritage Month as a good kick-off for their Latino plans, but they should not depend solely on this once-a-year time period to advertise or build relationships. A good manager will see that this month of homage is a good place to start, but it should not be the only effort your company puts forward, unless you want your competitors to have the other 335 days to themselves. end.
Integration Nation (September, 2004)
Companies today are struggling with what exactly multiculturalism means to their marketing efforts and bottom line. CEOs and brand managers alike are touting the words "integration" as the potential answer to this dilemma, but few companies actually understand or deliver this ubiquitous noun.
What exactly is integration? The dictionary defines it as, "The act or process of making whole by bringing all parts together - unifying." Many firms assume that adding "ethnic" departments or buying minority agencies will lead to a unification of thought and strategy, but most are mistaken. Integration has more to do with what approach to take in solving marketing problems and less with assuring your clients that you can "represent" all ethnic consumers. A true integrated approach has to consider not just whom you are talking to, but who will be the messenger and in what context the message will be delivered. We call it a 360° Philosophy.
What exactly is a 360° Philosophy? 360° refers to consistency in communication, a key element in any integrated plan that intends to unify a brand's messaging and tactics. In today's world, ethnic consumers can come in contact with your brand in a variety of ways - from your paid advertising, to events you sponsor, to your sales representatives. We advise clients to consider what their current "touch points" with multicultural consumers and how they can be consistent with their general brand efforts and overall business goals. This is more fundamental than just creating ads. The key is to initiate cross-functional business strategies that go beyond marketing and encompass areas such as employment policies, training, and community initiatives. To truly capture the business opportunity, companies must address their multicultural marketing in a holistic manner. We rarely see this kind of commitment from senior management, but if it can happen, this has the potential to have a lasting and profound impact on the customer and the companies that do this right.
Traditional "multicultural' advertising focuses on only part of the communication cycle. You can't create loyalty if you do not have the infrastructure, the right sales force or the understanding of how to service your ethnic consumers. Are you even ready to advertise? Should you be focusing on other 360° touch points before spending million of dollars on media? These are questions your marketing partner should be asking and helping to answer.
The development of cross-functional business strategies can benefit companies in other ways beyond the creation of integrated marketing plans. A company's employees are one of its most important brand touch points and investing in ways to diversify or train as part of your overall communication solution can have a fundamental impact on employee loyalty and how they speak to others about your company.
Remember, your multicultural employees are consumers too, and they are considered a credible source of information about your products to other multicultural consumers. Addressing their role in your communications and developing a consistent way for them to talk about your company is key. After all, having your own legion of diverse and loyal brand stewards is an inexpensive and more powerful way of advertising than billboards alone.
Weaving Changes - The Hispanic Impact on Apparel
There are 40 million U.S. Hispanics, representing about 13 percent of the American population. By 2050, it is estimated that this percentage will jump to represent one quarter of the U.S. But size alone is not the reason why Hispanics are impacting the face of America. Newsweek, Time, Business Week and other prominent publications have all at one time done stories featuring the growing Latino population. Their conclusions all point to one inevitable fact: the Hispanic culture will not only change the way America lives but how it does business.
Age of Innocence
Implications for retailers: Children's apparel, furnishings, and bedding are high-spend categories for Hispanic families, who average 3.6 per household compared to 2.6 for the rest of the population. Latino children are very much influenced by the popular media, gravitating to characters and colors that many of their non-Hispanic friends are also attracted to, so when considering patterns and colors of textiles "child-related" purchases choose by life stage and not necessarily by ethnicity. For Hispanic adults however, consider that shopping is usually a family affair, meaning that extended family members like grandmothers, aunts and cousins, influence purchases of apparel, furniture, or home décor, as well. Ethnicity does play a factor for these purchases, as often times, Hispanics will want to buy goods which remind them or their family of a home country or childhood in a foreign country.
Growing Middle Class
Implications for Textile Industry and retailers: Creating a line of goods that represent a range of prices allows a retailer to offer a variety of goods to Hispanic customers in different income or lifestyle brackets. Example: Todd Oldman's Lazy Boy and Target lines - offering upscale design for low-cost retailers while still maintaining brand equity. This helps many textile retailers to offer 'sampling' to consumers who would otherwise not buy, creating an opportunity to up-sell at a later time. There is a growing number of upwardly mobile Latinos that are 'retaking" their roots and are looking for textile patterns and decor which represent their cultural heritage. There is an opportunity for high-quality goods and retailers to offer them such products.
Implications for retailers: Bilingual signage when possible is the best way to satisfy the needs of all your customers. Rethinking your media mix to include some Spanish language channels can help optimize your media money in certain high-density Hispanic cities like Chicago, LA, Miami, New York, Houston, San Francisco, and Dallas-Fort Worth. In many Latin American countries, textiles are part of everyday life and commerce; so incorporating them into store displays or presentation can have a positive appeal for Latino consumers. Consider partnering with foreign companies to import goods that Latinos are either familiar with or have a loyalty to.
AOL Marketing Pushes the Hispanic Guilt Button
I think we as Latino marketers have taken for granted that there are two very powerful emotions that govern many Hispanics in the U.S. The first is love of family, and the second is guilt.
Pure unadulterated guilt is one of the most powerful motivators within the Latino community. History has shown that the Spanish and Catholic conquest of Latin American spawned the modern day guilt trip that almost every Hispanic alive has suffered at the hands of their parent, grandparent, tia, or other extended family member. Guilt is a given if you're Hispanic.
If you did something wrong, you were made to feel guilty about bringing such disgrace to your family. If you did something right your were made to feel guilty for showing off to your family. If you cried you were guilty of being weak, if you stayed silent your were guilty of not caring enough. If we, as Latinos think hard, did we ever do anything that was not worthy of feeling guilty?
AOL recently launched a campaign targeted to Hispanics that focused on making parents feel guilty for not having Internet at home for their children. In the ad a Hispanic child asks shyly why his friends have Internet access and he is without. The ad is aimed at parents trying to tie in lack of connectivity with 'less than stellar" parenting.
While many people think this ad might be going too far (There is a good argument that this approach might be inconsiderate to those Latino parents who can barely afford the basics, let alone Internet access), I think the concept behind the ad is good. It combines the parental instinct to provide the best for one's children with the powerful motivation of guilt to elicit, at the very least, a personal reflection from the intended parental target as to just why, does my child NOT have Internet access.
While the creative execution is still being debated, I don't think AOL is doing anything that we Latino advertisers have not been doing for decades - using children to sell. Turn the TV on, tune into any Spanish language station and watch for the same phenomenon. The only difference, perhaps between these ads and AOL's ads is that they are trying to sell something else.
Huevon and Guey - The Crossover 'Bad' Words
OK, OK, I have been hearing tons of things about the new Coors commercial by Bromley Communications. Is it insulting to use "guey" on national TV? Is it a bad representation of Hispanics? Does it really matter?
As a Mexican-American raised Catholic and chancleada when I used bad words in "polite" company, I did my own unofficial investigative reporting to find out what words are now so overused, that even polite company accepts them and uses them in conversation.
As it turns out, "guey" is actually one of the two "bad" words that have pulled a Shakira and successfully crossed over into everyday speech. And interestingly enough, it is the milder of the two. "Guey" literally means OX, as the Coors billboards have already made clear. It used to be a derogatory remark to someone who was a beer short of a six-pack, if you know what I mean. The evolution of the word into a dude-like greeting seems to have happened quite recently as Spanglish has made more and more of an inroads into the U.S. Latino community.
Huevon into the mainstream
The other word that seems to have made it's way into everyday jargon is "huevon", albiet this word is on the borderline of decency. Huevon literally refers to the size of a mans "cojones" (another pseudo decent word that has seen a lot of mainstream play). It is commonly used to indicate how lazy someone is. The bigger the "huevon" you are, the lazier. As with "guey", however, this too has often been used to say dude or buddy.
Though I doubt we will be seeing "huevon" used in any national ad campaigns anytime soon, since it correlates directly to a "private" body part, I think that it is safe to say that nuances like these are going to become common in the speech patterns of young people, latino or not, as they grow up hearing their older cousins, siblings, even parents use these words.
For my part, an aunt of mine always calls me "Cabr*$#" and this has become a term of endearment between us that I now use with my own niece. And although I tell her it is something that is only to be said in private between us, I have no doubt that someday, I will be watching NBC, ABC or FOX and that word is going to be coming out of the mouth of some actor as he sips beer and talks turkey.
Using a Celebrity Endorser? Better Cover Yourself!
There are so many benefits for companies using celebrity spokespersons: cache, a familiar face, name recognition. For some brands, a celebrity endorsement can bring opportunities beyond the original intention and create not only company profit, but also creative iconography (think Air Jordan).
But more often, celebrity endorsements end up with a campaign that lasts a year or so and wraps up with both parties continuing on their own paths (Britney and Pepsi, Jerry Seinfeld and American Express, and Beyonce and L'Oreal). Either approach is fine. As a company, you get a boost in sales and great associations with a desired celebrity "brand", and as a celebrity you get a great paycheck and good associations with a solid product brand. And all is fine with the world and will continue to be good so long as celebrities remain desirable and products are solid.
So what happens when the crucial balance in the celebrity spokesperson / brand relationship rules is broken? Two words: Overexposure and Disinterest.
Overexposure Equals Disinterest, Is Thalia Next?
A case in point. How many products has "golden boy" Oscar de la Hoya endorsed since he first shot to stardom in the late 1990s? Lost count? That's because his face was everywhere, endorsing everything from satellite TV to shaving cream to juice. And after a while, he was so overexposed that you really did not care what he was endorsing because he lost the halo of the unreachable and became just another sales guy.
Is the same thing happening to Thalia Sodi? In the last year she has been all over the news with her crossover appeal, her Dr. Pepper commercials, her Kmart line, her magazine, and now her Hershey's endorsement. Is she at risk of becoming (gasp) just another salesperson rather than a celebrity endorser?
She could be if she does not protect what makes a celebrity endorser so desirable: exclusivity. The problem that many Latin American stars face today is that they are eager to get established in the U.S. as crossover superstars, so much so, that they often enter the market in a blaze of glory only to find that they have spread their brand image so thinly across so many properties, that they now have little brand equity left. Instead of concentrating on making themselves stronger as celebrities, they get sidetracked into making themselves household names when they have yet to make that name mean anything to the households.
Doing it Right - Gloria Estefan
Gloria Estefan is a great example of someone who guards her celebrity brand from overexposure. Her sales stints are spread throughout her career. Jlo is another smart endorser, choosing to gain credibility as an actress and singer first, before making the jump into designer work and style maven status.
In the end, as marketers, it is our responsibility to make sure that we choose the best spokespeople for our clients and that does not always mean going with that is hot right now. Be wary of stars that shine too brightly too fast because in the harsh light of day you may find yourself dealing with someone who lent their name out to so many causes or products, that that name has little value left.
El Dia de Las Madres "The Day of the Mothers"
This Mother's Day, you might awaken to the sound of a band of Mariachis belting out "Las Mañanitas." Don't call 911 or think that a neighbor's party went on a little too long. Instead, lie back and enjoy a tradition that has been part of the Latino culture for centuries.
The ritual marks the beginning of one of the most important holidays in the Hispanic calendar, El Dia de Las Madres. Traditionally a patriarchal society, Hispanic culture is actually centered on the Mother and family. The mother figure plays prominently in many Latin traditions. In Mexico, for example, December 11 is reserved as a national holiday for the Virgen of Guadalupe, patron Saint of Mexico, who many consider the equivalent of Mary the Mother of Jesus Christ. In many ways, celebrating Mother's day for many Latinos is marked by their own worship of the "saint" in their lives, Mama.
The dawn serenade is a mainstay in Mexico and Latin American countries on Mother's Day. And, it is widely practiced by US Latinos and has gathered steam as the population increases in size and income. The average cost of a Mother's Day mariachi trio in the Rio Grande Valley, where I grew up, is about $50 dollars for three songs, and increases with the size of the band. In many families, the expense is shared by brothers and sisters, but more often, it is paid for by the "men" in the family as a tribute. I think sons tend to see this day as an opportunity to set aside time and money dedicated to the specific purpose of thanking their mother for all she has "suffered," "sacrificed," or "given them" throughout their lives.
For a business, Mother's day is a hidden gem, especially for restaurateurs, gift stores and retailers. Most Hispanic families set aside money for the specific purpose of buying gifts, flowers and food. Oftentimes the expense is quite large (how can you put a price on the value of your mother?) and many families pool money to honor multiple mothers.
As Hispanic marketers, we should add this day to the list of promotional recommendations for clients. It lends itself, not just to in-store marketing activities, but to events, sweepstakes and relationship marketing programs. In many ways, Mother's Day is almost a perfect marketing vehicle, proving once again that Mother, is always right on!
Up in Smoke (April 2004)
The funniest thing happened to me this weekend. I was watching a play performed by the fabulous Latino Comedy Project (the Latino version of Chicago's Second City) in Austin, when out of the blue I heard the funniest marketing insight.
There on-stage, was a woman wailing, and wailing, she was then joined in her incessant mourning by another actress. I was glued to the stage, thinking what in the world was so horrible that these performers were just howling in tears. Finally, as the sketch ended a man walks in and is as taken aback as the audience. He asked quite innocently to the women, what's wrong. They both turn around and say. "The new stove ... it's…it's...electric!" And I just broke down laughing hysterically, along with the other Hispanic audience members.
Don't get it? That's because this little insight is so Latino that it could only make sense to a Latino (in case you were wondering, it is an inside joke that traditional Latina mothers look down on electric stoves and prefer gas ranges, claiming food cooked on electric stoves is not as good). There are hundreds, thousands, of little insights like that which can make the difference between a well written Hispanic ad and one that, like the electric stove, will just never hit a home run among Latinos.
So what is your company doing about getting to those insights? Are you doing a quantitative study of which key Spanish words scored highest on a Likert scale? Are you doing a telephone survey asking Hispanics insightful lifestyle questions? Are you commissioning pre- and post analysis of brand awareness and desirable attributes among Latino purchasers?
Chances are you are doing none of the above. Like most companies, you probably have not set aside a research budget for this market. Don't make that fatal mistake. For a company to stay strong, it has to know its consumer. At 38 million strong, and with almost $600 billion in purchasing power, Hispanics are a consumer of yours or will be in the next three to five years. By taking action now and learning how your products and services are relevant to the Hispanic consumer, you can develop the foresight to incorporate this growing market into your current, three or five-year plans. In addition, it allows you to see how Hispanics also fit in your overall company priorities and what is in place across your systems to effectively market to them.
Knowing your consumer is a basic step for any marketer, and as the marketplace changes, it will be important for all companies to review their current customer learning to assess just what they know and what they do not. If your budget does not include some Hispanic research this year, chances are, those crucial insights will be harnessed by your competitor, as is that Latino dollar that should have gone to your brand.
The Secret of Latina Celebs and Their Designing Ways
The power of the Latina celebrity has gone beyond that on the screen, big or small. In today's multi-owned, multi-merchandised and multi-outlet media landscape, it is rare for a Latina celebrity to stop at making movies when she can also sing on the soundtrack, have her own Barbie look-alikes (you know you own the Shakira doll), and yes, design her own clothing line.
It should not really surprise anyone when famous Latino actors and singers begin to design their own couture, or in the typical case, design "affordable" and stylish everyday wear.
First, Latina celebrities spend most of their time being talked to about clothing by stylists, designers and tailors, not to mention wearing tons of the finest designs imaginable. Why would we not think they know a thing or two about fashion?
Secondly, these Latino celebrity designers have their own personal style that most of us have found attractive enough that we rush to the magazine rack to drool. All they want to do is help us achieve that same look and who can begrudge them the few millions they will make in the process. I didn't when I bought my first JLO hoodie online, or the Thalia designed capris I got at Kmart. Nor will I care when Beyonce's new line of affordable couture comes out (Yes, she's not Latina, but with clothes like hers, who cares).
Why? Because these women look like me; they have bodies shaped like mine. And, most of all, they make designs in sizes that fit me. Or at least, I, like the millions of Latinas out there, assume they will. And that is the secret as to why ethnic celebrity designers will most likely succeed: because consumers like me relate to them and assume that their designs relate to us. That, and because, let me repeat, they make their clothing in sizes that fit me (the average Latina is a size 12).
As to my prediction of the latest to join the crowd, it's Ms. Daisy Fuentes, who is designing a line of women's wear for Khol's. She has a classic, sleek style. She has impeccable taste in shoes. And, she is nicely full-bodied. If she designs for us like she would design for herself, then I predict success.
Six Keys to Successful Marketing to Hispanics
Valentine’s Day Can Mean Different Things for Different
Latinos (February 2004)
On February 14th most Peruvians celebrate "El Día de la Amistad" also known as the Valentine’s Day in the United States. Although decorations and the color red aren’t as prominent during the second month of the year as they are in the U.S., most people seem to be as excited about the preparations to celebrate this day.
Since this day celebrates friendship in addition to love, gifts for friends and family members begin to be purchased around the first week of February. Gifts range from chocolate boxes and stuffed animals decorated with red silky hearts to gift baskets decorated with red ribbons and balloons and stuffed with items that better suit a struggling population. Such items contain canned food, bread, toiletries, and delicious candy, cookies, and chocolate. Even though gifts are common, some prefer to go to the theatre, to see a good film or to a cozy restaurant. Flowers and roses are a MUST. Guys are expected to give at least one rose or flower to all his girl friends and his girlfriend. Flowers are very affordable in Peru; therefore, a flower must accompany the celebration without exception or a person is considered cheap.
In the workplace, there is a custom of people playing a game called "secret admirer". This is somewhat similar to the "secret Santa" we see around Christmas time here in the U.S. Two weeks prior to the 14th, name drawings are arranged. For the two following weeks, the secret admirer sends little notes, gifts, and surprises to his "admired" person. On Valentine’s Day people guess who their secret admirer was and whoever guesses right gets a gift basket.
This Holiday means a lot to Peruvians. Not only because it redirects people full of political and social worry to a joyful place, but also because it celebrates love and friendship, which are very important to our culture. In a few words, for a couple of weeks in Perú “love is literally in the air”.
For some of my Latino fiends from the U.S., however, Valentine’s Day has always been bitter sweet. Growing up in the U.S., the emphasis on this day has always been more on love then friendship. Many of my friends are from Catholic families where boyfriends before the age of 18 were strictly forbidden, so they couldn’t exactly pursue any sort of childhood crushes unless they wanted a lecture about being “pure.” Anyhow, Valentine’s Day for them was always about someone else being loved—mostly “mainstream” girls whose family or boyfriends could afford to, or be allowed to, send them gifts to school. (In the United States, it seems that chocolate is the safest gift to distribute. It generally could mean any range of emotions from friendship to love. Stuffed animals are strictly boyfriend/girlfriend or best-friend fare. Flowers, however, are the ultimate gift. If you give or receive flowers, kudos to you, because flowers cost so much, so whoever sent them must really like you.)
They say that Valentine’s Day did not mean much to their family. Other than at school, they never really celebrated Valentine’s Day at home. It was never anything that they recall being culturally relevant. For most Hispanics born in the U.S. it seems to be more of a lifestyle activity—something that you do as part of growing up and learning about boys and puppy love and heartbreak and something that happened at school, NOT at home. That I know of, this holiday does not have any real effect on family relationships or ethnic pride here in the U.S. In fact, many times Valentine’s Day seemed like a popularity contest to see who would get more presents and to some people, it probably still does. Most tell me they don’t really understand its reason for being until they got older and have a special someone to share the day with, then it had meaning.
So, you see, while most of the country celebrates romance, some Hispanics celebrate friendship and others, don’t celebrate it at all. While that is not that different from the mainstream, the reasons are quite telling.
New Year, New Wheels (January 2004)
It’s not just a car. A car is metal. A car is wires and gasoline. A car is mechanical. Where’s the movement, ask Hispanics. Motivation. Style. Wealth. A car is a lifestyle. An aspiration. A right. The next stage in life. And Hispanics are proving this by buying them left and right.
Hispanics and The Automobile
The big eight: Honda, Daimler Chrysler, Toyota, GM, Nissan, Ford, and Mitsubishi. Automobile gaints. Each in step with their markets. Each determined to outsell the other. Be the next big thing in cars. And the next big thing, it seems, is selling to the Hispanic market.
Minorities in the United States purchase more than 20 percent of the nation’s new and used vehicles. The Hispanic population, in particular, is estimated to have spent about $18 billion in 1999 on motor vehicles and parts, a figure that is expected to grow to $40.2 billion in 2010. In light-vehicle sales alone, Hispanics account for about 5 percent of that market. That translates into roughly $16 million annually.
That also translates into serious marketing efforts by automobile makers to capture the Hispanic market. In 1998 General Motors reigned supreme with a 23.2 percent share. Ford had a 19.5 percent share of the Hispanic market and Chrysler had 13.6 percent. Toyota held 11.8 percent.
Toyota, however, made headlines in 1999 by overtaking GM as the largest automotive spender in Hispanic media. They increased their ad dollars by 43 percent from the previous year. Toyota’s estimated $20 million makes it the seventh-largest advertiser overall in the Hispanic market. GM now ranks 11th with $15 million spent, followed by Ford in 13th place with $12.2 million. Honda places 24th with $9 million spent.
Hispanics and Buying Cars
A survey for American Demographics magazine, done in LA, NY, and Miami, revealed important insights into Hispanic car purchasing behavior. Among the most telling findings were those on media usage. Hispanics consult an average of 4.2 sources before buying a car, more than three times the national average. Almost 66 percent cite newspapers as an information source for cars to be bought in the next 12 months, versus just 13.8 percent of the general market; 54.2 percent say they will be turning to magazines, versus 17.5 percent of the general market; 45.3 percent cite television; and 27.9 percent say radio.
It was concluded that Hispanic consumers are very information-hungry. Even more interesting was that many of thodr surveyed said they would be consulting sources in both English and Spanish. 50.8 percent said that they would seek out information in English- and Spanish-language newspapers, 45.4 percent said they would turn to magazines in both languages, and 43.2 percent said the same of television channels.
Aside from media and information gathering, the study also revealed that Hispanics associated quality of life with owning a new car. It represented a symbol of accomplishment and success. Less-expensive or used vehicles are stepping stones, space savers for the idealized higher-priced vehicles. That is one reason analysts predict that there will be big increases in the Hispanic share of the luxury auto segment in the coming decade.
This aspirational factor could explain another key finding. When asked to name the two most important factors in purchasing a car, Hispanic respondents chose price and style, compared to the general market's preference for price and safety features. Style to Hispanics also connotes quality, brand, and prestige.
Many Target Options
The Hispanic population currently provides automakers with three very desirable target markets: families, upwardly mobile customers and young buyers.
The average Hispanic household has 3.6 people. Because of this, Hispanic parents are the ultimate need-driven car consumers, opting for bigger, costlier cars because they have to accommodate their larger families. This is a trend not likely to stop as one out of five babies born in the U.S. is Hispanic.
In addition, the spending power of Hispanics has been estimated at $500 billion. The estimated revenues of Hispanic owned businesses in 2000 was $221 billion. That allows 40 percent of Hispanics to be in a middle or upper-middle income bracket and able to buy higher-priced vehicles.
Then there is the growing number of younger Hispanics who are reaching their prime purchasing years. Currently, 58 percent of Hispanics are under 35 years of age. Ford took this into account when it advertised its Ford Focus during the 1999 MTV Music Awards during Ricky Martin and Jeniffer Lopez mania.
It is said that these younger generation Latinos are more likely to consume mainstream media and behave like their mainstream peers. They can be reached with “crossover” shows that put less emphasis on language and more on culture. Francesca Runza, the account planner overseeing the Toyota account at Conill Advertising, notes, "The general market influences the Hispanic market. Hispanics are really living in two worlds." Mike Trueblood, president of TruMarketing affirms this, saying of younger Latinos, "You can never go wrong being bilingual. Spanish-only advertising will alienate both Anglos and the half of the Hispanic population that speaks English.”
Latino consumers are upwardly mobile, hungry for all types of information, in both English and Spanish, and are likely to buy cars at all price levels. Thus, the ultimate opportunity for any car maker is the ability to be able to reach both families and younger Hispanics in an effective and appealing way.
Building relationships with emerging majority consumers is a key component in targeted marketing. Sponsoring community and professional organizations allows car makers to have a presence and build brand awareness among emerging majority consumers.
Car marketers can also appeal to future car buyers by sponsoring educational scholarships and competitions that target minority high school and college students. Nissan already contributes to the National Hispanic Scholarship Fund. Why not advertise this on a show that this target market will watch?
Garcia 360° Comunica is 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. Visit www.garcia360.com for additional information.
Contact Visibility Public Relations for additional information.
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