Hispanic Marketing Goes to Universidad

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In any language marketing means understanding your customer. For multicultural marketers, this is often a difficult and complex learning process. Fortunately for the students at DePaul University, they have the chance to be taught. This winter, DePaul announced that it would become the first university in the Midwest to offer an undergraduate major in Multicultural Marketing: Hispanic Marketing, in the fall of 2007. DePaul's program answers a call in marketing for a better understanding of the fastest growing ethnic population in America. The program promises to lead to an increased interest in Hispanic marketing in higher education, and to increased effort in marketing to the Hispanic population. The Hispanic population is gaining traction in the consumer space. The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies projects that by the end of 2007, the United States will have a Hispanic population of 42 million, which represents a collective purchasing power of $928 billion. Although companies have scrambled to tap into this market's potential, there is a lack of talent and knowledge on the marketing side to enable them to do so effectively. Sonya Suarez-Hammond, director of Yankelovich Research, says, "Hispanic talent today in the U.S. in terms of marketing is just not at the level of the general market and it's been a challenge on the ad agency side." She says that many companies today either look to homegrown talent or bring in experts from other countries like Mexico and Puerto Rico. The new program at DePaul is one of only four of its kind in the country, and the first in the Midwest. Southern Methodist University, the University of California at Los Angeles, and Florida State University also offer programs in Hispanic marketing. Florida State announced last December it would offer the program online as well in the next academic year. Although most schools require that students take Spanish, Hispanic culture courses, and marketing separately, these programs combine the three to hone the specific tools necessary for Hispanic marketers. DePaul offers courses like Marketing Across Cultures, Commercial Spanish, and an internship with a Hispanic marketer. Steven Kelly, codirector for Kellstadt Marketing Center at Dekalb, says the university's program is important in Chicago as the city holds a large Hispanic market. Additionally, 15 percent of the school's undergraduates define themselves as Hispanic. He says that the major will help the students as well as surrounding businesses. "Essentially, the main thing was business people saying, 'We can't get enough people who understand the Hispanic culture and know marketing.'" Kelly also hopes that the program will foster student pride in the Hispanic culture, as well as help to increase retention rates of Hispanic students. Both Kelly and Suarez-Hammond believe that this only represents the starting point for a greater academic and professional focus on Hispanic marketing. Suarez-Hammond says that there are many complexities and nuances in the Hispanic market right now that deserve more expertise. She suspects that this will breed more such academic initiatives. Kelly says, "In five or 10 years, if a company doesn't have a Hispanic marketing program it's being foolish."
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