Reaching Hispanics Goes Beyond Language

Recognizing Hispanics as a rapidly growing consumer group is a no-brainer. Figuring out how to market to them and maintain them as customers is what has many companies scratching their heads. A group of marketers and advertisers came to the 12th annual Directo Days Conference looking for answers today. They learned that the solution is complicated, but based on two things: ceasing the opportunity and realizing that not all Hispanics are alike. "It's no longer possible to deal with [one] segmented marketplace," said Guy Garcia, the conference's keynote speaker and author of The New Mainstream: How the Multicultural Consumer is Transforming American Business. "There are blends of people and multicultural mixes." The Latino culture is growing and the "culturally charged images they see on TV are just the tip of the bigger trend," he said. "It's wider than a movement and deeper than a trend, and it's changing the way people develop and market their products." The city of Indianapolis has seen a tremendous boom in its Hispanic population. Referring to Indianapolis' efforts, Garcia said it "saw an opportunity--they embraced them, and designed a plan to bring them into the community." The first thing the city did was to turn them into homeowners, giving them a stake in their town. Many new residents were low-income women, so the city worked with local financial institutions to create a 1 percent down payment plan and individual tax identification numbers in place of Social Security numbers to make buying a home easier. Indianapolis also worked on accessible financial education and opened a Mexican consulate. "The melting pot [has] melted itself, and added other ingredients to create a whole new flavor," Garcia said. Both the English-dominant and Spanish-dominant markets are growing, Garcia said, and they follow patterns of immigrants in the past. What marketers and advertisers must keep in mind is that there are different cultures within a culture. There are those who prefer to speak Spanish, those who are bilingual and often toggle back and forth between the two languages, and those who are completely assimilated, but are still very proud of their Hispanic heritage. Simply translating information into Spanish is not addressing the needs of all those segments, according to Garcia. He gave the example of People magazine's Spanish edition, People en Espanol: At first, he said, leaders of the magazine made the mistake of thinking they could just translate about 80 percent of their English content and provide 20 percent original material. In reality, the opposite was true and People had to flip its strategy. Readers of People en Espanol are more interested in musical celebrities from Latin America and soap opera stars from Venezuela than they are in Jennifer Lopez, Garcia said. Many Hispanics who were born in the United States may not even recognize "stars" in that magazine. "You need to be culturally on the mark." Related articles:
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