Debunking Hispanic Marketing Myths

Unsure how to tap into the booming U.S. Hispanic market? Electronic Retailer addresses common concerns about reaching one of the fastest-growing segments of the population


If you’ve been curious about what the return on investment (ROI) of expanding into a new market may be, know that the U.S. Hispanic market is one of the fastest-growing and most promising consumer markets available. And as with anything that’s developing rapidly, there is a slew of misinformation surrounding the U.S. Hispanic market.


The U.S. Hispanic Council of the Electronic Retailing Association (ERA) recently conducted an organization-wide survey that can help debunk some of the biggest misconceptions about the U.S. Hispanic market, in order to help marketers flesh out an effective brand strategy, build brand ambassadors, and forge Hispanic-targeted marketing efforts. Expert feedback helped identify several misconceptions.


Myth: It costs too much to participate in Hispanic marketing initiatives.

Reality: The market is relatively inexpensive to reach, since it is expanding quickly. More than one-quarter (28.6 percent) of those surveyed think it is too expensive to market to the U.S. Hispanic consumer, citing this as the No. 1 reason for avoiding marketing to U.S. Hispanics. In fact, the average primetime commercial rate on Spanish-language television is $6 per thousand homes, vs. a $9.60 CPM for English-language networks, according to Adweek.


A 2010 Hispanic Investment Trends Analysis done by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) showed that advertisers allocated 5.4 percent of their ad dollars to reach Hispanic consumers, up from 5.1 percent in 2008. A preliminary analysis indicates that marketers shifted non-Hispanic media dollars to the Hispanic market in an effort to optimize overall results. “The general advertising market is supersaturated, and brands have to shout all over the place,” Carlos Martinez, president of multicultural agency Conill, told Adweek in 2011. “We believe the opportunity is really in the Hispanic segment. Marketers can take their budgets and show a greater ROI by allocating more for Latinos.”


Expanding to the U.S. Hispanic market doesn’t have to be expensive at all, says Greg Sarnow, CEO of Allegro Response Teleservices, and especially if the marketer in question already has a proven concept in the general market; in fact, he says, the risk/reward metric favors reward. The best option is to begin by dubbing your infomercials and changing testimonials to consumers that are relatable to the demographic you are trying to reach, he says.


Choose a media buyer and do a small, $5,000 test. Pick a call center (IVR generally doesn’t work well for the Hispanic community), and launch the product. The reward for this $10,000 to $15,000 investment could easily be weekly revenues of $50,000 to $100,000, which is a great ROI. Not only that, but the impact at retail is surprisingly strong.


Myth: I don’t think my product is appealing to the U.S. Hispanic market. 

Reality: Your product may benefit from cultural translation, not literal transcription. One-quarter (25 percent) of survey respondents haven’t marketed to the U.S. Hispanic demographic, saying, “I don’t know if my product is right for it.”


The problem may not be your product, but its targeting. According to Pew Research, the U.S. Hispanic market is largely bilingual, and while 80 percent of U.S. Hispanics still speak Spanish at home, successive generations are increasingly willing to consume Hispanic-targeted content in English.


In many instances, English-language direct response creative runs on Spanish-language media due to the bilingual nature of the audience, says Dan Casey, executive vice president and general manager of sales for WorldLink Media, so you can dive in without changing the creative, as long as you have Spanish-speakers answering the phone.


Growing by more than 1 million per year, Hispanics account for 80 percent of U.S. population growth.


English-language creative may not be ideal on a Spanish-language network, but accessing the Spanish-language media in the U.S. is easier than ever before. Spanish-language dubbing, call centers, agencies, and media platforms are easy to access today, and attending an ERA conference is one quick way to get started with this important segment of the U.S. marketplace.


A straightforward translation from one language to another may not be sufficient, however; simply translating content into Spanish does not make it Hispanic-targeted. Spanish-speaking and English-speaking Hispanics want unique content with true cultural relevance. Companies that are committed to Hispanic marketing score biggest through messaging that has Hispanic appeal. As early as the late 1980s, MetLife increased sales of insurance to Hispanics more than 150 percent with nationwide Spanish ads by using Latino actors instead of its usual commercial spokesdog, Snoopy. Best Foods’ Mazola corn oil captured two-thirds of the national Hispanic market with a five-year Spanish-language campaign promoting what these consumers want in corn oil: good flavor—not low cholesterol, like most of the mass market.


Myth: The U.S. Hispanic market is insignificant compared to the general market.

Reality: The U.S. Hispanic market is the fastest-growing subset of people in the United States. With more than 52 million Hispanics in the United States already and the population growing by more than 1 million per year, Hispanics account for 80 percent of U.S. population growth. By 2050, Hispanics are projected to account for more than 30 percent of the U.S. population, according to Nielsen figures—and that’s a growth driver marketers can’t overlook.


But it takes more than statistics to understand the opportunity in the U.S. Hispanic market, says Tom Sheppard, vice president of business development at Listen Up Español. Hispanic media creates lift in the general market as well as at retail, he says, and experienced DR marketers are realizing that Spanish-language creative is critical not only to targeting the U.S. Hispanic market, but to the overall success of the associated general-market campaign. The two can no longer be separated, given the buying power of the U.S. Hispanic market.


Myth: It is hard to establish an “in” with the U.S. Hispanic market.

Reality: The “ins” are often familiar, but new contacts take nurturing. Some 20 percent of those surveyed cited not knowing which production company to work with as a hurdle to getting a foot in the door with the U.S. Hispanic market. But an “in” to the U.S. Hispanic market is the same as it would be with any other market; digital marketing, television advertising, telemarketing, and other aspects of marketing just need to be tailored to the preferences of U.S. Hispanics.


If this is your worry, take the time to build relationships before asking for the business. “Latinos interact in a more personal manner,” says Juan Tornoe, founder of Austin, Texas-based Cultural Strategies. “[They] want to be recognized as [people]. Connect with [them] on a personal level before you start selling to [them]. When a Latino walks into your business, sends you an email, visits your website, is on the phone, be ready not to go into full sales mode.”


“Hispanic and Latino consumers want to take the time to learn what you are about before they buy,” Raymond Arroyo, head of Alternative Distribution for Aetna, recently told Fast Company. “It’s a slower, more personal process than what is traditionally used. These communities want to know just as much about you as the products and services you provide.”


Whatever the problem you see in marketing your goods and services to the U.S. Hispanic market, be simpático above all, and move forward knowing that the U.S. Hispanic market is ready to embrace your product and brand.



Mari Escamilla is Hispanic media manager for Marketing Maven, a multimedia public relations firm based in Los Angeles. She was recently honored by the Hispanic Public Relations Association’s (HPRA) as its Young PR Professional of the Year, and can be reached via email at [email protected]