You’ve heard it before: The U.S. Hispanic market is big, and it’s getting bigger. Hispanics now number more than 54 million, or 17 percent of the U.S. population, according to 2013 figures from the U.S. Census. The Hispanic population spent $1.4 trillion in 2014, and that figure ticks up $100 billion every year.
Hispanics also tend to be younger than their general-market counterparts, making up 21 percent of all millennials (now aged 15 to 34) in the United States. And the younger the demographic, the higher Latinos’ percentage of the population. “Among Americans under five years old, the figure is one in four,” says Denira Borrero, chief operating officer of Miami-based multicultural marketing agency Omni Direct. “For marketers, the population is only going to become more important—not less. It is reaching a critical mass.”
Mainstreaming With Mobile
Agewise, the first millennials are just reaching the demographic sweet spot for direct response advertising, which has huge implications on strategy. “Forward-thinking marketers are planning for this change,” says Ruben Hernandez, president of Long Form & Español at Mercury Media in Santa Monica, Calif. “Millennials will have grown up using their mobile devices as a gateway to the Internet, and transactional activity online will be second nature.”
“Millennials, Hispanic or not, are a very fragmented group,” Borrero says. “Their media usage is all over the place. They toggle between their TVs and tablets and social media. It is a very fast-moving segment.”
In many ways, Hispanics lead the curve. Smartphone ownership among U.S. Hispanics reached 61 percent in 2014, according to the Pew Research Center, outpacing the general population’s 58 percent. The demo adopted cell phones early on, and access the Internet via mobile more often than other segments of the population.
“Many Hispanics are more likely to access the Internet from a cell phone in lieu of a home connection,” says Tom Sheppard, vice president of Business Development for Portland, Maine-based Listen Up Español, a leading bilingual call center in the United States. “Having access to affordable devices and plans allows foreign-born Hispanics to keep in touch with family and friends outside of the U.S. through email and apps, such as WhatsApp and Facebook, at a very low cost.”
“Hispanics are 16 percent more likely to access the Internet through their mobile device,” Hernandez says. “For many Hispanics, a mobile device is their only connection to the Web.”
Latinos index high for social media, too. According to an Ipsos MediaCT study released late last year, 71 percent of U.S. Hispanics use Facebook on a daily basis, and their friends are one-third more likely to be family members. “From a cultural perspective, the segment is extremely connected to friends and family,” Borrero says. “They tend to gather socially more often, and that cultural characteristic extends from the offline world into the online world.”
“Experts confirm that the increased sense of community offline does translate to behavior online,” Sheppard says. “Hispanic consumers post on social media sites five times more frequently than non-Hispanics, and content shared by Hispanic consumers is 35 percent more likely to be clicked on than content shared by the non-Hispanic population.”
“They really have caught on to social media much faster than the general market in terms of sharing and engaging with content,” Borrero says. “They spread the word quickly. [One] reason this is important is because their networks aren’t just Hispanics. They live in a bicultural world and have an influence on the general market. You see that influence in almost every arena.”
Spanish Still Important
The language barrier that exists among many first-generation immigrants is turning into little more than a speed bump as more Hispanics grow up as bicultural consumers. According to the Hispanic Project, 40 percent of Hispanic millennials consume media equally in English and Spanish.
Regardless, it is still important to translate and enculturate advertising. Four out of five Latinos say they prefer ads that incorporate Spanish-language messaging, according to Ipsos MediaCT. And Nielsen IAG and Millward Brown estimate advertising recall at 30 percent higher when bilingual Hispanics view Spanish-language media.
“The key thing here is that [a] brand recognizes the multicultural aspect of millennials and the fact that they respond better to information delivered in both languages,” Sheppard says. “This translates to the consumer feeling acknowledged, no matter what their differences. Although you can reach bilingual Hispanics by advertising in English, there are considerable benefits to complementing campaigns with content and ads in Spanish.”
“What is important is providing consumers with the opportunity to interact with your brand in the language of their choice and ensuring culturally relevant content,” Hernandez says. “Hispanics are more receptive to communications that reflect their values, lifestyles, and aspirations. The customer experience is key. Know your customer and provide them [with] a choice on how to communicate with your brand.”
“Hispanic media reaches even non-Spanish-speaking millennials,” Borrero says. “They tend to be more loyal to brands that advertise in Spanish and are culturally relevant.”
Products Poised for Success
Certain products are excellent candidates for a Hispanic-targeted campaign based on their relevance. Many are in categories already popular in traditional English-language DRTV that appeal to Hispanic sensibilities and lifestyles, including children’s items, financial services, housewares, nutraceuticals, and beauty products.
“They tend to be more concerned about their appearances—men and women both—compared to non-Hispanics,” Borrero says. “Because they have bigger families, college plans, life insurance, and telecoms are big, along with apparel, entertainment, and housewares. If you are launching a new product in any of those categories, your campaign should have a Hispanic component.”
“Beauty categories perform very well among U.S. Hispanic females,” Sheppard agrees. “Also, Hispanic millennials, male and female, have a high interest in fashion as well as food, since sharing meals with family and friends is a core part of Hispanic culture. DR products in these categories will be able to take advantage of these shared behaviors and interests.”
The Silk’n line of beauty devices proved successful in Spanish-language media with creative from Omni Direct. Another original production done on behalf of Allstar Products Group’s Secret Extensions succeeded with short- and long-form treatments starring Cuban-American and former MTV personality Daisy Fuentes. “They found a whole new area to grow their business,” Borrero says. “We just launched a big life insurance campaign targeted to an older demographic, and the creative was inclusive of all generations living in the household. It did incredibly well.”
The best strategy is to commit to the market at the outset, she says, to create a surge in demand across ethnicities rather than tacking on a Hispanic treatment after the general-market treatment has run its course. “By the time the Spanish treatment gets produced, it’s so cut-and-paste,” she says. “The Hispanic market is way too sophisticated for that, and it won’t resonate.”
If a company thinks it wants to launch a Hispanic campaign, it can leverage front-end costs on the creative. “You can do the same look and feel and keep the set in place,” Borrero says. “The creative breakdown is the same, but the scripting might be a little different.”
A typical Hispanic prospect might watch a sporting event, skip over to a telenovela on Univision, then move on to American Idol, and advertisers need to meet them in every location, she adds. “TV is still the fastest way to test a campaign,” Borrero says, beginning with the more than 50 available cable verticals. “It gives you surround sound. You get a very quick read.”
Reaching Beyond TV
Marketers also need to be ready when Hispanic consumers reach for that second screen, though. “Hispanic consumers use their mobile devices to research products and services, making it vital that marketers incorporate a mobile strategy in their marketing plans,” Hernandez says.
Mobile-centric apps like Twitter, Vine, and Snapchat have the greatest impact, alongside video-friendly feeds from Facebook and YouTube. “Video is key in social media, but consumers don’t want to be sold, they want to be told a story,” says Lindsey Carnett, president and CEO of the Los Angeles-based public relations agency Marketing Maven. “Facebook and Twitter are now using video, making it easier for marketers to advertise and tell a story.”
Hispanic smartphone users are almost twice as likely to be receptive to mobile advertising, and 58 percent more likely than the general market to purchase the products advertised. “Advertisers can utilize targeting tools to reach Hispanic mobile users interested in their categories,” Hernandez says. “A social media presence, ads and videos, and access to free content will help drive Hispanic response.”
While the big social networks have advanced algorithms designed to target specific groups, winning opt-in is essential to building brand affinities through apps, Carnett says. “Incentivize customers with a special offer, giveaway, contest entry, or discount code. You can also offer exclusive first looks at new products or services, insider tips from the brand or its associated experts, or a meet-and-greet with a brand ambassador.”
When a prospect is ready to buy, make the process mobile-friendly. “Keeping in mind that Hispanics often purchase directly from their mobile phones, it is important to create the best online experience for them through the brand’s social media accounts and online customer service. Otherwise, they may go elsewhere to make their purchase,” Sheppard says.
Mercury’s data shows that Spanish-language-only customers are often more reluctant to submit their information online, meaning marketers must make it easy for them to pull the trigger. “It is imperative that direct marketers provide an easy and comfortable way for visitors to Spanish-language sites to purchase their products or services,” Hernandez says. “The solution is clear: a prominent click-to-call feature on their mobile-enabled site.”
Brand marketers have been at the forefront of targeting Hispanics using mobile video, mobile apps, and social networks, Hernandez adds, while DR advertisers have been more recalcitrant because they find it difficult to quantify the return on investment. But it’s only a matter of time before television and mobile are indispensable components of a Latino-focused DR campaign.
“Response rates have not reached the levels we see in the English-speaking market, but with comfort and trust levels improving and millennials becoming part of our target segment, this will change rapidly,” Hernandez says. “To be relevant, all advertisers—and not just those in the DR space—need to become as well-versed in the behavior of their Hispanic prospects as they are with non-Hispanics.”