From an interview with Printing News

Updated: February 1st, 2006 01:28 PM EDT

A Perspective on the Hispanic Market

By Toni McQuilken

When it comes to direct marketing, the more targeted a campaign is, the higher the response rate will be. A targeted campaign, though, is more than just changing the name on an envelope. Factors such as personal beliefs, cultural background, or what part of the country someone is from can play a huge role in how a message is perceived.

The Hispanic population in the United States is growing steadily every year, and more companies are beginning to recognize the power of this market segment by directing new campaigns and media to it. At the time of publication, in fact, Clear Channel had announced a new radio station targeting this group, and an article found on AdAge.com, “The Changing Newsstand: More Hispanic and Golf, but Less Business and College Titles,” by Nat Ives, noted that there are now more than 300 periodicals aimed at this segment in the United States and Canada alone, up from 124 in 1996.

The possibilities for reaching this audience are big, and growing bigger. Graphic arts professionals who establish themselves as major players in this market early and learn effective ways to reach the Hispanic population stand a good chance of being the total market leaders of tomorrow.

Michael Saray (pictured left) of Michael Saray Hispanic Marketing Inc., has built his career around marketing to this segment. He has advice for printers and marketers considering making the growing Hispanic population the focus of their next campaign.

Q. What are the necessary services/components for a successful campaign in the Hispanic market?

A. I don’t think there is one specific service that is key. Instead, marketers must follow the same methodical steps they would in the general market: Who is the target? What is the best message? Is the product relevant? What segments am I targeting? Will our communications resonate with the Hispanic consumer?

Remember, the Hispanic market is not homogeneous. The term ‘Hispanic’ was coined by the census to denote those who have origins in Latin American countries. It is as simple as that for census purposes, but there are many different segments based on language, income, acculturation, or country of origin.

Q. What is the biggest/most common mistake marketers make when targeting this population?

A. Marketers must keep in mind that entering the Hispanic market is not simply a test or product extension. You are entering a new market and launching a product. This takes resources of both people and money.

Frequently, we see a company that hears about how the market is growing, but they only want to get in on the cheap. Quick translations are the most common error here. They don’t work, period. Hispanics can spot a bad translation a mile away and the reaction is always negative. Either they laugh or they are offended. Neither reaction is one you want associated with your product.

A company must commit long-term resources to the market. Budgets, personnel, and outside expertise are essential for success. Too many times a company will test with bad results and give up right away. In these cases I ask, ‘How long did it take to get your general market up and running smoothly?’

Q. What do you believe is the number one reason a campaign targeting this market would fail?

A. Usually, negative results stem from a lack of cultural knowledge. Companies assume that the thought processes and awareness levels of Hispanics are the same as the general market.

Cultural values and product lifecycles are different in [this segment], so marketers must either bring in Hispanic expertise or turn to an outside expert.

Q. When designing a campaign to target the Hispanic market, what is the first thing a printer/graphic arts professional should look at?

A. The message must be relevant and ‘in culture.’ Graphics may require different styles, colors, or icons than the ones used for the general population. Many Hispanics were not brought up in the United States, so they will not be aware of things others take for granted.

For example, I once worked on a music product where Porgy and Bess was cited. While this musical and story is well known to those raised here, a large part of the Hispanic population has never heard of it. Culture, cultural segments, and product awareness are key. As direct marketers, the principles are the same, but they must be executed differently.

Q. What do you believe is the most effective way to target the Hispanic market? Why should marketers target this population, and what makes it so lucrative?

A. At 43 million and counting, the Hispanic market is a very large one. In terms of media, all have been shown to be effective. In many ways it depends on the product and the message. If the product message is educational in nature, or the product itself is complex, then frequently [I] recommend print as the best choice.

In general, the question is not whether to target, but when. The market is rapidly growing, especially in income terms. In the next few years we will reach the point where one in four births are Latino. Thirty-five percent of Latinos are under 18, and 65 percent are under 35. Moreover, the white, non-Hispanic population is no longer growing, and in fact will decline over the next 40 years.

If we look at specific purchasing activities, we see that Hispanics are avid consumers and loyal customers. Specifically, if we look at direct mail, DMA research shows that Hispanics are very receptive, with only 4 percent discarding a piece without reviewing it first. Given these factors, we are continually amazed at how many marketers are still allocating all of their budgets to a declining segment.

Q. What types of products/services are most likely to be successful?

A. All segments of the Hispanic market can be marketed to, and almost all products or services will sell to the right Hispanic segment. Common sense and cultural knowledge will dictate this decision.

There are great success stories of selling high-ticket items to the less acculturated market, even to consumers without credit cards, because the product is right for the segment. Keep in mind where the Hispanic consumer is in the product lifecycle. Frequently, all that is required is a little consumer education.

Q. What other ancillary services do you feel print professionals should not overlook? What trends must graphic arts professionals pay attention to?

A. I think it is important for printers to stay current with personalization technology. Related to this is improved database technology. It would be a real plus to be able to identify Hispanics on existing house files, then produce a separate creative for this group.

I also think the rapid rise in the number of Hispanic-owned businesses deserves attention. They represent many future customers.

Q. What was your most successful program (the greatest response rate) geared toward this market?

A. Response is relative to the industry, but I have had Hispanic campaigns in the United States that achieved more than an 8-percent response. The general market average was about 3 percent. In Latin America, specifically Chile, I had a campaign with a 17-percent response.

Q. What most influences this market’s buying decisions? How do you “get into their hearts?”

A. Many factors are similar to the general market, such as a good product at a good price. However, there are key differences. In general, Hispanics are more right-brain oriented. I say this with caution as there are plenty of left-brain Hispanics, but for the most part, the right-brain skew requires a more persuasive, emotional appeal.

Also, while stronger family values are frequently cited, this is a very real factor. If you are selling life insurance, for example, the benefit is not financial independence, it is family security. Anything that benefits the family, or makes you a better parent, is a plus. An inspirational or getting-ahead message can also be effective.