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Global Perspective

Cultural Appeal

1 Feb, 2009 By: Bridget McCrea Response

Economic woes hit the U.S Hispanic market, but keep it looking for good values.

Despite the challenging conditions, the Hispanic market has remained fairly strong, namely due to the significant population growth in that segment. "Like their English-speaking counterparts, U.S. Hispanic customers are looking for savings, value and good smart product purchases that make sense for their lives," says Robin Behar, partner with In Clover Marketing LLC in Los Angeles.

Population and Internet Usage Statistics for Latin America
Population and Internet Usage Statistics for Latin America

But not all products and services that sell well in the English-speaking DRTV market will translate into the Hispanic sector, where test-marketing requires patience and an "open mind about finding new ways to communicate with customers," says Behar. If, for example, you are targeting an older audience that's not likely to be using the Web to make purchases, then a team of Spanish-speaking sales and customer service reps is critical.

"I'm hearing and seeing more focus on the live agent phone centers, which are going to really help improve DRTV marketers' overall effectiveness in the Hispanic space," says Behar. "This has been something maturing over time, but now there are better results, less abandonment rates and overall better service in this area."

Reaching Out

By now, most marketers have acknowledged that the Hispanic market is a segment that simply cannot be ignored. The U.S. is now the fourth-largest Spanish speaking country in the world, with Hispanics accounting for 15 to 20 percent of the population, and the growth rate exponentially building from Hispanic children born in the U.S. versus further immigration. Marketers who choose not to devote time and effort to the Hispanic population are missing out on a vital consumer segment that is growing faster than any other minority group in the country.

But like any market segment, the best way to get started is by educating yourself on the demographic itself, and on the media environment. "DRTV is still reaching the masses, and any product offer needs to consider that," Behar explains. "For the U.S. Hispanic market, the reach is even narrower because there are fewer stations. However some stations, like the Univision Networks and the powerful cable networks that reach this market, have a loyal audience and great ratings and therefore can offer a marketer a great channel to reach the wide domestic Hispanic audience."

Before that can happen, however, Behar says marketers must understand that the market is made up of different segments, depending on whether the consumers are new to the country, second generation and/or bilingual. If, for example, they are watching Spanish-language media, then it's likely that they are a mix of those segments, but living in a Spanish-language dominant household. "Marketers have to consider the culture and buying habits of that demographic as they prepare their offers and marketing configurations," says Behar.

"When marketers talk about 'U.S. Latinos,' they cannot simply perpetuate images of first-generation, Spanish-speaking-only immigrants but rather American-born, evolving English-speaking communities blending old and new," adds Nicole Ali, vice president, international, at Toronto-based Northern Response Intl. Ltd. "Marketers need to cater to that so they don't lose their changing audience."

Salsa Dancing

Understanding the realities of the Hispanic market is equally as important, says Schiantarelli. The marketer selling a piece of exercise equipment that requires a 3-foot by 4-foot space, would probably not get the desired sales results from a Hispanic media campaign. "Living space is not a luxury that [is common to first-generation Hispanics in the U.S.]," Schiantarelli says.

Knight says marketers must also be smart about where they place their Spanish-language ads. Consider the audience that you're targeting, says Knight, and come up with the best and most efficient way to reach that demographic. Consider the soft market an opportunity, rather than a challenge, she adds. "When the market turns around," says Knight, "you'll end up with a larger share that will grow exponentially over the long term."

Looking into his crystal ball, Schiantarelli sees a "brilliant future for anyone who decides to cater to this emerging segment of the population." However, he cautions against "going it alone" in a market that's proven to be as volatile as other population segments. In other words, teaming up with an experienced and partner in the Hispanic market will substantially minimize the risks of failure.

"If you want to learn how to dance the salsa, you find a partner that knows the step and tricks, and who has a feel for the music," says Schiantarelli. "Then, you'll be surprised with your new abilities, how good of a salsa dancer you've become, and how much fun you can have doing it."

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