As Hispanic community evolves, so do marketing, advertising tactics

When Austin advertising firm LatinWorks launched Heinz’s first campaign geared towards Hispanics, the ketchup giant decided the effort worked so well, it needed to see a wider, mainstream release.

The effort boosted revenues in 2012 for Heinz, which hired LatinWorks to help the company increase sales in the Southwest.

Today, LatinWorks’ growth and success reaching out to Latino consumers and beyond have helped it to become one of the country’s top 10 Hispanic media agencies.

LatinWorks has “paralleled the growth of the Hispanic market, and our success has been to break the stereotypes and become an agency that talks to the new Hispanic market and not hold on to the old formulas,” said Sergio Alcocer, president and chief creative officer at LatinWorks.

It’s those old formulas plagued by stereotypes and stigmas that Hispanic marketers and advertisers are hoping to eliminate. The objective of reaching Latino consumers is crucial in communities such as Austin, which has seen dramatic population growth.

Today, one out of every three Austin residents is Hispanic. Demographic experts estimate Hispanics will become the region’s largest ethnic group as early as the 2030s.

There’s plenty at stake for marketers: Hispanic consumers in the U.S. represented a $1.2 trillion market last year, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth at the University of Georgia.

The Heinz effort waved at an emerging trend for the advertising and marketing worlds in reaching Hispanics called “total marketing.” This approach emphasizes that reaching Latinos should be a priority for all campaigns, including messages to the mainstream.

The campaign emphasized familial bonds, such as the connection between a Hispanic mother and her child, a key element in successful advertisements today targeting the demographic.

“Somehow this new trend called total marketing has become the buzzword in the industry, which is basically to find the common insight that can cut across different groups,” said Felipe Korzenny, founder and director of the Center for Hispanic Marketing at Florida State University.

Finding the right formula, Korzenny said, is like finding the common thread among any group. For example, if a brand was trying to reach skateboarders, the key is to pursue the group through their commonalities.

“You don’t find a general campaign for skaters,” Korzenny said. “You find an insight into people who have those characteristics and connect with them as deeply as you can. The marketing secret is to connect with a group on a deeper level.”

Korzenny said some companies have figured out the formula and are enjoying successes as a result.

McDonald’s, for example, developed a Hispanic website that integrates customized content such as games, songs and celebrities, said Kevin Cohn, senior director of product marketing at New York-based software firm Smartling, which provides translation services for such efforts.

The Huggies brand, owned by Kimberly-Clark Corp., has also taken the total marketing approach by launching a campaign emphasizing Hispanics, Korzenny said.

“They said, ‘if we make a mistake, let’s make it in favor of Hispanics instead of those with less children,’” he said of the Huggies approach.

Tide is another brand successfully reaching Hispanics, Korzenny said.

This year, Procter & Gamble’s Tide laundry detergent featured their first bilingual spot with a grandmother bragging about the product in Spanish to her daughter, Korzenny said. The daughter then responds, teasing the mother in English.

The campaign, once again, emphasizes the family bond.

“They are touching the core, but still with a positive message with the brand,” Korzenny said.

Colgate, Korzenny said, is also seeing success drawing Latino consumers, but its key advantage comes from longtime brand loyalty.

The toothpaste brand, which launched more than 70 years ago in Latin America, has remained popular among Hispanics and marketing efforts have helped solidify loyalty ties with Hispanic consumers.

Coca-Cola is another brand that has bragging rights to strong heritage of loyal Hispanic consumers, Korzenny says.

Even though tests have found no difference between the taste of Coca-Cola from Mexico versus the United States, there’s still a strong consumer belief that the version from south of the border does taste better, he said.

People ended up “paying almost double or more for a bottle of Coke from Mexico,” he said.

While these brands have found what works with Latino consumers, there are still plenty of advertising pitfalls.

Dated messages geared toward the wrong generation, focusing on the wrong country of origin and using incorrect Spanish lingo will hurt a campaign, said Luis Sera, a Hispanic marketing expert and director of business operations at Bellevue, Wash.-based mobile marketing firm Hipcricket.

That approach can set up a wrong image for a brand or bad experience for the consumer, Sera said.

“How a brand’s message is perceived is key to its effectiveness,” Sera said. In the case of Hispanics, “a brand is earning their trust and ultimately business by addressing them at the right place, with a familiar tone, and an attractive offering.”

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