Tuesday, October 2, 2007

Literature Insights for Hispanic Marketing

I am happy to announce that the Florida State University Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication released today a paper by Holly McGavock with my collaboration. This paper shows how insights from popular Latin American and US Hispanic literature can inspire marketing and advertising. This is an important first effort at systematizing the link between popular culture and marketing to US Hispanics. The full paper can be found at

In McGavock’s words “Marketing messages are designed to travel to the consumer‘s heart and mind. Today, marketing communication is found everywhere, from subway walls to cell phones to internet sites to the television programs and movies we see on a daily basis. Consumers have learned, for the most part, how to tune out messages which don‘t appeal to or connect with them. Marketing, then, is becoming a much more sophisticated practice which requires practitioners to have an intimate knowledge of their consumers in order to connect with them on a deeper level. This is further evidenced by the increased presence of account planners in advertising agencies, whose job it is to find the insights in market research which help creatives make advertising which breaks through the clutter to reach consumers.

The same concept also applies to Hispanic marketing. For many years advertisers were able to sell their products simply by translating ―general market‖1 advertisements into Spanish and advertising on Spanish-language television networks. However, as spending in Hispanic marketing has grown, this market too has grown cluttered with advertisements, leading Hispanics in the US to feel overwhelmed by the number marketing messages and available information sources. Account planners are now popping up in the major Hispanic advertising agencies across the US. Their goal, like the goal of those in the general market, is to understand consumers and translate that understanding into insightful communication with consumers.

Much research has been done regarding the character, values and beliefs of US Hispanics. However, the search for insights requires looking for new and non-traditional sources of information. The culture of a people manifests itself in many different areas, all of which are of interest to marketers looking to understand consumers. Culture manifests itself in, among other things, traditions, clothes, music and literature. A closer examination of the literature of a people can reveal much about its culture. Furthermore, literature has the advantage of allowing the reader to experience the story as if he or she were actually a part of it. “

Monday, September 17, 2007

Old and New Media in the Multicultural Marketing Equation 2007

I am pleased to announce that The Florida State University Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication released today the first study of its 2007 series of reports on the Multicultural Marketing Equation. These studies conducted by Florida State University and DMS Research (an AOL LLC Company) highlight the commonalities and differences among major culturally unique groups in the United States in regards to important marketing issues. The first report of 2007 released today is entitled “Old and New Media Use.” It contrasts the use of television, radio, newspapers, and magazines with the use of the Internet, cell phones, and other new technologies by Hispanics who prefer English (HE), Hispanics who prefer Spanish (HS), African Americans (AA), Asians (A), and Non-Hispanic Whites (NHW).

I think this is a pioneer study because it emphasizes the complementarity between established and emerging media, and the degree to which the media habits are being driven by the soon to be new majority.

Key trends include:
Old media and new media share the attention of online consumers across different cultural groups. NHW tend to be laggards when it comes to new technologies while members of emerging minorities are venturesome and eager to explore. The typical alternative explanation for this is that these minorities are younger. This study, however, shows that after controlling for age, NHW continue to be laggards regardless of age.

The importance of the native language of consumers is evidenced in the degree to which A, HE, and HS use the media in a language other than English. They use these media in other languages proportional to their acculturation levels. That is not surprising per se but it does point to how the language of media offerings evolves and the importance that marketers have to place in going beyond language and more into connecting through other cultural avenues with these important emerging groups.

The report is available at .

The study was conducted online with approximately 2500 respondents about equally divided by cultural/language group.

The Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University is a national hub for innovative research, education, and training of marketing professionals by means of a partnership between academia and industry. It is the primary source of knowledge and information about Hispanic marketing communication in the United States. The Center aims to promote a two way communication link between marketers and Hispanic customers.
Contact: Dr. Felipe Korzenny, (850) 644 8766

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

ROI in Hispanic Marketing

I am fully in favor of having every investment return a profit. Not only a profit that is commensurate with the investment but better than other alternatives would have provided. Lately, however, ROI, or return on investment, has become a fixture in marketing parlance but it has been loosing force and significance. Looking at ROI, Costumer Lifetime Value, and other measures of profitability one notices that one needs to have a baseline or history, or one has to make assumptions.

That is the problem. In Hispanic marketing we need to make assumptions most of the time because we do not generally have historical data. ROI becomes a roadblock more than a value proposition in Hispanic Marketing programs. Why? Because lacking historical data, high level managers can also say that lacking substantive data to figure their return on investment they prefer the status quo. That is a sad state of affairs. ROI, can in fact become the argument against Hispanic marketing programs.

It is sort of a circular problem. Without prior data we cannot reliably calculate future return on investment, and without ROI calculations Hispanic marketing programs do not get funded. In my opinion marketing creativity suffers because of this. Most successful entrepreneurs follow their intuition when starting their ventures. It is also true that many fail. But without taking risks, how can anyone succeed.

My editorial is that we should always try to calculate how much a Hispanic marketing program can return to the company/brand, but when such calculation is more of a figment of our imagination than reality, then let us talk about entrepreneurship. Let us not stifle innovation and growth in a new marketing era because we can not come up with solid calculations. You know the story of the pendulum. ROI was totally ignored in the late 90's and now it is dogma. Should not there be a middle ground?

Friday, June 22, 2007

The New Hispanic Family

Marketers are mystified by Hispanics in the United States. Many still use outdated segmentation approaches that depend exclusively on acculturation variables.

Why is acculturation segmentation becoming outdated? Because the largest wave of Hispanic immigration to the United States happened between 1980 and 2000, from 10 million to 40 million in twenty years. While growth has continued the portion due to immigration has slowed down and the portion due to births has surpassed immigration. That is why we are dealing now with a different Hispanic/Latino market.

While individuals still have different levels of language proficiency, the typical family has changed dramatically and with it the sources of information used by different family members. What does this family look like these days?

A typical Hispanic/Latino family these days has two to four children, depending on their family formation stage. The children are more likely than ever before to speak English at home, with friends, and at school, even if their parents prefer to speak Spanish. Depending on many factors the mother is more likely to prefer the Spanish language for communication, but is also likely to understand some English. The father, is likely to be proficient in English and can be also a Spanish speaker. A grandmother that lives with the family is most likely monolingual in Spanish. A cousin that recently arrived from Mexico or another country is also more likely to be dependent on the Spanish language.

Is this a complicated family? It is very complicated particularly for marketing purposes. Each of these family members will likely be exposed to commercial messages in different media and in different languages. They will have dinner together and talk about their experiences and the products they think are best. In some cases they will be confused because the messages some of them saw in English will be different from the messages some of them saw in Spanish. In other cases their decisions will be reinforced by the confluence of similar strategic messages coming from different sources.

Further, this family is more likely to be influenced by the children's opinions because they generally have a lot more access to messages from more diverse sources. The influence of kids can be fundamental in the adoption of a product or service particularly in this type of family. The credibility of children is augmented by their deeper knowledge of the consumer environment. It is as if children are subverting the traditional flow of influence in Hispanic families.

Should we start thinking about segmenting Hispanics/Latinos by type of family as opposed to by individual traits? Families with different lifestyles?

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Planning Media for Hispanic Campaigns: The Challenge

In 1980 there were about 10 million Hispanics in the US according to the US Census Bureau. In 1990 there were about 23 million, and 35.4 million in 2000. US Census Bureau estimates for July 2003 indicated that US Hispanics were about 40 million people. The explosive growth over the past 25 years has been fueled largely by immigration. Immigration to the US accelerated as economic conditions in Latin America deteriorated dramatically over the same period of time. Mexico, the key exporter of Hispanics to the US, has been the barometer of Hispanic immigration to the US. Mexicans largely define the shape, size, and profile of the US Hispanic market.

This explosive growth does not take into consideration the conservative estimate of the Pew Hispanic Center that has published estimates that there are 12 million undocumented individuals in the US in 2005, of which about 8 million are Mexican, and another 2 million are from other countries in Latin America. It is intuitive to those who have followed the development of the US market that these estimates should be undercounting the actual number of undocumented US Hispanics.

The US Census Bureau has engaged in an aggressive campaign to encourage undocumented residents of the US to complete census forms. Despite their good intentions and work, it is difficult to imagine that undocumented Hispanics would complete official census forms. If there are over 40 million Hispanics accounted for and potentially 10 million likely unaccounted for, it can be postulated that conservatively there can be about 50 million Hispanics in the US without counting Puerto Rico. That makes the US the second largest Hispanic country in the world behind only Mexico. The next most populous Hispanic country after the US is Colombia with an estimated 42 million and then Spain with about 40 million.

In addition to substantive numbers the Selig Center of the University of Georgia has estimated that the buying of US Hispanics in 2007 is over 863 billion dollars. The same organization has provided projections that in 2008 the buying power of US Hispanics is likely to reach one trillion dollars. This later figure will make the US Hispanic market more affluent that the entire country of Mexico and one of the largest economies of the world.But How Do You Reach Them?
These estimates and projections have made the US Hispanic market the subject of increased marketing attention. Also, these figures have energized the debate of how to reach these consumers.

Traditionally, the majority of the Hispanic marketing and media industries have reasonably argued that the Spanish language is the best way of reaching US Hispanics. The US Census Bureau and other sources have consistently shown that about 80% of US Hispanics are identified as speaking at least some Spanish at home. The reasoning has been that if Hispanic consumers largely speak Spanish at home, then the language in which they need to be approached with commercial messages should be Spanish. The reasons for this vary. Most importantly, if consumers depend on the Spanish language for communication and comprehension, then Hispanic consumers must be reached in Spanish.

There are also more subjective but equally important reasons. It has been argued that the language of the heart is Spanish because being it the language of the home it reaches emotional cords more directly than in the English language. A further argument is that Hispanics take pride in the Spanish language in recent times because it has become increasingly “cool” to be Hispanic. Hispanic parents now encourage their children to master the Spanish language because it makes young people proud of their heritage and more employable. In sum, it is largely accurate that the Spanish language among US Hispanics is now more than a tool for communication, it a symbol of cultural pride.

It Is Not That Spanish Is Not Important

The above are intuitive and logical arguments. The key problem is that new available data makes the assumption of widespread Spanish dependence less tenable. The key point to be made here is not that the Spanish language is not important, on the contrary. The point is that the assumption that Hispanics are only and primarily reached in Spanish needs to be re-addressed.

Despite all the common sense arguments, Hispanics, even those whose first language is Spanish say they watch about half their dose of weekly TV in English and half in Spanish (Yankelovich Multicultural Monitor 2003 in collaboration with Cheskin and Images USA). The US Census Bureau provides data that shows that over 70% of those who are designated as speaking Spanish at home also understand English well or very well. In Sum, a conservative estimate is that over 56% of Hispanics who speak at least some Spanish at home in the US may be reached in English. And there is the 20% that do not speak Spanish, thus close to 76% of all US Hispanics may be reachable in English.

While reaching specific groups of Hispanics in Spanish will continue to be important for a long time to come, media strategists need to start thinking differently. It is not just Spanish language media that reaches Hispanics. It would be illogical to think that despite overwhelming access to English language media and messages Hispanics just ignore them. Even in small markets there are many times more TV, radio, and print offering than Spanish language ones. While Hispanics are likely to have a strong affinity for their language, they look at what English language media has to offer. Thinking that Hispanics only look at Spanish language media would be unrealistic even in the case of those who depend on the Spanish language.

A Complex Media Planning Environment

In a complex media environment, the complexity of the media planning needs to correspond to consumer behavior. Hispanics “flip” channels and are curious about what is available in their media market. Many Spanish dependent Hispanics may watch English language media if for nothing else to learn English.

Talking about complexity, the Hispanic family will continue to increase in diversity of its internal language and other behavioral orientations. While the mother may be Spanish dependent, the father may be Spanish dominant but proficient in English. The grandmother may be totally Spanish dependent, and the two or three young children may speak Spanish at home but fluent English outside of the home. If this family is exposed to different messages depending on what they watch on traditional Spanish or English media they may have seen very different approaches and brand characterizations. If this family makes product decisions they talk to each other and each family member may come from a somewhat different perspective.

New and realistic approaches to the Hispanic market will need to consider the reality of the media environment of US Hispanics. Media planners will have to start thinking about cross-language strategies. Some may place Spanish language messages in English language media. Some may place English language messages in Spanish language media. Others may find it more relevant to place English language messages in English media when targeting specific groups of Hispanics. Many may combine their approaches and should have consistent and culturally relevant messages in both Spanish and English language media, in their respective languages. This latter approach is geared to providing positioning consistency for Hispanics who are exposed to both media.

The communication strategist should not be bound by dogma but by pragmatism. The strategist has the mission of reaching Hispanics with the complete palette of alternative and complementary media. The Spanish language will continue to be very important for US Hispanics and US society in general. Still marketing communications need to acknowledge the duality of life of US Hispanics. Media outlets will need to diversify their offerings to serve Hispanics, and advertisers, in both languages. Mun2 is an example of how a media group understands the diversity of the market and the need to reach different segments with different approaches and different languages.Challenges For Market Research
Market research focusing on Hispanics will have to account for linguistic and media exposure diversity. This is a very difficult task because consumers typically have a hard time remembering where they have seen ads and promotions. Still, this is a challenge that the research industry needs to raise to. The key question is: What is the media and cultural environment where different Hispanic segments obtain their information and consumer guidance? Other research issues that need to be addressed include:

a. For those Hispanics exposed to both, Spanish and English language media, what is the relative emotional weight of the messages received in each medium?

b. What is the impact of the influence of different family members, with different linguistic abilities and preferences, on the ultimate decision to buy cars, homes, financial products, etc.

c. How do consumers process discrepancies between messages for the same brand when the product is differently communicated in Spanish and in English?

Market strategy that addresses these issues will have important implications for Hispanic marketing in the US, and for cross-cultural marketing everywhere where marketing must operate in multicultural environments.

Some of the ideas in this article are further elaborated in the book Hispanic Marketing: A Cultural Perspective by Felipe Korzenny, Ph.D. and Betty Ann Korzenny, Ph.D. published by Butterworth Heinemann/Elsevier in August 2005.

Monday, March 19, 2007

Hispanic Health Care Considerations

Lower socio-economic levels, underemployment, and knowledge about the functioning of US culture are key contributors to lower levels of health care among US Hispanics. In general we have found the following patterns of behavior related to health care:
1. Cynicism regarding the health care establishment. Many Hispanics delay or avoid medical care indicating that for the amount of money they pay the medical establishment they get remedies they already know about and can acquire over the counter. Some state that making appointments, going to a doctor’s office, and a long wait at the office, and a high fee often results in getting some aspirin and a recommendation to rest. These patients state they did not need to go through all that to get the prescribed treatment.
2. Traditional remedies have high credibility. Many Hispanics have learned via the cultural traditions of their families and friends that there are ways of dealing with health problems that Western medicine does not recognize. For example, the “empacho” is a digestive problem among Mexicans caused by food that “gets stuck” in the stomach. The remedy consists in pulling the sufferer’s back skin to release the “stuck food.” Many other health practices like these exist and the medical establishment does not understand these and try to discredit them. The unfortunate result of attempting to discredit these practices is that the physician or nurse loose their credibility by doing so. Knowing how to address these belief systems is fundamental to appropriate health care of Hispanics.
3. As Hispanics immigrate to the United States they acquire food habits that contribute to obesity and lack of exercise. These behavioral changes tend to exacerbate propensities to illnesses such as diabetes and high blood pressure. Proper health education is lacking.
4. Lack of health insurance by over 40% (HOT study of People en Español) of US Hispanics is simply related to employment status. Large numbers of US Hispanics work in agricultural, construction, and service occupations that do not provide health insurance. Further, the fact that currently health care insurers and employers continue to increase the payment that the insured most pay to include his/her family acts as a disincentive to acquiring coverage.
5. Lower levels of income contribute to postponing medical attention and that contributes to aggravated health problems and more visits to emergency rooms. Overall, this syndrome makes Hispanics a particularly vulnerable health care target. Education of both consumers, employers, and the medical establishment is fundamental in advancing the level of health care of Hispanics. Ultimately “mente sana en cuerpo sano” or healthy mind in a healthy body is a well established proverb in the Hispanic community.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Advertising to US Hispanics with Creative from Latin America

I come from a behavioral perspective when it comes to advertising. For me if an ad does not sell, it is not a good ad, regardless of how many awards it gets.

It is interesting that by claiming that there is not enough talent in the United States, Hispanic Advertising agencies are starting companies or subcontracting creative work in Latin America.

That is interesting because the principle of understanding the audience of the message gets distorted with this logic. How can a creative in Buenos Aires know how Hispanic teens in Los Angeles live and feel about themselves? How can a creative in Caracas know how Puerto Ricans in New York enjoy products and services?

Not that these creatives are not good at what they do, but how can they communicate effectively without knowing their audience. Just because they speak Spanish they are not necessarily adept at understanding the specific psycho-socio-cultural characteristics of Hispanics in the US.

I am not trying to say that Latin American creatives cannot get to do good advertising for US Hispanics, but the probability of that being so is not very high. They may get awards and distinctions with their creativity but will they help sell products to an audience they do not know well?

That is why having more Hispanics/Latinos in the US educated in Marketing and Advertising is of great importance. These individuals are more likely to have an intuition for the markets they will serve. Still, the general rule is that being Hispanic/Latino or Latin American does not make someone an expert on US Hispanic consumers. It is the study of the culture and lifestyles of US Hispanic consumers that can contribute to good advertising. Good US Hispanic account planning and creative work requires prior knowledge of the culture and also requires research and understanding of the intersection of the product/brand with the culture.

The moral of the story: Going far away for your messages can get you far away from your consumers