Thursday, December 10, 2009

A Year in the Multicultural World of Social Media Marketing

By Lee Vann, CEO of Captura Group and Felipe Korzenny, Ph.D. Director of the Florida State University Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication

Astronaut José Hernández, aka @Astro_Jose, tweets in both English and Spanish to 100,000 people who have been following his remarkable life from picking the fields as a child in northern California to outer space. It’s not hard for him to find followers these days.

The majority of online Americans now visit social networking sites, and Hispanics and other minorities continue to visit them more than Non-Hispanic whites, according to the 2009 Multicultural Marketing Study by the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University, DMS Research, and Captura Group.

The study also reveals that social media usage among Hispanics and other minorities continues to grow by double digits with Facebook and MySpace leading the way. What’s more, smaller social networking sites such as Hi5, Black Planet, Twitter and LinkedIn have strong appeal with certain ethnic groups.

Most online Americans visit social networking sites at least twice a month

In the past year, we found that usage of social networks across ethnic segments has grown exponentially. Marketers take note: most Americans now use social networking sites and use them as increasingly important means for communication and information.

Although ethnic minorities are still more likely to visit social networking sites when compared to Non-Hispanic Whites, the gap has closed considerably as social networking has become more popular.

Most ethnic segments now prefer Facebook over MySpace

In 2008 we found that MySpace held a firm lead over Facebook. Today, the tables have turned and Facebook has become more popular among all of the ethnic groups that we analyzed with the exception of Spanish-Preferring Hispanics.

Social media preferences are beginning to fragment among minorities

When considering a social media strategy, marketers should take note that ethnic groups have preferences between social networking sites. Consider the case of Hi5, a social media site with a strong presence in Latin America. Its success in the southern hemisphere has made it extremely popular with Spanish-Preferring Hispanics in the U.S. who want to connect with family members back home.

Today, Hi5 competes with both Facebook and MySpace among Spanish-Preferring Hispanics (29.1 percent usage versus 36 percent and 41 percent, respectively).

These findings are important because as social networking has become ubiquitous, specialized sites have become viable options for advertisers looking to target ethnic audiences.

Asian Americans are twice as likely to use LinkedIn and Twitter

The 2009 study also included the usage of LinkedIn and Twitter. We found that both sites are still emerging and most popular among Asian Americans. We attribute the popularity of LinkedIn and Twitter among Asian Americans to higher income levels and technology adoption.

More social media growth expected for 2010

In the past year, usage of social networking websites has exploded among all ethnic groups and we expect this trend to continue. While preferences of certain social networking sites might change over time, social media promises to remain relevant for all ethnic groups.

People such as José Hernández can expect many more followers.

For marketers, the sky should also be the limit

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Hispanic Income Trends: Implications for Marketing

The median income of Hispanic households has lagged behind the overall population of the United States for a long time and does not seem to be getting better. The largest difference since 1980 was in 1996 when the disparity was of $14,465 dollars (in 2008 dollars), according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Current Population Survey, Annual Social and Economic Supplements. Since 1980 the smallest gap occurred in 1981 with a difference of $8,573. The latest figures available are for 2008 show a difference of $12,390, a gap similar to gaps in the 1990's. See the historical trends table on the left.

The current gap probably reflects some of the social and economic issues that resulted from the downturn of the economy between 2007 and 2009. But there are uplifting news. My analysis of the American Community Survey data of 2008 shows that income differences are not evenly distributed in the population as shown below:

It is interesting to observe that the gaps between the overall population median income and that of Hispanics is largest at the higher income levels, and interestingly there are more Hispanics in the middle income categories than in the overall population. This is very revealing because for the majority of consumer products income levels between $25,000 and $60,000 are ideal, and that is the range in which there are more Hispanics proportional to their population. This alone is a very important reason for marketers to pay attention to Latinos.

Clearly, the fact that proportionally Hispanics have some more households in the lower end of the distribution and fewer in the upper end is not desirable. Nevertheless, where the sweet spot of most marketers resides, that is in the middle, Hispanics have higher representation. This is surprising and uplifting, and helps understand that Hispanics are not generally poorer but they are better represented where it counts for marketers.

The content in this blog may be copied and distributed but credit must be given to the author.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Magnet States for Hispanics in 2008: Marketing Implications

My analysis of the American Community Survey of the US Census Bureau for 2008 reveals that there are key states that experienced net in-migration of Hispanics from other States in the prior year. This is the most up-to-date information of what States Hispanics are moving to, and what States Hispanics are leaving behind. At the top of the gaining list are Texas, Colorado, Utah, North Carolina, Washington State, New Mexico, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Mississippi, Pennsylvania, Louisiana, Virginia, Arizona, Missouri, Indiana, Iowa, Massachusetts, Kentucky, Maine, and Maryland, in that order.

The States with the largest out-migration of Hispanics, in order of loss to other States, were: California, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Alaska, Illinois, Michigan, Rhode Island, Connecticut, District of Columbia, Nevada, Georgia, Ohio, Delaware, Nebraska, and New Hampshire.

These trends appear to confirm the continued dispersion of Hispanics throughout the United States to places that were not typically attractive to Hispanics in the recent past. Growth in States like Utah, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Mississippi, and Louisiana seems to uphold the trend that Hispanics are moving to States that offer job opportunities and a reasonable cost of living, even if these States were not atop of the Hispanic agenda in the past.

Those States losing Hispanics to other States are those who have experienced severe economic difficulties in the recent recession and/or are also expensive to live in, for example: California, New York, Florida, New Jersey, Nevada, Alaska, Illinois, and Michigan.

This analysis, however, does not include in-migration from other countries. Thus, one can not conclude from these data that there is no actual Hispanic growth in some States that are losing Hispanics to other States. The problem in conducting this type of analysis is that the American Community Survey does measure people coming in from other countries but not people leaving the country. That is because the US Census Bureau only interviews or administers questionnaires to people in the United States.

The list of States with largest in-migration, and that with the highest out-migration, with their respective net gains and losses are found below.

These tables can be reproduced and circulated but the analysis must be credited to this author.

Top Hispanic Gaining States from Other States

Top States Losing Hispanics to Other States

The implications for marketers are that marketing efforts dedicated to Hispanics will continue to be more at a National level instead of in just a few major markets. While those major markets are still large and worthy of much attention, smaller emerging Hispanic enclaves need to be considered and planned for. Further, as Hispanics continue to disperse in the United States their tastes and preferences will further contribute to the Latinization of the US. At the same time, however, more of these important consumers will be establishing contact with members of non-Hispanic communities and being exposed to touch-points that they did not attend to before.

Also, it should be noticed that States that welcome Hispanics will continue to benefit from their hard labor and work ethic. Those States who have ostracized them under the pretext of undocumented immigration are likely to continue to lose their attractiveness and the benefits that Hispanic presence brings.

While the culture and in many cases the language of Hispanics will continue to be of great importance to connect with these consumers, marketers will also need to understand the dynamics of evolution and change in the Hispanic community.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

The Importance of Hispanic Heritage Month: Marketing and Self-Esteem

When we arrive in the United States we share in the experience of being Latin Americans in a new cultural environment. That is a shared experience, the experience of being different from the receiving culture, and the experience of slowly becoming different from the culture we came from. That means that we are not from here and not from there "ni soy de aqui ni soy de alla." We become part of a third culture, a concept I have discussed in an earlier blog.

What I mean is that part of our common identity is the shared experience of being of Latin American origin living in the United States. That shared experience contributes to a way of being, thinking, and feeling that differentiate us Latinos/Hispanics from everyone else.

Hispanic Heritage Month is meaningful to us, Hispanics or Latinos (depending on label preference), because it represents the celebration of that experience. The experience of being unique in this great country.

This celebration also has side benefits that are related to marketing. It enhances our self-esteem because it tells us we are legitimate while being different. Also, savvy marketers help by emphasizing the achievements and contributions of Hispanics in this Country. Those who understand the opportunity and talk to us honestly and and with candor can enhance their brands. It is because they are linking their brand with the celebration of our identity.

Comprehending the deep implications of how a brand can acquire emotional significance is related to understanding the way consumers feel about themselves. Hispanic Heritage Month is good for both Hispanics and sincere marketers.

Clearly, one celebration is not enough to create a link between the consumer and a brand, but it definitely is a step in the right direction.

I like seeing television shows in English television talking about the importance of Hispanics in the United States. I like seeing celebrations all over the country.

While we have many differences among those of us coming from the different Spanish speaking Latin American countries and Spain, we become united by the shared experience of language, history, relationship to the supernatural, and being unique in this great Country. It is the shared experience associated with our values and beliefs that we celebrate.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Why it is so difficult to do cultural advertising well?

Advertising, almost by definition is cultural. Advertising influences our culture. The culture influences advertising. Now, in a country with so many different cultures producing advertising that is meaningful to these diverse cultures is a challenge. While it is true that in some cases a single message may do well across cultures, many times the message would be more effective if it is customized to the target culture.

Many culturally directed ads are simply a manifestation of stereotypes and relatively trite. That is because the difference between objective and subjective culture is not generally known. That Hispanics have large families and that they are family oriented is true, but definitely overused, and almost stereotypically used in advertising. That Hispanics have an affinity for social gatherings is true, but also overused. These are all manifestations of objective culture. These are the cultural manifestations that we can observe. And because we can observe them we think these are the culture itself. But culture is much more than objective culture.

Subjective culture, however, is what we carry in our heads. These are our values and beliefs, for example, believing that our children will transcend us. That they are more important than us because they represent a step towards infinite eternity. That is subjective culture. When those values and beliefs are inserted in advertising they have a high probability of connecting with the consumer. That is, assuming that the rest of the message is actually honest and the product or service is valuable in itself. Thus making a product or service the one that embodies a feeling of pride, a sense of transcendence, the emotion of celebrating being alive, for example, can be much more powerful than the simple use of objective culture symbols.

So, why there is so much advertising that is sadly empty and simply innocuous? Because many in the advertising industry have not yet understood these issues. Many appear to think that simply convoluting a story and doing something to stand out in the clutter will do the job. Standing out is useful when what stands out is a central part of the message. Making the the story complex for the sake of creativity is not.

Clarity, honesty, directness, and having a good product or service to sell are key to good advertising. Creativity resides in parsimony. Simple elegance that as part of the message makes it emotionally powerful.

After all these years of doing research I have learned that Hispanic consumers are eager to connect with and believe honest advertising messages. So, it is our job to make that connection and believability available. We need to find the insights that make for the cultural occasion, for the cultural emotion that can surround our ideas, products, and services. This requires in-depth research. Research that digs deep into how people feel and think.

The process of account planning is precisely to make the voice of the consumer heard in the advertising context. But it is not necessarily the overt expression of what consumers say, but those subtle beliefs and perceptions that have been ingrained as part of the enculturation process. That which we bring from our childhood. As marketers and advertisers, our duty is to comprehend where the consumer is coming from so we can show we understand him/her. So we can better be of service.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Attitudes of Consumers in the Multicutlural Marketplace

As part of our ongoing series of reports supported by DMS Research, the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University has released in March 2009 a new study of attitudes of consumers in the Multicultural marketplace.  The full report can be obtained at:

The data in this report includes 39 attitudes and multiple demographics to provide a sense of how members of different cultural groups feel about select aspects of life and commerce. The list of specific attitude items is in the section dealing with overall trends below.

The data revealed a six factor structure that resulted in six factor score coefficient weighted indexes:
  • Network Oriented or an inclination to use social media and being sociable
  • Gay Favorable or a positive predisposition to GLT issues and people
  • Sports Oriented or a favorable disposition towards sports
  • Brand Lifestyle or strong positive feelings about brands
  • Social Cultural Sensitive or empathy and openness to other cultures
  • Marriage Oriented or strong feelings about the importance of marriage
The results indicate that Hispanics who answered the online questionnaire in Spanish (HS) are more likely than anyone else to be Network Oriented, and interestingly, that Non Hispanic Whites (NHW) are least likely to be Network Oriented. Hispanics who answered the questionnaire in English (HE) and Asians (A) are most likely to be Gay Favorable, while HS were most negative. Also HE and A are most Sports Oriented, while NHW are least sports involved. Brand Lifestyle is more prevalent among African Americans (AA) and least among HS. The most Socio Culturally Sensitive are HS, while the least are NHW. A are the most Marriage Oriented while HS and AA are the least.

Alternative explanations were explored with the data, by looking at gender and age groups, and
conclusions and implications were derived for marketing to these diverse groups. These findings
highlight the importance of considering attitudinal orientations when positioning products and servicesnin these diverse cultural communities. The results make it evident that not all members of the different major cultures in the US can be reached with homogeneous messages and ideas.  Find the report at:

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

Start Planning for the Online Hispanic Marketing Course for this Fall 2009

While the Summer 2009 course on Hispanic Marketing has started and is closed you can plan for this Fall 2009.  Classes begin August and it is never too early to apply to secure your place.  Visit for details on the online course.  


For application information, contact Jennifer Boss at




Wednesday, February 25, 2009

The Multicultural World of Social Media Marketing

Felipe Korzenny, Ph.D., Director, Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University, and Senior Strategy Consultant, Captura Group
Lee Vann, Founder and CEO, Captura Group

Social media is now ubiquitous. Usage of blogs, social networks, and video sharing sites is increasing rapidly and millions of people now look to social media websites as their primary source of news, opinion, and entertainment. As we witness this dramatic shift from traditional to social media, we believe it’s important to examine its cultural dimensions—that is, who is driving this shift, what are the cultural factors behind it, and what are the implications for marketers seeking to reach specific ethnic/cultural groups via social media?

We recently conducted an analysis of newly collected data to examine the patterns of social media behaviors of different ethnic/cultural groups in the US. The data comes from the Florida State University Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication with the support of DMS Research from a national online sample of nearly 2,500 people with approximately 500 cases in each of the following cultural groups: Hispanics who prefer English, Hispanics who prefer Spanish, Non-Hispanic Whites, African Americans, and Asians in the United States.

Ethnic minorities visit social networking sites more frequently than non-Hispanic Whites

We aggregated information to find out what ethnic/cultural groups are more likely to visit social networking sites. We found broad diversity in social media behaviors among different ethnic/cultural groups and that emerging minorities visit social networking sites more frequently than non-Hispanic whites.

Percentage of  Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and non-Hispanic who visit social networking sites regularly

We then broke out the data for leading social networks, MySpace and Facebook, to see if there are any groups leading usage of the most popular social networking sites—again, minorities lead the way, with English Preferring Hispanics being twice as likely to visit MySpace regularly than Non-Hispanic Whites. The relative importance of emerging minorities as compared with the traditional majority points to a major shift in social influence.

Percentage of  Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and non-Hispanic Whites who visit MySpace and Facebook regularly

Demographics, culture and market factors drive ethnic minorities to social networks

This data is interesting, but in order for these findings to be useful and actionable for us as marketers, we need to determine the reason for the strong representation of ethnic minorities on social networking sites and how to best engage with this audience. We believe that there is a mix of cultural, demographic and market factors that make social media particularly appealing to emerging minorities.

Demographically, ethnic minorities are younger than non-Hispanic Whites. It’s no secret that younger people in general are more likely to adopt new technologies, particularly technologies that enable communication and provide social connectivity. This age gap between minorities and non-Hispanics only partially explains the gap in social media involvement.

Age is only a partial explanation for the use of social media among ethnic minorities

In order to analyze the influence of age on social media behavior, we divided respondents into two segments, those 35 years of age and younger and those 36 years of age and older. The following chart shows that people 35 and younger of all cultural backgrounds are more likely to use social media, with Hispanics who prefer to communicate in Spanish and African Americans lagging behind. Young Spanish preferring Hispanics may lag because they are likely to be newer to the Internet, and also because their friends and relatives are less likely to be online due to economic and access factors. While Hispanics in general are aggressively getting online, those less acculturated are still somewhat less represented in the digital realm today.

Percentage of  Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and non-Hispanic Whites 35 and younger who visit social networking sites more than 2 or 3 times a month

When examining the usage of social networking sites among those 36 and older, we find that that older Hispanics, regardless of language preference are more active especially when compared non-Hispanic Whites within the same age group.

Percentage of  Hispanics, Asians, African Americans and non-Hispanic Whites 36 and older who visit social networking sites more than 2 or 3 times a month

This substantiates the notion that age is only a partial explanation for the higher usage of social media among Hispanics and other ethnic minorities. Culture and market factors also play an important role in promoting online social connectivity among these groups.

Collectivistic values, communication and lack of relevant content are key drivers of social behavior online

Culturally, ethnic minorities tend to be drawn to collectivistic values and often look to one another to help guide decisions and opinions. In addition, ethnic minorities are more likely to leverage social networks to communicate with groups of family and friends who are geographically dispersed. Social media facilitates such collective sharing of information and communication.

In addition, market forces are driving ethnic minorities to use social media. There is a dearth of culturally relevant and in-language content available online. As a result, ethnic minorities tend to be proactive and create and share their own content and social networks are ideal platforms for publishing and distributing such original content.

Social networking services allow people to organize and enhance their relationships online, but regardless of technology, culture is still the glue that bonds people together. Marketers seeking to reach ethnic minorities through social media must reinforce and connect with the culture of their target audience if they seek to strengthen their clients’ brands on social networks—doing so requires a strategic long term approach that should include the following elements:

Define your social media marketing objectives

Using social media can accomplish a number of business objectives. Do you want to advertise a new product? Gather research? Provide customer service and build goodwill? Knowing what you’re looking for will make it much easier to find it.

Understand your audience and be strategic

A successful social media strategy requires a clear definition of objectives, understanding o your audience and a strategy for engaging them. Consider the cultural motivations that are driving your target audience to social media. Are they there to talk about music? Are they keeping in touch with relatives overseas? Are they there to connect and share their collective culture? What language are they using? They may be doing all of these things and more, but if you can determine what’s drawing your audience to social media in the first place, you’ll have a better chance of engaging them when you join their conversations. Building and maintaining conversations with a target audience requires research, careful planning and a strategic approach.

Dedicate resources to proactively engage your audience with timely and relevant content

Ethnic minorities are turning to social networks to express themselves, connect with their culture and communicate with each other. To be successful, marketers must be open to engaging audiences with timely and relevant content that stimulates feedback and sharing. Engaging in meaningful conversations is the goal of social media marketing and doing so requires a deep understanding of needs, openness to negative commentary and dedicated resources. A social media presence is worthless if it lies dormant.

The time is now

Few marketers are proactively targeting ethnic minorities online and even fewer are leveraging social media to do so. A first mover advantage is available for those that devote the time and resources to engage these critical audiences in ways that they find meaningful. The fact is that we now have an unprecedented ability to reach and interact with ethnic minorities; and companies that deliver value to this segment today will be rewarded with the long term loyalty of this market.

Originally published by Media Post on February 19, 2009.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

A Stronger Sense of Hispanic Pride and Unity

I think that we, Hispanics, Latinos, or whatever label we are assigned, those of us with roots in Latin America, are strengthening our sense of common identity in the United States.  A sense of identity based on pride.  What we have in common appears to be overshadowing what makes us different.  Our heritage from Latin America has a common cultural influence from Spain, the native peoples of the American continent and Africa, a common language, and beliefs in the supernatural that shape how we look at the world.  Now, in the United States our heritage is being further shaped by the "American" experience.  Being of Latin American origin in the United States promotes a unique way of looking at the world.  

We have found commonality in the being different, immigrant backgrounds, pride in art, music, literature, food, architecture, and, perhaps more importantly, a subjective perception of the world that runs as a common theme in our sense of identity.  The largest immigration of Hispanics to the United States was in the past 30 years.  We grew from 10 million in 1980 to about 50 million in 2009.  Most likely, this growth will continue but now fueled by children born in the United States, and not so much by immigration.  Many contend that eventually we will just melt like everyone else has done in the past.  I believe that our numbers, our culture, and our sense of difference will keep us distinct to a larger extent now than ever before. 

Discrimination has always been a force unifying people.  We have experienced that.  Being seen as foreigners and immigrants has been a common experience even if many of "us" have been here longer than those who look at us as newcomers. But this pressure makes us strong. This stress is unifying us.  Most Hispanics in the US have not had a strong avocation for activism or a need to organize.  In my opinion, the time has come.  Hispanics are now a strong force recognized by marketers, first and foremost, and by politicians who want our vote.  Now we can leave behind anomie and fatalism and see that we have real power.  We have money and many of us have a vote to cast.  We have become increasingly aware that if we do not unite we will have no power. Look at the unprecedented immigration protests of the recent past.

The time has come for us to gather around what is important.  Our sense of cultural identity unifies us in a very special way.  We look at personal relationships in very different ways.  We look at time and space as continua that transcend our existence.  We have a sense of the supernatural that makes us feel awe in a different way.  We have gender relationships that work differently.  We have dual identities.  We are different and also similar.

Samuel Huntington, rest in peace, was wrong.  The work ethic of Hispanics is as good as or stronger than a "Protestant Work Ethic."  We have demonstrated that since we have been in this great country.  We do not want handouts.  We want work.  We want to achieve.

It looks to me like Hispanic identity is strengthening and becoming a great force in making the United States a greater country.  We are here and we are ready to achieve, to be online, to buy products, to serve this great country, and to continue being essentially family people, proud of whom we are and now united by a common experience.  We are now ready to organize and be a stronger social and cultural force.  This has to be our future.

So, what does this have to do with marketing?  Everything!