Monday, December 23, 2013

Cultural Marketing, Total Market, How and Why?

This has been the year of the debate over the “Total Market” approach.  The idea is to find a common denominator that different cultural groups can all relate to.  That makes some sense at first glance. After all, most people love their children, enjoy being free, enjoy food and other good things of life.

So, finding an insight that would resonate with most people is possible. But let us think again about the nature of marketing and advertising. What brands want is to establish deep connections with consumers, at a level that the consumer feels like the brand understands them uniquely.

So, while the notion of finding a common denominator may be appealing for the good reason of realizing economies of scale and having a great reach, the brand connection may be lost. Why? Because while we all love our children, the meaning is different across cultural groups. It would be trivial to say that because children are generally loved by their parents, life insurance, for example, could be sold across the board for the sake of the love “you have for your children.” This positioning would not be ownable. And even if it were, the specifics of how Hispanic parents think of their children or their future compared with African Americans, Asians and non-Hispanic Whites would be more powerful than a more general approach. To mind comes the example of the insurance company that had a picture of a girl in her “quinceañera” dress as a reminder of the dreams the parents have for her. That is a very culturally specific message that would not cut across cultures, but that would be more powerful than a general message in reaching Latinos.

Cultural marketing is about connecting the consumer at the level of their cultural traditions and archetypes. Culture is more than interesting idiosyncrasies. Culture is the passed on set of tools for living that humans have found to work in different social contexts. Even when these tools cease to be effective, we humans tend to keep them close to our heart as they are the elements which define who we are. So, for example, fatalism. In a better organized and more predictable society fatalism would not be an effective way of coping with life. Nevertheless, it stays with members of a culture for generations regardless of their geographic and social movement over time.

Cultural marketing consists in understanding those tools for living that are mostly implicit in people's heads and that dictate how they view the world. Ethnographic and other qualitative studies can uncover many of these regularities that marketers can use to better communicate their products, brands, and services. Finding a powerful cultural cue can establish a deep relationship with consumers over many generations. Consider “sonrisas Colgate” or the Colgate toothpaste smiles that have transcended from Latin America to the United States following the descendents of Latinos. The popularity of Colgate toothpaste among Hispanics continues to be strong and much of it has been passed on from generation to generation.

A “total market” approach should not be an excuse for not attempting to establish a strong long lasting link with culturally diverse consumers. It can be detrimental. Cultural marketing is the new marketing. It goes beyond ethnicity to encompass the many different lifestyles that consumers hold dear.

Monday, November 25, 2013

Online Courses on Hispanic and Multicultural Marketing Open to All This Spring 2014

Register by December 1, 2013. 

fsu1.gifThe Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University offers the following online courses Spring 2014:

  • Hispanic Marketing Communication (graduate)
  • Hispanic Marketing Communication (undergraduate)
  • Account Planning (undergraduate)
  • Multicultural Marketing Communication (graduate)

These courses can be taken by themselves or as part of the undergraduate or  graduate certificate in Multicultural Marketing Communication. The links provided above lead to the certificate requirements that include descriptions of each one of the courses.

 Hispanic Marketing: Connecting with the New Latino ConsumerThe courses start on January 6th and run until May 2nd, 2014.  Professionals, interested individuals, and students at other universities, who would like to participate in the Certificate programs or just by taking one or two of the courses are encouraged to apply. Online discussion boards allow for the exchange of ideas and  networking opportunities. The courses are asynchronous so students can work when their schedules allow.

For admission requirements CLICK HERE.   For more information about admissions please write or call: 

Anthony McDonald             

The application deadline is December 1, 2013, so act soon.

Watch this video for more information   CLICK HERE.

Visit the Center's site at 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Beyond Tacos, Guacamole, and Hugs: El Dia de los Muertos

Latino influence in the US keeps growing one cultural example at a time. The Wall Street Journal published on Friday November 1, 2013 an article entitled "No Bones About It, Day of the Dead Is Finding New Life." The article talks about a trend among non-Hispanics, particularly in areas of heavy Latino presence like California and Texas, who now set up altars to their dead relatives in different locations. An interesting example is that of a non-Hispanic woman in Oceanside, California, who created an altar to her father in the trunk of his car.

I am surprised as I thought that this particular ritual would not transfer from the population of Mexican origin to non-Hispanics.  I had the impression that spiritual rituals tend to be more strongly culture bound and related to deeply ingrained beliefs and emotions.  Emotions that are derived from people's upbringing and sense of self.

But there it is! Not only has hugging become popular (see a prior blog post), but now more spiritually oriented beliefs are transcending their origin. The Day of the Dead celebrated on All Saints Day, has its roots in cultural beliefs that talk about the skies opening on that day so the souls of the dead pour back to earth to spend time with loved ones. Then, the loved ones left behind celebrate the life of the departed with lively parties at cemeteries, homes, and other locations.

In one can see that the highest number of searches for both "dia de los muertos" and "day of the dead" happened in 2013 in the United States and that the States where those searches originated most prominently were California, New Mexico, and Texas. Clearly these searches may have been originated mostly by Latinos, nevertheless, why would 2013 be the highest incidence year when immigration from Mexico and Latin America is lower than in many prior years? It is likely that these searches originate from many non-Hispanics who are embracing the celebration.

At the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University, where many of the students are non-Hispanic, Dr. Sindy Chapa erected an altar in the memory of her father as shown below.

Museums around the US have had exhibits of altars for dia de los muertos both to celebrate the culture and to show the folkways of mesoamerica. From Oakland, California, to El Paso, Texas, even to the Idaho Historical Society, museums have in one way or another presented exhibits to mark the celebration.

Skelita Calaveras the Monster High doll created for Dia de Los Muertos has been a great success for Mattel, and the doll has been searched by name extensively in US States with strong Latino presence. As marketers realize the importance of Latinos to their bottom line, almost by accident they also educate the rest of the population about Latino cultural features.

What do all these stories and anecdotes tell us? As Hispanics acculturate they also spread the allure of their customs and beliefs. Acculturation is a two way street in which we learn from each other and find aspects of the culture of others attractive and meaningful. When cultural influence goes beyond the material aspects to the intangible and spiritual, one witnesses a societal transformation that should make marketers think more about culture and the future of marketing.

Friday, October 25, 2013

Focus Groups: In the Search of Cultural Meaning

I have conducted about 5,000 qualitative sessions during my career in market research.  Most of these sessions have been focus groups and a substantive number have been ethnographies. In our 2012 book "Hispanic Marketing: Connecting with the New Latino Consumer" (Routledge) we discuss focus groups with Latinos in much detail and clarify many common concerns marketers have in conducting them. In this opportunity I am reflecting on the focus group as one of the most misunderstood versions of qualitative research. Here I intend to talk about the essence of focus groups and how to make them work for cultural marketing.

A focus group is not a question and answer session.  For that you can simply interview people individually in person, online, or on the phone.  The focus group is a focused discussion to understand how people think and feel about ideas.  It is an opportunity for understanding how meaning is created collectively during human interaction.  

This type of interaction has great value because it reveals cultural meanings that are not obvious and cannot be asked directly. One cannot expect people to tell you why they prefer a product or idea just by asking a direct question because the context of the situation is not a realistic consumer behavior opportunity. But asking the group to discuss brand "X" is likely to reveal inner feelings, attitudes, and values. Thus, focus groups are not for finding out why people use a particular brand on an individual basis but to find out how the group talks about a brand.

But a key aspect of moderating a focus group is that the moderator must be a pretty silent person in the process.  One asks "please talk about brand X" and then one stops talking.  Silence produces discussion. One can also say, "interesting...  I would like to understand better how you feel... please tell me more about brand X," and again remain silent and nodding.  The richness of meaning derived from such an activity cannot be underestimated. 

I understand that many research departments and clients are likely to be anxious about spending money without having a long questionnaire as a discussion guide for the focus groups, but that is because many do not understand what focus groups are for.  They are for generating group discussion. If discussion and symbolic interaction is not the goal, then simply do individual interviews and save some money.

Besides brands there are many other aspects around which a focus group can be centered.  For example, a discussion on the importance of one's health.  As respondents discuss the issue, the observers and moderator infer the meaning of health and capture important insights that can be used to market products and services. Generally these are likely to be culturally laden insights that can be used for brand positioning purposes. 

Actually, on many occasions focusing on an aspect related to the brand as opposed to the brand itself can  be richer in delivering cultural insights. Thus discussing health can be richer than discussing "HMO plan X." This is because properties of the brand are more relevant to consumers and they can more readily engage in a meaningful discussion. The aim of the focus group is to uncover the meaning of health, in this instance.

There are those who hold stereotypes about focus groups because of their personal experiences. A poorly trained moderator can readily damage a focus group by not knowing how to establish a warm and comfortable personal relationship with respondents. A lot of the chemistry of focus groups has to do with the warm-up and the bonding phase.

Another myth is that focus groups do not tell the truth because one individual biases the others.  Clearly, this has to do with respondent selection, the establishment of focus group procedures, and group process management.  But most importantly, when one expects a focus group to answer a barrage of questions, one is bound to have more social influence of one respondent over the others because the focus group is being rushed and not carefully prompted to engage in concentrating on an issue. 

Further, social influence is part of social life and a discussion will reveal patterns of interaction that can be very valuable in suggesting marketing approaches. One way of getting group participants to focus before coming in contact with each other is to give them the assignment to do something about the issue they will focus on. That preempts much of the concern about social influence as people have been focusing on the issue.

I will write more about focus groups and other research approaches.  Here my main aim is to clarify that focus groups are for discussion focused on an issue or set of issues, they are not question and answer sessions. A moderator needs to be a social scientist by training, a group facilitator, understand cultural trends, and enjoy people profoundly.  

Focus groups are for uncovering cultural meaning in the course of symbolic interaction.

Thursday, September 19, 2013

Salsa, Tortillas, Dulce de Leche, and now Hugs

I read in the Wall Street Journal (September 14 - 15, 2013*) that hugs are an issue now in the United States as many more people hug than ever before.  My first reaction was that as tortillas overtake white bread and salsa overtakes ketchup, hugs overtake social distance.  Is this the Latino influence? Now the WSJ article talks about how to defend yourself from huggers. That is a serious departure from the nature of hugging in Latin America and other "hugging" regions of the world where the hugging is seen as a welcome sharing of human warmth and reassures people of their relationship.

When I was young, in high-school and then in college in Mexico, every day, I had to hug and kiss many women, which I thought was nice, and hugged many men as well, which I felt were my dear friends. It was routine, the business of social life.  You hug those you care for and those you want to keep as part of your circle of friends.  Also, it felt good. It was reassuring. I felt I belonged.

Hugging feels good.  It releases chemicals in our body that make us feel good. A most interesting substance is oxytocin which contributes to our social happiness and well being. It is known to be released when people touch and hug and helps people bond together.  Hispanics are good at this. I believe this is an important contribution that Latinos and other "hugging" people are making to US society.

Chipotle, mango, salsa, papaya, tortillas, cilantro, yuca, and many other flavors are clearly now part of the mainstream. Also, Latin music and architecture have become part of the American mainstream.  But that is only the part of the culture that is clearly observable.  What about the less observable parts of the culture?  What about the subjective culture composed of values, ideas, attitudes, and ways of thinking? Hugging is part of the subjective culture that is now influencing the United States. Subjective because it emanates from primitive impulses, beliefs, and values that take us back to our origins.

Marketers ought to consider that the most powerful insights come from those attitudes, beliefs, values, and perceptions that are transmitted via our cultural groups but that are hidden from view. Hugging is visible, but not its motives and consequences. Touching produces a different social structure. Marketers can capitalize on those motivations and the effects of touching and hugging (haptics) by establishing connections associated with their brands.

Human contact feels good and makes people happy.  Clearly, it has to be appropriate, but Latin Americans don't worry about that. They know when the toucher is a creep.  In low contact cultures any contact can be misinterpreted.  But in high contact cultures contact means care and affection. As we move into a more touch oriented society in the US, our ways of behaving, thinking, and feeling change as well.

Now that Latinos have influenced the US culture beyond imagination, it is not only with the material things of life where Hispanics are making a statement but also with emotions. While marketers have long thought that differences in culture are apparent in the numerous manifestations we observe, now we need to take notice of the more hidden aspects.

Marketers do not only capitalize on high contact cultures when understanding their motivations and bonding feelings, but they may now have a "total market" approach in their hands. Hugging will likely transcend cultural groups.

The author of the WSJ article was trying to help others with larger personal space needs to defend themselves from the rising tide of huggers. Well, another take on the trend is that it is good for you and potentially excellent for marketers who understand cultural patterns.  

In Hispanic Heritage month let's celebrate hugging and all that comes along with it.

*"The Delicate Protocol of Hugging: For fans of personal space, these are difficult times: America has become a nation of huggers" by Peggy Drexler

Friday, August 23, 2013

Fashion, Style, and Culture: The Case of US Latinos

Retailers often talk about how Hispanics are different in their approach to dress, clothing, and fashion. There has been coverage in the press about how some shopping centers are morphing themselves into Latino shopping centers to better serve their local communities and stay in business.

From casual observation I know that Hispanics dress up to go out on the weekends and kids are very well dressed to go to church and other activities, even when going on airplanes. The attention to dress and detail to style is apparent in a great number of cases. Many Latinos spend much of their leisure time in stores and malls enjoying their free time with their families and becoming informed about fashion and style. I have observed the more sensual approach to dressing by both Hispanic men and women. What are the attitudes that underlie this attention to style and fashion?

To answer the above question, I used the data from the Experian Marketing Services Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study, that was collected between January 30, 2012 and March 13, 2013. The chart below shows differences in “any agree” (agree a lot plus agree a little) with the attitudinal statements about style and fashion with which Latinos were more likely to agree:

As observed above, Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanics to be feel they are opinion leaders about clothes and fashion. They also are more likely to trust top designers and to trade up to newer designs faster than non-Hispanics.

Latinos are more likely to be influenced by fashion magazines and most importantly, Latinos enjoy more the activity of shopping for clothes. And Hispanics are also more experimental in the approaches to clothing and style.

What does these trends tell us? I think that Latinos are now influencers in fashion that need to be carefully watched as their tastes and preferences evolve. Marketers need to be pay attention to these trendsetters as their numbers and influence increases in the US.

Further, the eagerness these Hispanic consumers show to be in style, corroborates that merchandising for them is not necessarily the same as what is traditionally done for the rest of the population. Interestingly, the contrast of the attitudes on which non-Hispanics exceed Hispanics are interesting as documented in the chart below:

As can be seen non-Hispanics are the ones who are more likely to express conservative style and clothing attitudes. This trend adds evidence to the observation that Latinos are more likely to lead in dress, fashion, and style.  In terms of profitability and trend making marketers need to be be aware of the differences that Latinos represent for the future of their brands and retailing activities.

Clearly, examining the trends in the charts above suggests that conservatism is in general a more pervasive trends that leadership and innovativeness.  The percentages of conservative attitudes are higher. Still, where Hispanics excel is in having larger minorities that express an eagerness to change and innovate regarding style.

What can marketers do? Include more Latinos/Latinas in their approaches to marketing, regardless of whether or not their approach is a “Total Market” or more targeted approach. The voice of Hispanics needs to be over-represented in strategies that are forward looking. Further, Latinos need to be considered as opinion leaders and co-opted to represent your brands as they are more likely to genuinely embrace innovation and change.

The moral of the story is that there is no general market and that Latinos are shaping marketing futures.

The data used here is from Experian Marketing Services’ Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study of adults 18+ -and was collected from January 30, 2012 to March 13,, 2013. The sample of Hispanics contains 7,982 individuals and the non-Hispanic sample has 16,870 people.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Hispanic and Multicultural Marketing Online Courses from Florida State University Starting August 2013

This Fall Florida State University offers the following Hispanic and Multicultural marketing online courses:

  • Hispanic Marketing Communication - Undergraduate
  • Multicultural Marketing Communication - Undergraduate
  • Account Planning (with multicultural emphasis) - Graduate 

These courses are open to anyone in the United States or internationally. The undergraduate courses can be taken by anyone with an interest in the subject. The graduate course requires that the student has completed an undergraduate degree in any discipline.

These courses can be taken by themselves or can be taken as part of our undergraduate or graduate certificates in Multicultural Marketing Communication. The courses are part of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, founded by Dr. Felipe Korzenny.

The courses start the last week in August and end the first week in December.  They are asynchronous so the student can take the courses at their own pace, and without a rigid schedule. Discussion boards online create ample opportunities for learning, besides the assignments and readings. This is a great forum for those already working to discuss Latino Marketing issues they encounter and to find new solutions. Groups of company employees can take a course and use it as a the focus of discussion in a seminar they may organize internally. Others, who are on their own may find these courses as a great networking opportunity.

Apply now because enrollment is limited and it takes about two weeks to get registered.

To apply and for more information please contact:
Anthony McDonald

The main book for the course is "Hispanic Marketing: Connecting with the New Latino Consumer," By Felipe and Betty Ann Korzenny, Routledge, 2012.  CLICK HERE FOR BOOK DETAILS.  

Thursday, July 25, 2013

The Latino Beer Story in the US

When growing up in Mexico City, I never imagined that Corona Extra would become the international prestige beer par excellence. Please do not take me wrong, I am proud that a Mexican beer brand has become so prestigious and popular around the world, but those early experiences were quite contrasting.

Corona Extra, along with Victoria, Sol, and a few other “low-end” brands, were the cheap beer brands that were consumed by people with scarce resources. These brands were popular at lunchtime at construction sites as workers would gather to eat tortillas, hot peppers, and other foods and drink those beer brands. The brands that at the time were considered prestigious in Mexico were Bohemia, Dos Equis, Modelo, and a few others.

Well, now Corona is seen as a prestige brand even among Mexicans, both in Mexico and in the US. I have heard consumers say that they feel proud that a Mexican beer brand has become the coveted brand of well to-do people in the US and in other places around the world. Because of this association the brand has acquired the connotation of national pride, and consequently Mexicans have increased their consumption. Clearly, it is not only those of Mexican origin, but many Latinos from different origins also share this affinity with Corona Extra, even though the largest share of Hispanics in the US is still Mexican, by far.

To quantify some of my impressions, I used the data from the Experian Marketing Services Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study, adults 21+, that was collected between January 30, 2012 and March 13, 2013. Hispanics over-index versus non-Hispanics (123 vs. 96) in their drinking of imported beer. The percentages of those stating they drink imported beer are in the chart below:

And the consumption of imported beer tends to be largely in its “regular” or full calorie version.

Regular beer has a fuller flavor and that seems to be the preference of Latinos and non-Latinos alike. So, then, what about domestic beer consumption? The following chart provides the distribution for regular domestic beer and light/low-calorie.

As can be seen, when it comes to domestic brands, light/low-calorie brands have an advantage over regular beer brands. This may be explained by the higher cost of imported beer in the US: if the consumer is going to splurge, it may as well be for the full-flavor version of their preferred imported brand. That domestic brands are more likely to be consumed in general is not surprising because of their price point. Still, Latinos are more likely to drink beer from other countries than their non-Hispanic counterparts.

Now, going back to the initial question. How is Corona Extra doing along with some of the other larger imported beer brands? The chart below presents those brands that have a 2% or larger share of being the imported brands “most often” consumed among either Hispanics or non-Hispanics.

This is confirmatory of my qualitative observations. Corona is by far the largest import “most often” drunk by Hispanics followed by Heineken and other popular Mexican brands. Interestingly, non-Hispanics, who made the Corona brand popular, do not match the enthusiasm of Latinos for the brand.

Another consideration here is that advertising and marketing seem to work well. As the reader can intuitively confirm, those brands with more advertising and promotional efforts do better in the preference of consumers. This is not surprising but should serve as a reminder to marketers on how important it is to continue connecting with consumers in order to keep their preference. That Hispanics drink more of even Heineken (a Dutch brand) provides an indication of how important is the brand-consumer connection and in a cultural way. Heineken, not being a Latin American brand, has been proactive in attracting Latinos with culturally relevant messages. And by the way, please consider the notion that all marketing is cultural, because we are all acculturated in a particular cultural context and our tastes, preferences, and even dreams are shaped by that culture.

The domestic beer brands most often consumed by Latinos and non-Hispanics are also the ones that advertise the most: Budweiser, Bud Light, Coors, Coors Light, Miller, and Miller Lite. Here, however, there is a different story that I will detail at a future time.

The data used here is from Experian Marketing Services’ Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study of adults 21+ -and was collected from January 30, 2012 to March 13,, 2013. The sample of Hispanics contains 7,425 individuals and the non-Hispanic sample has 16,278 people.

Wednesday, June 5, 2013

The Juice Mystique: Hispanic and Non-Hispanic Consumption of Orange Juice Brands and Drinks

I have spent quite a few years asking consumers about their consumption of orange juice and juice drinks. In visiting stores that cater to Latinos in Texas and California I tend to see large displays of shelf stable drink products like Tampico and Sunny Delight. Over the years I have heard Hispanic consumers state that these products have high percentages of juice in them, as high as 80% and sometimes even higher. Which is surprising because the actual juice content is low.  I was not sure about the extent to which the consumption of these juice beverages was higher or lower than popular orange juice brands.

To obtain a quantitative picture I examined data from the Experian Marketing Services Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study that was collected in the twelve months ending on November 30, 2012.  The results I obtained provide an interesting perspective on the use of these products according to the chart below.

First I need to clarify I decided to compare Tampico and Sunny Delight with Minute Maid and Tropicana because these are large orange juice brands, and also included Jumex because the brand has its origin in Mexico and is well known by Latinos of Mexican origin.

The chart shows that even though Tampico and Sunny Delight are used by Hispanics to a larger extent than by other consumers, the prevalence of the use of those brands is relatively low when compared with major US brands like Minute Maid and Tropicana. Jumex orange juice is used at about the same rate as the Tampico and Sunny Delight beverages. It is salient to notice that Tampico and Jumex have a very prevalent Latino constituency. That may be explained by the affinity of the Tampico brand, since Tampico is a port in Mexico, and by the heritage of Jumex whose name comes from the roots “jugos” juice, and “mexicanos” Mexican.

Interestingly, Hispanics over-index non-Hispanics in the use of all the brands. I was expecting that they would over-index more markedly in their use of the less expensive beverages but that is not the case. Given their family orientation and their larger household size, Latinos consume more of these beverages regardless of their pricing or quality. Many have argued that Hispanics are likely to purchase their preferred brands or more expensive brands for their family even if their incomes are lower. These findings may provide a partial indication of that possibility.

Out of curiosity I decided to check on income levels by use of these brands to ascertain whether or not income is associated with their use, for Hispanics and non-Hispanics. The charts below show the results.

As can be seen there is a tendency for those with lower incomes to be more likely to use Tampico and Sunny Delight, as well as Jumex orange juice regardless of their Latino heritage. And in the case of Minute Maid and Tropicana the difference by income levels is small but somewhat slanted towards higher incomes, particularly in the case of Tropicana. What seems outstanding (thanks William Biggs) is that those in the lower income categories use the premium OJ brands much more, in general, than they use the lower priced products. It can be concluded then that lower income is somewhat of a driver in the use of fruit beverages like Tampico, Sunny Delight, and Jumex OJ, but marginally the opposite in the use  of major brand orange juices. Lower price points are more appealing to some of those with lower incomes, and perhaps these consumers justify their choices by attributing higher juice content to beverages that do not have such.

It stands out that even those with lower incomes are more likely to consume premium brand orange juice, than the less expensive counterparts. Thus the selectivity of diluted drinks and less expensive brands may be particular to some who knowingly find them appealing, or who do not know what the nature of the product is.

Clearly, if Latino consumers and non-Latino consumers of lower incomes and large families see a large container of an orange drink and believe it contains a large amount of juice and then compare the price with actual 100% juice products, they are likely to opt for the larger and less expensive product. But what if they compared labels carefully?

In a competitive market there is room for juice brands to more directly  and aggressively compete with products that have a small percentage of juice content by educating consumers as to what the differences are. Clearly, the less expensive products also have some benefits as they are enriched with vitamins.  If a brand has a true advantage it should exploit it to the benefit of their bottom line and their consumer base.

At any rate, there is ample room for marketers to better understand the consumer behavior of Latinos to more successfully market to and educate them. Latinos generally want the best for their families, and highlighting product differences for them may be helpful and also profitable.

The data used here is from Experian Marketing Services’ Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study of adults 18+  and was collected from October 24, 2011 to November 30, 2012. The sample of Hispanics contains 8,521 individuals and the non-Hispanic sample has 17,043 people.

Friday, May 10, 2013

Brands Make a Difference: Latinos Over Index in the Hair Styling Product Category

I have been conducting ethnographic interviews with Hispanics in the last several months and have visited many homes and talked to many Latino women. I have looked at their bathrooms and bedrooms and have seen many of the products these families use for styling their hair. I got the impression they are very much into the hair style product category, but qualitative observations can only go so far in terms of making generalizations about the population.  

To check my impressions I looked at data from the Experian Marketing Services Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study that was collected in the twelve months ending on November 30, 2012, and confirmed that my impressions were on the right track.

As can be seen in the chart below, 43% of Latinos use hair styling products while only 34% of non-Hispanics use them.

Clearly, there are several reasons why this may be the case, including the fact that Latino adults have a median age that is about 10 years younger than the overall population. Also, we have discovered over the years that Latinos enjoy being well groomed in their everyday life. Further, their grooming customs come from their countries of origin where cultural patterns are strongly ingrained. Now, are all hair styling products equally used? As can be seen below there are products that are more heavily used than others.

Gel and mousse are by far the most popular hair styling products among Hispanics, and in general their use is in line with the overall population pattern of usage. Nevertheless, Latinos over-index quite dramatically in the both categories. But what brands are more popular? As can be seen in the chart below, consumers are quite divided among the different brands they use most often and the chart only includes the brands that have more than 1% usage among adult Hispanics. Still each for each of the top brands, Latinos exceed their non Latino counterparts. There are cases in which usage is triple among Hispanics, such as in the case of Alberto V05, and double such as in the case of Tresemme, or substantially higher like in the case of Suave.

The lesson I learn is that some of these brands may capitalize on making a serious effort to further their share among Hispanics. Particularly promising are brands with Latin American heritage and with names that are culturally compatible, like Tresemme, Alberto VO5, Suave, and Pantene.  In the age of social media, and knowing that Hispanics are particularly keen in the use of this technology, reaching out to Latinos with brand experiences that are appealing, informative, and seductive can render a large return on relatively modest investments.

Large media, like television, can also make a major difference with advertising  and branded entertainment. Ultimately any brand that makes a serious effort can find creative ways to connect culturally, for example, by attaching symbolic handles to their brands that Latinos can relate to.

The data used here is from Experian Marketing Services’ Simmons National Hispanic Consumer Study of adults 18+  and was collected from October 24, 2011 to November 30, 2012. The sample of Hispanics contains 8,521 individuals and the non-Hispanic sample has 17,043 people.