So what's all this hype about Latinos being the second-largest demographic in population and online consumption patterns in the U.S.? Does it make marketers salivate to plot online marketing campaigns for Latinos? And if so, why have efforts been so dismal? Assumption: Marketers think Latinos will make a purchase no matter who is selling the product; after all, they have to buy -- stop right there. Bad assumption.
The 2011 IAB report "U.S. Latino Online: A Driving Force" found that more than half of U.S. Latinos prefer marketers to make a strong connection with their culture by relaying the message in this order of languages: Spanish, Spanglish, and then English.
The IAB also found that U.S. Latinos spend more time online than non-Hispanic whites, and that 61 percent of Hispanics made online purchases and spent an average of $746, which isn't far behind the total internet population at 72 percent, spending an average of $851.
With that said, it's surprising that marketers aren't more interested in targeting ads to the U.S. Latino demographic. In most cases, ads are targeted instead to the non-Hispanic white population before any other group.
"Behavioral targeting is an under-addressed area with Latinos," Andy Hasselwander, VP products and research for Latinum Network, said. "This area is lagging behind [the]general market by at least a couple years, and it's another big opportunity for marketers moving forward."
But to the credit of three legacy brands, some noticeable efforts to connect with U.S. Latinos have finally been achieved, although not without their fair share of PR fiascos, lack of engagement, low sales, and boycotts before finding redemption.
Here's how they did it:
Ford got its "Fiesta" back
Blunder: Forgetting -- and even worse, not knowing -- who its customer base was cost Ford (America's pioneer and once go-to automaker) a sales plunge of 30 percent, not to mention losing customers to competing foreign carmakers such as Honda, Toyota, and Nissan.
It was this sales slump that forced Ford into a marketing restructure -- most importantly, it had to get to know its true consumer, the largest purchaser of small cars: 18-24 year-old Latinos and African-Americans.
Making things right: Ford took a look at its car line and revived the Fiesta model (which hadn't been seen on the streets for 32 years) and developed a multicultural ad campaign: "Ready Pa' Tu Mundo" -- this time using social media, viral video, mobile advertising, and a banging website to connect with its young bilingual Latino audience. Even more specifically, Ford created a campaign that embodied true urban flair, tech-savvy, and bilingualism.
"What's unique about our marketing effort for Fiesta is that we're focusing on bilingual to Spanish-dominant Hispanic consumers," David Rodriguez, Ford's multicultural communications manager, said. "Digital advertising will play a key role because we know that Hispanics over-index compared to average consumers on their use of the internet."
Alex Levine, social media strategist for PACO, praised the Fiesta Elslider website, a seamless English, Spanglish, Spanish-language toggle.
"I love what Ford is doing in terms of marketing to Latinos," Levine said. "They have a sleek, fully bilingual website. Beyond that, they also are on Twitter where they provide a culturally relevant, Spanglish, approachable conversation."
Ford also did a great job of integrating its target audience by casting three early career creative Latinos as spokespeople for the Fiesta -- all vibrant, socially conscious Spanglish speakers: Ellie, a musician; Alex, an aspiring actor; and Xavi, a spoken-word artist. Each spokesperson highlighted the Fiesta's features of design, technology, and fuel efficiency via entertaining YouTube webisodes. In the first week alone, the Fiesta webisodes had more than 500,000 views.
Additionally, the 2011 Fiesta campaign paid off with its target audience by finding homes on favorite bilingual music-oriented content websites: BoomOnline.com, HolaMun2.com, LaMusica.com, LATV.com, QuePasa.com, and SiTV.com.
Ford didn't overlook the mobile market either. "Ready Pa' Tu Mundo" was available on Telemundo Móvil, Terra Mobile, Univision Móvil, and Yahoo Mobile en Español.
Hispanicweekly.com praised Ford's campaign as a "digital win." In Ford showrooms, the Fiesta sold more than 1,000 vehicles to Hispanics in the first four months of the campaign, and 125,000 people have shown interest in ordering them. According to U.S. News, the 2011 Ford Fiesta ranked No. 3 in affordable small cars, and Ford's sales rose 25 percent. The success of the campaign encouraged Ford to follow up with "Ready Pa' Tu Mundo 2.0" for its second quarter in 2011.
Clorox cleans up its act with Latinos
Blunder: Clorox fumbled last year -- one of many times -- when it released a misguided and inflammatory press release based on a "study" stereotyping Latinas as "natural born cleaners."
The press release claimed that "cleaning was a rite of passage" for Latinas, and the backlash was swift, including a call for a Clorox boycott that started on the feminist site Jezebel.com.
Making things right: To clean up its act, Clorox redefined its messaging tactics and revamped its website by concentrating on one Latino traditional value: family. In April, Clorox reunited with Univision (the Spanish-language network that reaches 97 percent of U.S. Latino households) for its second-annual primetime special "Intimamente... Compartiendo Entre Amigas" ("Intimately... Sharing Among Friends"). This cross-platform initiative echoed themes relevant to how Latina women run their households and share with amigas. "Our Latina consumers wanted more practical information about maintaining healthy and happy lives and homes -- and we were happy to once again partner up with Clorox to serve them," David Lawenda, president of advertising sales and marketing for Univision, said. "We will keep the conversation going across all of our platforms and continue to connect Latinas with each other and our marketing partners."
Clorox and Univision included a social media aspect to engage Latina audiences with Compartiendoentreamigas.com, which encouraged viewers to post their experiences and videos online. The prime-time special also featured "Tu Mundo Tu Voz" ("Your World Your Voice"), an interactive contest where viewers can upload a video to Univision.com featuring a question they would like to ask Karla Martinez, host of the Latino version of "Good Morning America." The winner of the video upload contest will fly to Miami and interview Martinez.
"Clorox site content is clean, culturally relevant -- images reflect the culture and language," Hasselwander said. "Language toggle is clearly linked; no dead links; very easy to find things. These sound like 'basics,' but many, many sites fall down on the basics when it comes to Spanish/Latino."
Clorox.com is versatile because of its easy-to-find "en Español" link, which quickly transforms the site into Spanish (sorry, no Spanglish) with five simple navigation tabs that offer special coupons, product line info, pointers on how to clean better, and Clorox commercials featuring Latino families.
Clorox.com also launched an online wellness campaign with Latina celebrity doctor Aliza Lifshitz after finding out that 56 percent of Hispanics were "not concerned" with the flu or about getting vaccinated. This initiative won Clorox a bronze medal at the 2010 REGGIE Awards in the Multicultural/Ethnic category, and a three-point increase in sales.
One thing Clorox learned from its past PR blunders is to connect with its target audience's values, and to do away with stereotypes by way of occupation, race, or gender.
Best Buy translates sales en Español
Blunder: Best Buy set off the "discrimination alarms" when it experimented online with its en Español site by advertising a soccer game image on a TV screen instead of the football game image that was shown on the general market website, causing many Hispanics to question the tactic.
"They're thinking, 'If you're doing this to me here, what else are you changing?'" Ana Grace, global web team product manager for Best Buy, said.
As a consequence, skeptical Latino customers would browse the en Español site and then jump onto the English-language version to verify that they were getting the same price. Note to Best Buy: Skeptical customers do not translate into sales.
Making things right: At the end of the day, U.S. Latinos want to be treated like Americans, so Best Buy learned to tread lightly and become better acquainted with the values of the U.S. Latino -- it had to learn to hablar en Español.
Best Buy has come up as a topic of conversation not only with marketers I've interviewed but also in my research of the Hispanic market -- and all praise the brand for its campaign efforts. Best Buy en Español has been an innovator by making the full site available in Spanish. That sounds very basic, but full-blown bilingual websites are very rare.
"The success of the website has certainly made other brands take a second look at their own web presences," Levine said. "However, they do have a very well-utilized Spanish forum so that has tremendous value for their Latino consumers."
Grace said she not only credits Best Buy's successful efforts with Latinos, but she also endorses its little helper, Motion Point, a web translation service provider that solves the problem of offering the same web content in multiple languages without imposing a lot of technical complexity on the website operator.
And no, Motion Point doesn't have robots translating. Real humans using technology are actually decoding the nuances of the Spanish language that vary from country to country (but of course, it's not a perfect system). According to Forbes, this kind of detail to attention has translated into sales, making Best Buy a leader in online electronics for U.S. Latinos.
Moral of the story
Making mistakes is part of the evolution of becoming better marketers, and in so many cases redemption can be found in both a brand's reaction to the blunder, and its proactive approach to U.S. Latinos. Even details as specific as understanding the cultural holidays Latinos observe in the U.S. can be hugely beneficial to creating more effective online sales and coupon campaigns. For example, Best Buy en Español ran a Three Kings Day special after Christmas to attract Latino customers.
So, do your homework before marketing to U.S. Latinos by building focus groups, hiring a multicultural marketing agency that cares and knows the group best, and finding engaging ways to communicate.
"Brands seem to be marketing to Latinos as an afterthought and/or they only allocate a minuscule portion of their marketing budget to this gigantic portion of the U.S. population," Levine said. "Multicultural marketers/agencies exist in part so this doesn't happen; content not only needs to be in Spanish, but it needs to be culturally relevant."
The question isn't whether it's worth marketing to U.S. Latinos. It's "why haven't you started?"
Dita Quiñones is an editorial intern for iMedia Connection and a freelance multi-media journalist specializing in music, entertainment, and politrix for Latina Magazine/Latina.com, Chiat/Day, Nissan, Pepsi, GN$F!, CobWorldOrder.com, and WeTheWest.com.
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