by Thania Farrar
Shortly after the 2000 Census, I started receiving article after article from colleagues about the size of the Hispanic market in the US. The articles touted not only the size of the population, but also their projected growth as a tremendous new opportunity for businesses. Many people were surprised, including me, a recent immigrant from Honduras. I found myself in countless meetings with clients who wanted to understand how to target this market (me) and evaluate the opportunity. Do they prefer to be called Hispanics or Latinos? What language is best and why won’t my general market message work if I simply translate it? Acculturation became an industry term that represented the fact that Hispanics were not ‘melting into the pot’. And we talked at length about the research challenges in building representative samples for surveys and how online research was not appropriate even though most research at the time was going online at a furious pace.
During those early years, my favorite factoid was, “There are more Hispanics in the US today than Canadians in Canada.” Today, we are close to being able to say there are twice as many Hispanics in the US than Canadians in Canada–after just 15 years. The population projections have been on target, yet marketing efforts are lagging. By most estimates, only 3-5% of marketing budgets are going towards targeting Hispanics and only about 7-8% of ad dollars are directed toward them.
Why is marketing spend so out of sync with the size of the opportunity that everyone agrees is there? What we see and hear at Burke suggests that efforts have been half-hearted and not fully supported all the way to the top. Or the support is there, but the execution has been subpar. Some companies have underestimated the strength of the connection Hispanics have with their culture. One in every four Millennials is Hispanic. Research Burke conducted in partnership with Univision (The Cultural Connection) suggests that cultural connection is very strong and spans language preference, age, gender and country of origin. So even among these young, tech-savvy, English-speaking, acculturated Hispanics, their cultural heritage has a strong meaning. Marketing efforts should acknowledge that fact if they are to be successful.
Some companies have figured out how to win over Hispanics. Nissan recently reported that Hispanics bought 30% of Sentras in 2013. Post claims 100% of their growth is coming from Hispanics. Brands that are not yet targeting Hispanics or have tried and been unsuccessful in the past should be looking at these best-in-class examples and emulating them. Nissan and Post are just two examples of companies that have devised well executed multi-media marketing plans that take into account those cultural connections. Both companies are spreading the word of their success by participating ad honorem in Univision’s “Return on Influence” campaign aimed at helping more companies find similar success.
Overall, I see progress. Yes, it’s been slow. At Burke, we’ve seen the struggles as we’ve worked with clients to capitalize on this market. However, I am encouraged by the increasing sophistication of the marketing I see. As a target of Hispanic marketing, I find that I am scratching my head less and less when I see ads attempting to persuade me to buy something. I am most encouraged by the availability of better research resources that help us better advise our clients. We’ve gone from searching for best practices, to establishing them, and are now perfecting them as access to this population grows with the advent of tools like mobile. I sense even bigger strides in the next 15 years.
As Vice President of Research Innovation at Burke, Inc., Thania Farrar is constantly challenging the ways researchers gain insight into what people do and why to give our clients a competitive advantage.