Consumers are cutting back on just about everything right now, but some items—paper towels and diapers, for instance—will always be musts. That said, recession-conscious shoppers won’t part with their money unless there’s a promise of value. It’s a dynamic that David Miller Gomez-Giron, Procter & Gamble’s associate marketing director, sees in action every day. Gomez-Giron—who oversees multicultural marketing for Bounty, Charmin and Pampers—has his sights trained on the Hispanic shopper. And for good reason. Not only is the demo huge (46.9 million), but it also responds especially well to quality/value messages. U.S. Hispanics, Gomez-Giron says, understand that “they get what they pay for,” which is why brands such as Bounty and Charmin continue to gain market share with this ethnic group. Below, Gomez-Giron discusses his ethno-targeting strategy, plus his overall plans to help P&G wipe up the competition.
Brandweek: Colleagues summarize your marketing approach as “turning the tortilla over.” Would you care to translate that for us?
David Miller Gomez-Giron: We are in a time where the importance of Hispanic consumers has turned the tables. [In Spanish, the equivalent saying is se volteo la tortilla, which translates as “turned the tortilla over.”] In 1995, when I was a summer intern at P&G, I was given the Hispanic community as one of my projects. It was not really a priority at the time. Today, in many cases, Hispanics are driving strategic priorities. Hispanics are often the design target, meaning that an initiative is designed to delight this consumer first. Category growth rates are higher for Hispanics in 21 of the 22 categories where we compete, so while it’s still possible for a brand to deliver its goals without [marketing to] Hispanics, they’re becoming a must. The Hispanic market is almost like a developing country inside the U.S.
BW: How is marketing your brands to Hispanic consumers different from reaching out to the general populace?
G-G: It all starts with knowing your consumer better than anyone else. That part is no different with Hispanics. The most important skill is to be able to determine when a simple adaptation of the general market plan will work, and when you need to do something completely different. While you can follow a more basic formula—such as always translating the general market copy or doing something unique for Hispanics—you’ll find that the former can miss the target by a lot in some cases, and the latter is resource-intensive and not always necessary. There are, however, some Hispanic nuances that are very consistent. For example, we were doing value-oriented communications before it was trendy. That’s because Hispanics are very price sensitive and value-oriented consumers. As such, we have had to be more overt to demonstrate the value that our products offer them. Many of the ideas and insights that our teams and agencies have around value are now being leveraged by general market brands in their recent plans given the current economic conditions.
BW: Private label has been capturing serious market share of late. Does that trend worry you?
G-G: Private label remains overdeveloped with Hispanic consumers and is growing at a faster pace than in previous years. Interestingly, our fastest growing brand is Bounty, which carries a significant premium versus private label. It is also the brand where we have been running value-oriented communication for the longest time, and consumers recognize its performance advantages. On Bounty, we are growing both share on the value tier (Bounty Basic) and also on the premium tier behind Bounty Extra Soft which was designed to [appeal primarily to] Hispanics. In fact we reached an all-time dollar-share high of 44.6 percent in January 2009, and on Charmin, we are also growing share this year.
BW: Pampers and Bounty are your premium brands. How can you market them at a time when so many shoppers—including Hispanics—just want a low price?
G-G: First, we are leveraging our strong portfolio that allows us to meet consumers’ needs across price tiers. But Hispanic consumers know that “lo barato sale caro” [“cheap can be expensive” or, the English equivalent, “you get what you pay for”]. We must ensure that our consumers continue to understand the superior value that our brands deliver. For instance, in our most recent Charmin copy, we show consumers how, with Charmin, it is possible to use four times fewer sheets than with the leading competitor.
BW: P&G has made a big push for social media across all of its brands lately, but how receptive has the Hispanic community been to Twitter, Facebook and the like?
G-G: We are more than doubling our investment on digital given the growing importance of these vehicles. [On the brands I oversee, however,] we haven’t yet done large campaigns on Twitter and Facebook. TV continues to be extremely effective for Hispanics, and in some cases it is bringing in higher ROIs than the general market.
BW: Name one key insight about Hispanic shoppers that might surprise people.
G-G: These consumers are so value oriented that they will do their own tests at home to see if a product is worth the premium. A consumer recently told us she was running a test with Charmin and a competitive brand—one in the bathroom downstairs, one upstairs—and ended up being loyal to Charmin.