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Finding the Gold in Hispanic Marketing

Many brands are using new insights into U.S. Hispanic audiences to grow their businesses
  • April 27 2011

Five centuries after the discovery of the New World, today’s marketing conquistadors are seeking to capture the attention of the U.S. Hispanic market. Along the way, they are finding hidden gold: an upscale, educated audience that responds to brands that speak its language, whether English or Spanish.

“In almost every brand category, Hispanics are sophisticated consumers who are very loyal,” says Don Browne, president of Telemundo. “If you reach out and show them the relevancy of your products and services, they will stick with your brand through thick and thin.” Today, the U.S. Hispanic population is estimated at 46.9 million people—15 percent of the total U.S. population, according to a September 2009 Census report. The 2010 Census is expected to confirm rising numbers of Hispanics throughout the nation, including in the strongholds of Los Angeles, New York, Chicago, Miami and Texas.

In addition, the Census Bureau projects the economic clout of U.S. Hispanics will rise from $862 billion in 2007 to more than $1.2 trillion in 2012, accounting for 9.7 percent of all U.S. buying power. “Any marketer who doesn't recognize the value of this consumer is missing a great opportunity,” says Tom Maney, svp, ad sales, Fox Sports en Español. “This is an educated and employed consumer with a lifestyle that includes technology and upscale consumer goods.”

Despite its importance, the Hispanic market is still underserved by many consumer-products companies, notes Elena Sotomayor, evp, event marketing/ ideation at Cardenas Marketing Network, Inc. “For brands that want to tap into Hispanics, the sky is the limit, as they can market to different segments in different ways.”

Meanwhile, Hispanic advertising and marketing firms are finding a growing demand for information about this specialized market. “This is a great time to reach out to Hispanics,” says Jessica Pantanini, COO, Bromley Communications, LLC. “If you have the right insight, a strong message and an effective plan to communicate that insight, you can have a very positive impact. But you have to go through a diligent planning process rather than simply checking off a box in your list of media strategies that says ‘Hispanic’ campaign.”

The 2010 Hispanic Investment Trends Analysis done by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) shows that advertisers allocated 5.4 percent of ad dollars during last year’s recession to reach Hispanic consumers, up from 5.1 percent in 2008. Preliminary analysis indicates marketers shifted non- Hispanic media dollars to the Hispanic market in an effort to optimize their overall results.

“Today, the general advertising market is super-saturated and brands have to shout all over the place,” says Carlos Martinez, evp and managing director, Conill. We believe the opportunity is really in the Hispanic segment. Marketers can take their budgets and show a greater ROI by allocating more for Latinos.”  


To succeed, it’s not enough to translate a general market message into Spanish, say agency executives. Brands should understand and respect the market’s cultural and geographic diversity and precisely identify the target consumer. “The biggest mistake that a company can make is to view the Hispanic market as homogeneous,” says Gloria Rodriguez, president and CEO, Comunicad. “It’s all about peeling away the different layers to find the right audience.”

Companies should consider whether they need to reach Englishor Spanish-dominant consumers and the audience’s acculturation levels, geographic location and country of origin, she adds. It’s also important to factor in the bicultural population-consumers who navigate comfortably between the Hispanic and general market cultures.

“The acculturation model we use is very dynamic, particularly as it pertains to the bicultural segment,” says Alex López Negrete, president, CEO and chief creative officer, Lopez Negrete Communications, Inc. “After all, Latino consumers have different language proficiencies, but do not live isolated lives. That means they are more bicultural or less bicultural as they move through their daily lives-and this is reflected in their in attitudes, behaviors and receptivity to messaging.”

Consider the example of a Mexican-American family consisting of a 28-year-old male married to a 26-year-old female with two young children. “They wake up in the morning speaking Spanish, eating Latino foods and listening to Spanish radio or watching Spanish TV,” says López Negrete. “When they go into the workplace, the U.S. culture begins to dominate. But if Mom is shopping for food or clothing for her family, the Latino cultural triggers become very important.”

Country of origin and regional culture are also important. According to the Census Bureau, the U.S. Hispanic population includes 64 percent of Mexican background, 9 percent Puerto Rican, 3.5 percent Cuban, 3.1 percent Salvadoran, 2.7 percent Dominican and the remainder from Spain and other parts of Central America or South America. The median age of U.S. Hispanics is 27.7-well below the 36.8 median age for the overall U.S. population-and 25 percent of children younger than 5 are Hispanic.

“When reaching out to the Latino market, brands should look carefully at their translations, as well as ways to reach English-dominant consumers,” says Rodriguez.
“Most importantly, it’s critical to think about the different Hispanic cultures and adjust your message accordingly.”


While broadcast television, radio, print and outdoors are the traditional means of reaching Spanish-speaking audiences, digital, mobile and event marketing channels are proving to be effective in reaching younger Hispanics.

“Cable viewing is growing substantially in the Hispanic market, while broadcast is declining,” says Maney. “Spanish-language cable now has a 17 to 18 percent share of viewing of adults 18-49 on a total-day basis. With sports, general entertainment and lifestyle networks, Spanish-language viewers have increasing choices of quality programming.”

New advertisers are moving into the Hispanic market in categories like insurance, consumer electronics, fast food and male personal grooming, adds Paul Laureano, director of integrated sales and marketing, Fox Sports en Español. “The marketing community has a growing respect for the Hispanic consumer.”

At the same time, mainstream TV shows like Ugly Betty, Modern Family and Lost are featuring Hispanic themes and characters and appealing to bicultural audiences. “This pan-Hispanic dynamic is now influencing mainstream culture beyond the pop culture trends like music, food, film and fashion to include social change, as well,” says Daisy Expósito-Ulla, CEO, d expósito & Partners.

In many cases, insights gleaned from the Hispanic market are helping to drive campaigns in the general market, adds Expósito- Ulla. Her agency’s tagline for the Hispanic 2010 Census campaign (“Open your door to the Census and the Census will open doors for you”) was also used to motivate African-Americans, Asian- Americans and other groups.

Another example of this cross-over effect is ConAgra’s success with Hispanic celebrity chef George Duran as a national spokesperson for its Hunt’s brand. “Both Hispanic and non- Hispanic consumers love George,” says Expósito-Ulla. “He is being used in on-air integrations, public relations and social media, and the campaign is generating great results for the brand.”

Another cost-effective way for brands to reach Hispanic consumers is through event marketing, according to Sotomayor. Alex López Negrete, Lopez Negrete Alain Groenendaal, Wing Carlos Martinez, Conill

“You can use your creativity to develop fun ways for consumers to touch and feel your products,” she says.

For example, Olay organized an event for 180 Latino women and their guests, who experienced the brand’s Total Effects (TE) skin care line at a mansion in Los Angeles. The contest was promoted through a partnership with Univision with online registration at olayparati.com. Afterward, all participants reported that they will use Olay and recommend the brand to other women.


While TV and radio continue to be effective in reaching Spanish-dominant consumers, brands are also using digital and social media to connect with target consumers. “Hispanics are really embracing digital,” says Kim Chance, Bromley's media planning director. “That gives brands an opportunity to deliver relevant content on multiple screens. And the growth in mobile and digital isn’t just replacing TV. Hispanics are consuming more of everything.”

Contrary to popular perceptions, Hispanics are heavy users of digital media, according to several agencies. Conill Chief Creative Officer Pablo Buffagni says, “Brands trying to get close to the Hispanic consumer should consider creative cross-platform strategies that allow for multiple levels of engagement.”

However, there are differences in digital media consumption patterns. “Many Hispanics conduct their online searches in English because there is far less digital content in Spanish,” says Alain Groenendaal, president and CEO, Wing. “Therefore, some online metrics may under-represent Hispanics. For many brands, the relative lack of Spanish-language content could be an opportunity since there is less competition in that search space.”

Mobile is another up-and-coming channel, especially for reaching younger Hispanics. Citing a report from the Hispanic Institute, Rodriguez notes that 53 percent of Hispanics use mobile broadband technology, compared with 30 percent of non-Hispanics.

That high use of mobile technology presents both opportunities and challenges for marketers, adds Rudy Ruiz, president and CEO, Interlex. “There is work to be done educating marketers on the speed with which Hispanics have embraced this technology,” he says. “How do you connect and leverage Hispanic cultural triggers while tapping into the consumers who are early adopters of technology?”


In 2010, brands have growth opportunities throughout the Hispanic market, according to agency executives. Among the most promising targets:

-Hispanic women, who are becoming more educated, more entrepreneurial and more financially stable. “These moms are challenged with balancing work and family and rely more heavily on brands in creating a loving and nurturing home environment,” says Expósito-Ulla. “However, even though she is open to new methods to accomplish this, she still believes in and maintains  many of her traditional attitudes and behaviors. This is particularly true in cooking and child rearing, where many Hispanic moms feel they never really strayed too far from the basics.”

-Hispanic youth, who see themselves as unique and have distinct attitudes and behaviors. “It surprises me that more marketers aren't doing more in this space in Spanish,” says Pantanini. “After all, the youth component is big and getting even bigger.”  One wrinkle: Hispanic teens tend to hold on to family values “Even though they go out and have fun with their peers, like other young people, they generally respect their parents and elders,” says Expósito-Ulla.

-Cross-border Hispanics. For some brands, a U.S. Hispanic initiative can be supplemented with a parallel campaign in Mexico or another Latin country. “There can be substantial brand benefits in the home country, as well as here,” says Pantanini. “However, marketers need to be aware that brands may be distributed differently in those markets, and that can affect the positioning strategies.”


While cultural and language differences remain among regional Hispanic populations, there's also a trend to more crossover among various groups. “Because Hispanics come here from many different cultures, they learn from each other,” says López Negrete. “As a result, they are forging a unique identity with a broader understanding of all things Hispanic and American.”

One example: more tolerance of regional Spanish accents in broadcasting. “An actor or broadcaster from Argentina, Cuba, Mexico or Colombia can be more authentic, as long as the colloquial expressions don’t conflict with the essence of the product, service or message,” says López Negrete. “That new freedom is one reason you are seeing better work in the Hispanic media landscape.”

That “coming together” is also reflected in the digital world. “Social media and online communities are allowing the overall Hispanic population to coalesce more easily, creating a new melting pot,” adds Ruiz.

In the next decade, that cultural convergence, combined with a fast-growing population, will make U.S. Hispanics an even more appealing target. As Groenendaal says, “We’ve seen the Hispanic market come back this year, and the 2010 U.S. Census is certainly building greater awareness. Many brands are making Hispanics a priority because they see that this is the best way to grow their businesses.”

The New Town Plaza

“Social media helps brands connect with younger Latinos,” says Carlos Martinez, evp and managing director, Conill. “Now, social media is the new plaza del pueblo. Hispanics want to be together and socialize, which is one reason they love social networking.”

Online networking also allows Hispanics of all ages to connect more easily with family and friends back home. “Traditionally, we maintained those ties through travel and long-distance calling,” says Daisy Expósito-Ulla CEO, d expósito & Partners. “Now, we are using social networking, VOIP, smartphones and cable/satellite TV services to communicate with loved ones, share life experiences and consume international media.”   

Tips for Marketers
- Be sure messaging reflects the Hispanic culture. Translating a general market message is usually ineffective and can backfire if a consumer feels “this brand doesn’t care about me.”
- Don’t assume that messages need to be in Spanish. English or bilingual strategies can be effective with acculturated Hispanics.
- Consider the best time of day for messaging. Bicultural Hispanics may switch from Spanish- to English-dominant depending on their daily activities.
- Seek out influencers. Social media and word-of-mouth are powerful ways to reach Hispanic audiences.
- Be patient. Building relationships doesn’t happen overnight.
- Look for marketing synergies. When developing new creative content in English and Spanish, for example, brands should integrate the two programs at an early stage to consolidate production costs. 

Giving Young Latinos a Taste of Dr Pepper

When Dr Pepper Snapple Group sought to raise awareness and sales of Dr Pepper among Latinos, Lopez Negrete Communications developed a multimedia “Vida23” campaign inspired by the brand’s “23 bold flavors.” Agency founder (and musician) Alex López Negrete co-wrote a high-energy campaign song, “LA LA LA Life/Vida23” and helped produce a music video. “We engulfed the target—Latino youth 13 to 24 years of age—from every possible angle,” says López Negrete.

A triple-wide trailer converted into a youth club branded Club23 toured the country with a sampling booth, three video stations and a dance floor with a live DJ spinning the latest tracks, including a dance mix version of the campaign song.

Online, Dr Pepper evangelists could follow the party or download original ringtones. A Gallery23 allowed them to view downloaded photos. Meanwhile, smaller “VidaVans” featuring gaming options, such as Rock Band, visited stores and supermarkets with instant reward programs, including a chance to win a new Camaro.

The result: Dr Pepper reached and even exceeded its goals in key areas, including awareness, favorite brand status, relevance, and most important, sales over the prior year among users. “Our client’s volume is up in a challenging category, retailers are happy, and there is a strong, relevant relationship now between Latino youth and Dr Pepper that did not exist before,” says López Negrete. 

About the Sponsor

The multi award winner agency specializing in Hispanic Advertising.

Alma DDB

The country's largest hispanic advertising agency.  Their clients include Miller-Coors, Payless, the NBA, BMW, and Scholastic.

Bromley Communications

CMN is one of the leading multicultural event marketing and sponsorship agencies in the U.S. Headed by Chicago entrepreneur Henry Cardenas, CMN produces over 700 live events each year nationwide including concerts, grassroots campaigns, soccer matches and mobile marketing tours.  

Cardenas Marketing Network

A full-service marketing communications agency with over 25 years of experience in the areas of Hispanic/Latino in-culture advertising, public relations, research, media relations, brand development, and new media.


Conill Advertising is a leading provider of marketing services to companies looking to target the Hispanic community. The agency offers creative ad development and campaign planning services, along with media planning and buying services.


D Exposito & Partners LLC provides marketing and communication services. It offers strategic planning, public relations, event and promotion, customer relationship management, media, marketing, and interactive services.

d'exposito & Partners

Dieste Harmel & Partners, Inc. operates as a Hispanic agency in the United States. It provides direct response, promotion, event, and training services. Dieste Harmel & Partners, Inc. was founded in 1995 as Dieste & Partners, Inc. and changed its name to Dieste Harmel & Partners, Inc. in January, 2002.

Dieste & Partners

Fox Deportes (formerly Fox Sports en Español) is a cable television network dedicated to broadcasting sports-related programming 24 hours a day in Spanish.

Fox Sports en Espanol

A multicultural ad agency located in San Antonio, Texas specializing in Cause Related Marketing - Advocacy Marketing - Multicultural Marketing.


An independent, Hispanic owned and operated full service agency specializing in Hispanic marketing.


Telemundo is an American television network that broadcasts in Spanish. The network is the second-largest Spanish-language content producer in the world, and the second-largest Spanish-language network in the United States.


We have the feisty spirit of a creative shop and the scale and resources of a global network. We’re re-imagining what it means to be an agency in the Latino space. We are always trying new things, finding new avenues, and exploring unconventional ideas for our clients and brands where the US Hispanic market, the general market and Latin America intersect.