Hennessy Connects with the Hispanic Audience

Hennessy's website is in English and Spanish.

The opportunities with the Hispanic market should be readily apparent to U.S. brands by now, but that’s not always the case. Tapping into this audience was one of the topics discussed at the HPRA/ Hispanic Public Relations Association New York chapter’s “Inside the Minds” series on Thursday. Manny Gonzalez, director of Hispanic marketing for Hennessy brand at Moet Hennessy USA was the featured speaker.

According to Gonzalez, “If you’re a brand or company that’s not doing Hispanic marketing, it’s too late to teach you. It’s not worth wasting time and effort educating companies that are not already familiar with this market. Instead, it’s better to go after companies that have already discovered the Hispanic segment.” He first made these comments public two years ago, and feels they apply even more today.

One way Gonzalez advised getting to know the Hispanic market is through “firsthand experience or market immersion.” In the spirits category, that means becoming familiar with the local nightclub scene in urban Hispanic neighborhoods. As a result, he’s very knowledgeable about areas such as Washington Heights in New York and Little Havana in Miami.

As for staffing Hispanic initiatives, Gonzalez noted “brands benefits from having someone dedicated to the Hispanic market effort, especially when a brand is not already well developed in that segment.” While Hennessy does not have a centralized ethnic marketing department, Gonzalez said the brand is very active in the multicultural space and in the Hispanic segment. Belvedere vodka, another Moet Hennessy brand, has more recently begun to invest in the Hispanic market.

Although many brands have turned their attention to the Hispanic market, there are some that are still reluctant. Gonzalez explained, “You need to get down to basics. If a brand’s sales are increasing then it is harder to persuade a company to target Hispanics.” He also advised understanding the company’s organization in terms of who to target for the pitch. He thinks the real opportunity in cold calling may lie in the C-suite. He cited the example of Hennessy’s CEO, who is strongly committed to the Hispanic market.

Gonzalez is a staunch proponent of social media’s role in Hispanic communications programs. However, he thinks that Moet Hennessy has “a long way to go to optimize the social media opportunity,” and considers Louis Vuitton a pioneer in the social media space. He also believes spirits are partly at a disadvantage because they don’t own their distribution channels as retailers do, which makes it harder to link directly to consumers.

Hennessy and Belvedere have still done a good job of tapping into social media through Facebook, Gonzalez reported. While their fan page is in English, many fans post comments in Spanish, which he said works well for the brand and the fans. He added, “Since the power of social media has grown exponentially, it is important to have brand managers who have their pulse on every medium.”