Reaching the Hispanic market takes more than Spanish

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Juan Oubina and Montse Barrena.
Juan Oubina and Montse Barrena.

The buying power of young Hispanic consumers has prompted a new focus to putting them at the center of brand strategy

For the past two decades, marketing and advertising aimed at the Hispanic consumer has mostly been handled by agencies specializing in this demographic. As this population has grown—Hispanics are responsible for more than half of all U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2012, according to the Pew Research Center—marketers and their agency partners are realizing that their revenue growth increasingly depends on connecting with Latinos, and many are looking to break down the walls between Hispanic marketing and their general market strategies.

The U.S.’ 54 million Hispanic consumers command $1.4 trillion in spending power, Nielsen reports. The median age of the 64 percent of Hispanics born in the United States is 18, compared with 40 for foreign-born Hispanics and 42 for non-Hispanics. Those young consumers demand brands’ attention at the center of the conversation, not as an afterthought.

Montse Barrena and Juan Pablo Oubina are driving one such effort as co-leads of Deutsch LA’s year-old DLAtino practice. Both Barrena, executive VP and group account director, and Oubina, executive creative director, recently joined the Los Angeles division of Interpublic Group’s Deutsch from independent agency Grupo Gallegos.

"I’ve worked at independent Hispanic agencies for years, and so has Juan," Barrena said. "We’ve built our team here at DLAtino to be able to offer the same level of Hispanic audience expertise, but we have built it within Deutsch LA to make sure the Hispanic audience is considered and part of the conversation from the beginning, as soon as we begin to put strategies together for clients."

Barrena and Oubina both emphasized that including the Latino consumer at a strategic level is not a conversation about using, or not using, Spanish-language content or media. "It’s Marketing 101. The first thing we look at is the brand’s core consumer," Barenna said. "Once we have defined our core consumer, we dig deeper into age, gender and lifestyle. If that consumer is Latino, we decide at a tactical level whether we need to communicate in English or Spanish or both."

Marketers have traditionally viewed non-English-speaking consumers in terms of acculturation, presuming that immigrant groups move in a linear fashion from speaking their native language to English and from maintaining their native culture to embracing the American "general market" culture. This pattern is not holding for Latinos, however.

"There are some Latinos we would consider completely assimilated, but that is a very small percentage," Barrena said. "The majority, even of those born in the United States, is bilingual. They consume media in both Spanish and English. This is very evident in social media. On the Hispanic Facebook pages for big brands, you will see comments in both languages."

So, what would a marketing, creative and media plan look like if the Latino consumer is included at a strategic level? "Regardless of the environment in which the consumer encounters the brand and regardless of the language within that environment, the consumer would get the same message from the brand," Barrena explained.

As an example, she pointed to a DLAtino campaign for 7Up that launched before she and Oubina joined Deutsch LA. The agency identified the Hispanic millennial consumer as its primary target for 7Up and realized that a brand repositioning and fresh creative approach would be required to reach this consumer. "EDM (electronic dance music) indexes highly with Latino millennials, although it’s not Spanish music, per se," Barrena said. "This consumer and EDM is about being very optimistic, looking on the brighter side of life, so DLA created a campaign around ‘up’ moments, which is what 7Up stands for."

Because the EDM trend is not an exclusively Latino one, she added, "the general market consumer was included, and much of the campaign ran in English. Regardless of the language, though, the Latino millennials told us in focus groups that they knew it was for them."

Barrena warned that implementing an inclusive approach in marketing and advertising organizations that have a history of treating the Latino market separately is not easy. "The business side will have to lead this," she said. "At the top levels of companies, people will realize that they don’t need to go outside of the U.S. to fuel growth for their brands when we have an emerging market growing up here."

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