Latina Buying food at the supermarket

Is your company a “gringo”? Secrets of successful marketing to Latinos

Is your company a “gringo” when it comes to marketing to Latinos? Only companies that make a long-term, integrated commitment to marketing to Latinos “get it.”

And you better get it and soon, because a 2012 Nielsen report states that, “Hispanics are the fastest growing ethnic segment expected to grow 167 percent from 2010 to 2050, compared to 42 percent for the total population.”  And it continues to say that Latinos “will be the dominant and in many cases the only driver of domestic CPG sales growth.”

Latina shopping at a small business marketing to Latinos

According to the Urban Dictionary, “gringo” is a “non-derogatory term used to refer to US citizens. Folklore says it was generated when the USA invaded Mexico, wearing green uniforms, and the people shouted at them ‘Green Go Home’.”

In my experience, “gringo” is referred to someone who is an outsider of Latino culture or someone who does not “get it.” When preparing the article, the idea of “getting it” came to mind. Marketing to Latinos and other diverse populations is an art; companies either “get it” or don’t, and mainstream advertising agencies sometimes are not of great help on this matter.

Before stepping into these waters, companies need to understand the cultural challenges and obstacles they face when reaching out to the Latino community, especially if their products or services are not known by this market, are not traditionally used or requested by Latinos, or they have a large competitor established within this market for longer time. A well-known example is Inca Coca, a very well-established Peruvian soft drink that can hardly be beaten by the competition within that community.

Research, research, research. Then plan and execute.

portrait of young businesswoman at airport

As business owners, we all think our products and services are the best thing since sliced bread but customers might have a different idea. They might be used to other type of products or brand names, are unfamiliar with the use of our products and their benefits, or these products might be technically difficult to use, assemble, carry or incorporate into their lifestyle. An example is Latinos preference for mobile devices over laptop or desktop computers.

Marketers know that with enough money and dedication, almost any product can be “sold.” However, that is exactly what companies are not willing to try when faced to Latinos or other diverse populations showing challenging cultural characteristics and lifestyles.

Getting to know your Latino audience is your number one priority so you need to evaluate in advance and with certainty if the expected gain –targets, ROIs and the like–is worth your willingness to invest the money, the time and the effort for the long haul. So far, experience has demonstrated that Latinos are loyal customers so well-thought and planned, researched campaigns should get you to their hearts –and pockets.

We all have witnessed or been part of the “pilot” programs, “several-months-multiple-locations” campaigns being pulled out of the market because the product did not move as fast as expected. Too many times, large companies launch multicultural marketing campaigns without really understanding the implications of changing a product’s perception in the customer’s mind, and the need for continuously targeting the market until these changes take place. They apply expectations and benchmarks that work on the general market –but not resources–into a multicultural campaign. Yes, they “don’t get it,” both the concept and the market.

Once your company is aware of the internal and external resources needed, and the target market particulars, you need to position your products, services and brand name among your potential customers.

Marketing to Latinos, more than selling products

Afro Latina on mobile phone marketing to Latinos

Your Latino customers not only would like to know about your products and services but also what your company stands for, and what you have done or planning to do to create credibility in their community.

Frequency and consistency are two major factors in successful advertising campaigns to Latinos so they know you are there to stay. Targeting Latinos also includes aiming at their influencers, people they trust for advice and recommendation.

Media diversification is instrumental in making your multicultural campaign a success. For instance, advertisers relied for years on radio and TV ads when targeting Hispanics, knowing their preferences –Spanish channels experienced the largest growth among all major TV stations for several years. But now the power of social media in the Latino community cannot be ignored. In addition, they can access any publication and local or international website by means of their mobile devices.

If you are building your campaign around holidays and events, it is not enough to drop a couple of ads here and there for Hispanic Heritage Month, or Christmas jingles in Spanish. A culturally driven campaign will work around holidays and events that are meaningful to the community you target: it might be Cinco de Mayo for Mexican-Americans in Los Angeles –although this Holiday is seen as a “gringo” Holiday by many Latinos– but it might be the Puerto Rican parade in New York City. Just dropping a Spanish translation of your Super Bowl campaign won’t work either.

Finally, your company needs to be aware that Latinos expect a “holistic experience.” If you translate your website into Spanish, make it a mirror of your English one. Your translations and images need to be impeccable and culturally attuned to the target market. If you ask them to click for “español,” better have someone culturally trained speaking the language on the other side of the receiver.

Their buying experience must be satisfactory and so needs to be their customer service support. Otherwise, in their minds, your company will just continue to be a “gringo.”