Why It’s Never the Right Time to Integrate the Hispanic Market into Your Company’s Current Growth Strategy

By Terry Soto, Author of Marketing to Hispanics A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative

I often find myself on the phone with a management person who has suddenly “seen the light” and wants to lead the company onto a more strategic path; a path that will once and for all produce the types of results that will position the Hispanic market as one of several catalysts for their company’s growth.

I’ll hear something along the line of, “I know we’ve hit the wall on this and I know we just won’t get past this point if we don’t coordinate our efforts internally.”

And, here comes the BUTs;

  • BUT the rest of the organization thinks we’re doing just fine because we’re growing.
  • BUT I’d have to get a sense for much appetite there might be for an initiative like this.
  • BUT we’re about to venture into some M&A activity and this work won’t get the attention it deserves if we do this now.
  • BUT the last time we targeted the Hispanic market we didn’t have much to show for it so we stopped when budgets got tight.
  • BUT our sales people aren’t asking for it so it’s hard to justify.
  • BUT I just started and I want to first see what I can do with the resources we have and then we’ll see.

And the list goes on. The truth is we can justify not taking action all day long and a year from now, two years from now we’ll be having the same conversation except your frustration will be at an all time high and you’ll be trailing your competition. Most companies don’t have the luxury of wasting valuable time to “think about” whether they want to organize to seize the only consumer market that is growing at an astounding pace and the only consumer market driving sales growth across most product and service categories.

The irony is that when we typically see or hear about a market opportunity, we inform and mobilize our organizations to leverage the opportunity to effect growth in spite of a myriad of objections and obstacles. We move forward because it makes business sense to do so. We acknowledge, but dismiss the naysayers who are part of every business environment. We consider the source when listening to those who speak from a place of assumptions, who repeat what they “hear” instead of what is fact, who carry forward stereotypes, who fear that doing things differently might say they haven’t done a good job, and who make decisions based on ignorance and in many cases fear of change and its personal impact on them. Sometimes when folks hear talk of the need to coordinate efforts to optimize the company’s strategy to succeed among Hispanics, they think their world is about to be turned upside down.

Let’s face it; few of us make decisions or take action without first considering the personal impact and many of us believe that leaving well enough alone is best. But is it?

The growth opportunity Hispanics represent to today’s top line growth for companies is very real. Your job is to shed light on the opportunity and the cost of ignoring or paying it lip service. Your job is to act in the best interest of the business. I believe knowledge is the key and creating awareness of the link that exists between Hispanics and your company’s direction, priorities and goals is paramount.

The truth is that many in the C-Suite simply don’t know of the misalignment that exists between the company’s mission, values and priorities and the needs of today’s very different consumer landscape, and worse, the fact that stagnant or declining sales are often a direct result. So, should it be a priority to integrate Hispanics into your current and future initiatives? I think deep down, we all know the answer to that question.

Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California – based strategy consulting firm specializing in helping her clients dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to succeed in the Hispanic market. terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com


Multicultural, General Market Agency or Both – What’s in Your Brand’s Best Interest?

By Terry Soto, Author of Marketing to Hispanics A Strategic Approach to Assessing and Planning Your Initiative and President and CEO, About Marketing Solutions, Inc.

The multicultural agency world has grown very sophisticated over the years. However, the fact remains that multicultural agencies continue to have a strong Spanish-language and Spanish language media focus. One could argue they have been pigeon holed into the Spanish language realm because many marketers equate multicultural and especially Hispanic marketing with the Spanish language.

Recognizing the largely Bilingual and English preferred U.S. Hispanic market of today, multicultural agencies are seeing and are recommending the need to develop Bilingual and English language creative for English language media, if for no other reason than because it makes strategic sense to target a brand’s target consumer profile in this manner. But herein lie multiple challenges: 1) Multicultural agencies typically don’t have the budgets to make English language media buys, 2) Multicultural agencies don’t own the responsibility for buying English language media and clients want to avoid having two separate agencies planning and buying English language media, 3) Marketers want to avoid two sets of English language messages running side by side on likely the same media, and at the crux of the matter, 4) Clients are still treating general and multicultural work as separate efforts instead of thinking of the brand’s target profile segment (s) with the races, ethnicities and cultures represented in the target profile and developing strategy to address the needs and wants and media behavior of these buyers rather than targeting based racial, ethnic or cultural characteristics.

This is a serious dilemma for multicultural agencies and one which often corners them into recommending Spanish language creative and media even when it makes more sense for a brand to emphasize a bilingual or English language driven culturally relevant campaign.

To overcome some of these challenges, some marketers have opted to consolidate their agencies and assign their whole creative and media accounts to their general market agencies. In doing so, the idea is to have a brand’s strategy, creative and media planned and implemented in a more integrated fashion, and certainly more efficiently and effectively than if handled separately. At least that’s the intention. However, the truth is that once in-house, many general market agencies continue to treat multicultural and general market work separately, and multicultural work as an afterthought instead of thinking of the client’s target profile as one. In many cases, general market agencies continue to minimize the importance of multicultural consumer targets and to overstate the effects of a general market approach so as to minimize the impact of media dollar allocation that diverts dollars from general market media budgets. In the end, this approach doesn’t end up being the optimal solution intended by the client.

I propose that optimal solution as follows:

  1. Don’t consolidate.
  2. Use both agencies to define the brand’s or brands’ target profile (s) segments and to consider the races, ethnicities and cultures these segments include
  3. Utilize the input and experience of both agencies to develop the required integrated business strategy
  4. Use both agencies to jointly define the messaging strategy including the contextual and subtle nuances that will make the creative relevant and relatable to the brand’s target profile
  5. Jointly develop or participate in the creative development process
  6. Hire a separate media agency to plan and place an integrated media plan to neutralize the battle for media dollars between agencies
  7. Ensure the media agency allocates media budgets based on what it’s going to take to reach the brand’s target effectively and efficiently rather than allocating by race, ethnicity and culture

It’s important for marketers to accept and recognize that in today’s U.S. consumer market it is almost assured that most brands’ target segments will be comprised of multicultural consumers; in many cases disproportionately so. As such, it’s time clients to step up their game in acquiring the competency to understand the implications on their brands and to take a leadership position in how they lead the work of their agencies. Consumer market ignorance or market biases are not valid excuses for either clients to defer direction to their agencies or for agencies to bias their market focus. Turf battles between agencies will always exist so it is always in clients’ best interest to make it clear how the business should be managed and the results for which each agency is responsible individually and collectively.

In the end, multicultural and general market agencies have their respective expertise and deliver significant value. It is the client’s responsibility to ensure this collective expertise is leveraged in favor of the brand, not in favor of fees, commissions or egos.

Terry Soto is President and CEO of About Marketing Solutions, Inc., a Burbank, California – based strategy consulting firm specializing in helping her clients dramatically improve overall business performance by optimizing their strategies to succeed in the Hispanic market. terrysoto@aboutmarketingsolutions.com.