BrainTrust Query: Why are we missing when it comes to Hispanic marketing?
By David Morse, President & CEO, New American Dimensions, LLC
When it comes to understanding Hispanics, we Americans display an uncanny sense of ignorance. That was the essential point of two completely dissimilar articles I read this week.
The first article, written by RetailWire’s own BrainTrust panelist, Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, is called Kosher Subways and Car Insurance for Dogs? And You Can’t Do What for Hispanics? (AdAge – 1/25/08). Rochelle refers to two campaigns, an ad for Progressive Insurance featuring a Labrador Retriever, and a Glatt Kosher Subway store in Los Angeles with the tagline “Subway. Eat Kosher.” instead of the familiar “Subway. Eat Fresh.”
To quote Rochelle, “About 40 percent of the U.S. population owns a dog. But only about 2 percent of the U.S. population is Jewish, and fewer yet are Glatt Kosher. Still marketers have found innovative and insightful ways to create products and services that are relevant to the lifestyles and tastes of these two highly valued consumer segments. … When it comes to U.S. Hispanic marketing, it has always been a mystery to me when clients say they can’t make culturally relevant modifications.”
The second article, by Gregory Rodriguez, appeared in the Los Angeles Times. Rodriguez bemoans the media hype generated by a well-known Hispanic pollster who opined that Latinos would not accept an African American candidate. Despite listing some impressive examples demonstrating that the claim doesn’t hold water — Harold Washington, David Dinkins and Charles Rangel — the pollsters’ comments have been featured on shows including Tucker Carlson, Hardball and NPR as if they were conventional wisdom.
Rodriguez asks, “If a Hillary Clinton campaign official told a reporter that white voters never support black candidates, would the media have swallowed the message whole? What if a campaign pollster began whispering that Jews don’t have an ‘affinity’ for African American politicians? Would the pundits have accepted the premise unquestioningly?”
Discussion Questions: Is the American public, marketers included, naïve and gullible when it comes to understanding the Latino consumer? If so, why? If not, why do there seem to be so many mistakes?
[Author’s Commentary] I have a favorite urban legend, one that I have heard literally dozens of times, most recently from the publisher of one of the best known Spanish language newspapers in the country. The claim is that the Chevy Nova was a flop when the car was launched in Latin America because Chevrolet didn’t get that Nova in Spanish, “no va,” means “it doesn’t go.” The morale of the story is that the pitfalls in Spanish language marketing are many and that one can, with the best intentions, unwittingly make big blunders.
The Nova is a nice fairy tale, and it’s point is a good one, but it’s simply not true. First, General Motors has publicly stated that the Nova was a success in Latin America. Second, no Spanish speaking person would ever connect the name to its reputed lack of motion, nor do they even really sound the same. Until recently, the premium gasoline at any Mexican Pemex station was called Nova. And the idea that General Motors’ entire Latin American staff would miss this is laughable.
So don’t always trust the experts. Rarely trust the election pundits, especially when casting your vote. And when marketing to Hispanics, take some of Rochelle’s advice. Whenever appropriate, use bilingual signage and/or packaging, add menu items and/or condiments that reflect a cultural connection with the Latino community in the trading area, train your staff about Hispanic culture, and develop “product or service innovations based on culturally specific values or behaviors.”
- Glatt Kosher Subways and Car Insurance for Dogs? – AdAge.com
- Clinton’s Latino spin – Los Angeles Times