The Marketing of “La Presidencia”

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Sep 22, 2004
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By David Morse

Joe L. Whitley is credited with the statement, “If you think advertising doesn’t work, consider the millions of Americans that now think yogurt tastes good.”

In this year’s presidential election, the Bush and Kerry camps obviously concur. An unprecedented $17 million has been spent on Spanish language ads, targeting the 7 million Latinos that are expected to vote in November.

The importance of the Hispanic vote is beyond dispute — no president has ever won an election with less than 30% of it. Pundits say that the Latino vote could be crucial in winning New Mexico, Nevada, Arizona, Wisconsin, Colorado and Florida. New Mexico’s Hispanic governor, Bill Richardson, who by no coincidence was Democratic Convention Chairman, was quoted as saying that Hispanics will “decide this election.”

But unlike African Americans, who have historically been die-hard Democrats, Hispanics have been much less monolithic in their voting behavior, with a demonstrated propensity for crossing party lines.

The conventional wisdom is that Hispanics are “socially conservative,” with an unwavering focus on immigration reform. But there is evidence that casts shadows on both sides of the equation.

For instance, a recent poll by the Pew Hispanic Center/Kaiser Family Foundation showed that Hispanics were essentially split on the issues of gay marriage and abortion, calling into question the socially conservative premise.

Immigration may not be the hot button it’s supposed to be either, despite the rhetoric. In a poll released this summer by the National Council of La Raza (NCLR), only 8% of Hispanics ranked it as the most important issue for the Latino community, a distant third behind education/schools (34%) and economy/jobs (22%). The Pew/Kaiser study showed immigration as ranking nearly at the end of its importance list.

Still, Kerry has pledged sweeping immigration reform within his first 100 days as president. Meanwhile, President Bush has been criticizing Kerry’s views on U.S. policy in Latin America, another issue of limited interest to voting Hispanics.

Significantly, 58% of respondents in the NCLR study disagreed with the statement that “political candidates are talking about the issues most important to the Hispanic community.” This lack of relevance was undoubtedly a contributing factor in the 2000 election when less than half of eligible Latinos voted.

Moderator’s Comment:
Critics including Washington Post columnist Marcela Sanchez have criticized both parties for focusing too much on immigration and not enough on issues
of real concern to Hispanics. She calls for a more “nuanced courtship” of Latinos that avoids stereotypes. She evidences as one stereotype the colossal expenditures on Spanish
language advertising, despite estimates that eight in 10 registered Latinos primarily speak English.

Are there lessons to be learned from the 2004 presidential campaign by marketers looking to
influence purchases, rather than votes? How might the “nuanced courtship” theory be applied in order to increase ROI? How do you create effective advertising of the Joe L. Whitley
variety in such a nuanced market?

David Morse – Moderator

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