Why Didn’t Our Hispanic Marketing Campaign Work?

Aug 18, 2005

Editorial by Terry J. Soto, President & CEO, About Marketing Solutions, Inc.

It seems that complaints of less than optimal results from Hispanic marketing efforts surface more and more these days. Retailers seem baffled by failed attempts to gain, satisfy
and retain Hispanic customers. Upon closer examination, the common denominator among most companies facing these disappointments is a lack of upfront cross-functional planning
and implementation geared at servicing the consumer.

By many accounts, companies are rushing into advertising and promotions before they have organized their companies to service this consumer. That needs to take place not only
at the cash register, but across all customer touch points throughout the purchase cycle, and that includes post purchase. This implies aligning the internal operational functions
with marketing.

It happens like this. A retailer advertises an offer and Hispanics respond by calling the store or a customer service number to obtain information. The first surprise: no Spanish-language
automated systems to direct them to the right location for answers. And if there is one, there are no bilingual representatives to provide live support. Or they walk into a store
and there are no Spanish speakers on the floor and the four or five Hispanics that are walking around do not speak a speck of Spanish.

Or, they speak Spanish and haven’t a clue about what is being advertised in Spanish and either negate the offer or provide wrong information. How do we know this happens? We’ve
experienced it first hand through over 500 on-site and telephone mystery shopping experiences for major retailers and banks.

The customer is frustrated, doesn’t obtain the information being sought and chooses another retailer; or they decide not to purchase at all. In effect, this consumer is acting
no differently than any other, but unlike his English-language counterpart, has no access to the purchase decision making information he or she can understand.

Some retailers explain that they outsource call center services to India where Spanish cannot be provided. So why do they not outsource Spanish-language calls to call centers
in Mexico? Yes, it does require an additional consideration, but it is clearly one that is necessary if a retailer is going to use advertising to generate interest.

What about special financing, warranties and rebates? Many retailers and banks build campaigns around these features; campaigns which are then translated into Spanish. The problem
occurs when Spanish-speakers enquire about these offers on the telephone or at the store and aren’t able to have the details clearly articulated. And often, these details aren’t
printed on leaflets or “take-ones” as they are in English.

It is easy to see how the strength of a good commercial or sales promotion offer can lose steam, causing consumers to lose interest and refrain from taking action. One retailer
has said that special financing offers resonate several times more strongly among Hispanics than among non-Hispanics. However, they admit that lack of Spanish language contracts
and financing details often cause difficulty for sales representatives.

Retailers indicate that Hispanics are also more likely than non-Hispanics to buy extended warranty coverage for items, but because these programs are seldom explained in Spanish,
either verbally or in print, there is tremendous confusion and dissatisfaction with the action required on their part when an item needs repair. This in turn is exacerbated by
a lack of Spanish speakers at the warranty call center or at the store to explain complex terms of the warranty. So, you begin to get the picture.

Rebates are another area that lack operational follow-through in terms of customer support. Many Hispanics call customer service centers to complain that they have not received
their rebate checks, only to find out that the action of mailing the form with a UPC code was required on their part. Some retailers are finding out that the knowledge about rebates
taken for granted among non-Hispanic consumers cannot be assumed among Hispanics. Retailers are learning that rebate offer claim processes must be explained at point of sale,
which implies training and walking customers through an often unfamiliar process, even possibly introducing them to a UPC code.

Moderator’s Comment: Are retailers jumping into Hispanic-targeted advertising prematurely before first covering their bases operationally? Are they setting
realistic sales goals and are the right metrics in place?

From the examples above, one can see how advertising and sales promotion campaigns can be easily neutralized by lack of operational follow-through and alignment.
But the worse part is that some major retailers have actually concluded that either the advertising was flawed or that Hispanics are unresponsive, uninterested or cannot afford
the products and services being offered.

The final impact is felt in the metrics when measurement methods are flawed and don’t consider operational hindrances that have put a damper on sales results,
customer satisfaction, repeat purchases and positive word-of-mouth. And this does not even begin to consider whether the retailer has set realistic sales goals, which should be
based on an upfront assessment of its competitive environment (within a Hispanic context).

A retailer once said to me, that they didn’t understand why they couldn’t expect the market share they had projected in an area that was 68 percent Hispanic,
to which I replied that their stores were located in areas where they only had access to 13 percent of that Hispanic population. Suddenly they realized that total population numbers
are meaningless if stores are not in the right trading areas.

Terry J. Soto – Moderator

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10 Comments on "Why Didn’t Our Hispanic Marketing Campaign Work?"

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Brian Numainville
15 years 6 months ago

Len makes a good point…”And for God’s sake, don’t assume you have a viable ethnic marketing program just because the person you put in charge has a Hispanic surname. It takes a little more commitment than that.”

I also think we need to be careful going the other direction and assuming that just because a retailer doesn’t have someone with a Hispanic surname running a program, that they can’t or don’t understand the Hispanic market. This is about having the right skill sets to understand the wants and needs of a consumer group, not about one’s own personal heritage.

Many of the comments already made regarding acculturation, country of origin, community involvement, in-language communication and product preferences are all right on target. Having conducted a great deal of Spanish-language phone surveys, in-store studies and focus groups, all these factors, among many others, must be carefully examined and understood. At the end of the day, it’s all about meeting the needs of your customers.

Mike Romano
Mike Romano
15 years 6 months ago

MACY’S, yes, Macy’s is doing an incredible job the past year in their Macy’s West Hispanic marketing efforts. They have made a real effort to talk to and learn about their Hispanic customer base – which is growing every day, especially in CA, AZ and TX.

In addition to offering options of receiving direct mail in Spanish, they also allow their Hispanic customers the option of receiving promotional sales calls in Hispanic! That is really delivering great service and, I assume, has really caused their customer base to embrace this intimacy based on the tremendous increase in revenue and enhanced consumer perception I’ve been reading about Macy’s West. They must be doing something right!!

Len Lewis
Len Lewis
15 years 6 months ago

Retailers sometimes act like 35 million people just walked across the border yesterday. Hispanics have been a big part of this country for years. Second, third and fourth generations are growing up, entering the workforce and having their own families.

It’s not always about ethnicity; it’s about acculturation. Know who your customer is, how long they’ve been in the U.S. and what they like in terms of U.S. products and items from their home countries that enable them to connect to their roots.

And for God’s sake, don’t assume you have a viable ethnic marketing program just because the person you put in charge has a Hispanic surname. It takes a little more commitment than that.

Ian Percy
15 years 6 months ago

I came close to just letting this item go by. And certainly the contributors before me are much more informed and eloquent. But I look at the examples of botched Hispanic campaigning given above and I think: just how stupid can people be?

What are people thinking when they direct Spanish speaking people to a call center where the language isn’t spoken? Or fail to put Hispanics on a program about marketing to this culture? Or don’t even print the literature in Spanish?

The problem is in how we think – or don’t think. If you want to change your results, you have to change your thinking. And changing how we think is something very few are willing to do. We’d rather keep doing stupid things over and over again.

Repeat this phrase to your self today whether you’re playing golf, writing a proposal or launching a Hispanic marketing program: Change your thinking – Change your results.

Eva A. May
Eva A. May
15 years 6 months ago
Hispanics love to shop in supermarkets, and appreciate any Spanish-language efforts done to make their shopping experience easier. However, they are accustomed to a lack of Spanish-speaking personnel, signage, etc. in many areas of the US – and we still see loyalty among Hispanic consumers to certain stores/chains. Quite early in the acculturation process, Hispanic immigrants realize that they can typically get better prices at a grocery store than at a small “tienda,” “bodega,” etc. So they begin to shop around in nearby supermarkets, and end up being loyal to supermarkets that offer the products they want to buy at the most economical prices. Sure advertising and marketing help build loyalty and generate awareness of a store and its offerings. But if the product array is well-selected and the pricing is fair, consumers will become loyal to the store. The savvier supermarket chains not only offer products that appeal to/index highly with Hispanic immigrants, they are also bringing in special produce, offering traditional Hispanic fresh bakery items, and staffing their meat departments with butchers that… Read more »
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 6 months ago

No. No and No. They are not jumping in too early. They are not setting realistic sales goals and they are not doing whatever that third thing was. Getting started in Hispanic marketing (in fact getting started in any marketing) lies somewhere between analysis paralysis and “fake it until you make it.” The biggest problem is not the trial and error efforts as it is the lack of commitment to core marketing disciplines like targeting and metrics. Hispanic is not a target…segmentation is required. Zip code population information is not the truth about who you will or can attract in and of itself. Starting programs without a “what will success look like” plan are destined to look like failures. And putting things in Spanish and calling that Hispanic marketing is like putting things in English and calling that marketing…it’s lazy and incomplete.

Committed marketers will have success stories. They will also have failure stories. Having failure stories can be interpreted as a sign of success.

Mark Lilien
15 years 6 months ago

A great strategy deserves a great implementation. Great implementations are tested and measured before rolling out. Then they are modified if the measurements show the need. Then they are tested again.

Customer-centric organizations are driven by their customers’ egos, not their executives’ egos. The failures described in the article could’ve been successes if the executives put themselves in the shoes of the customers. The executives would’ve saved themselves embarrassment by announcing the programs up front as tests that would be measured and modified and measured again.

David Livingston
15 years 6 months ago

It’s never too early to jump in but there is a learning curve. I got a brochure for a Hispanic marketing conference next month. The first thing I noticed was that hardly any of the experts and speakers were Hispanic. There wasn’t even a Spanish version of the brochure. Too many retailers and marketers are claiming to be catering to Latinos, however, they end up being a watered down Taco Bell type of merchant. Some retailers, like HEB, are able to market to Hispanics with ease. They had a 75 year head start on everybody. Others, like Nash Finch with Avanza, committed one series of comedy of errors after another. Let’s not rush to judgment just yet. Perhaps in 20 years we won’t even be having this discussion.

W. Frank Dell II
15 years 6 months ago

The answer to why most Hispanic marketing programs fail is simple… it is not one market. To be successful, a retailer must know the heritage of their customers. Customers from Mexico, Cuba and Columbia are very different. They have different tastes, traditions and food preferences. To be successful, a retailer must understand the culture and execute product selection, media, etc. to the sub-segment.

Stephan Kouzomis
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 6 months ago

This Hispanic issue is very similar, to when supermarkets wanted to expand into the meals, and other foodservice offerings.

In the latter case, grocers needed to hire expertise in the food prep, culinary, and foodserive arena! But, most put either deli, bakery, and/or non-food personnel in this meal operation, to build and most importantly, operate. Many errors, and time/money spent in vain.

Same, applies to the Hispanic community that supermarkets want to target! Hire qualified Hispanic personnel that speak both languages; knows the cultural habits of this group; and has a perspective of how to approach Hispanics for their grocery business… food and non-food; Hispanic and non-Hispanic brands; marketing/merchandising acceptable programs and non acceptable. And most importantly, the commitment from the owner of the supermarket, down to the store manger, clerk, and stock boy who can speak Spanish.


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