In politics, it has become suicidal to ignore the Latino vote. In business, ignoring Latino tastes is equally as foolish.
One in six Americans is Hispanic. By 2015 Latino buying power is estimated to reach $1.5 trillion; this represents 11 percent of the nation’s total buying power. That is why business leaders, entrepreneurs and media across the U.S. have been getting serious about pursuing the Latino consumer dollar. What they have come to realize, however, is that the Latino consumer is complex.
Wooing the Latino consumer, as local Latino ad agencies in CT can attest to, is a complicated matter. It is more about cultural intelligence than simply translating English copy into someone’s native language.
Such challenges, however, come only after an agency can get their foot in the door as a reputable agency for Latino marketing. And accessing a marketing budget from potential advertisers – even harder.
Maria Lino, Principal/Account Director at The Latino Way, has over 10 years of experience in the communications industry. The Latino Way is a two-year-old marketing and advertising agency based in Hartford, CT. Carlos Masias is the Principal/Creative Director, and has over 25 years of experience in the advertising world.
Despite their overabundance of experience and their confidence in being able to represent, understand, and communicate with and for the Latino community, they say they face challenges as they compete with larger general market agencies for advertising dollars.
“We are facing challenges in order to have our fair share of the budgets from the capital,” says Lino. “There are a lot of marketing campaigns, the state runs many marketing campaigns, and sometimes they don’t take into consideration Latino-owned agencies.”
Many times, she says, these campaigns go to general agencies or even out-of-state agencies who don’t know the community as intimately as a local agency would and therefore don’t know how to represent the population correctly.
Lino explains that most general agencies don’t realize or have a full understanding of the diversity of the Latino population in Connecticut, which while a small state, consists of a wide range of Latino communities that may require a different approach.
“Sometimes when you are talking about Latino communities, you can’t just talk about one kind of Latino,” says Lino. “Here in CT we have many diverse Latino communities and we have to be aware of that. Hartford, for example, is mostly Puerto Rican; Waterbury, Danbury and other towns, they have Brazilians, they have Dominicans. Every place with Latino communities living there, they have different personalities and different behaviors. We all speak Spanish, but there are different ways to approach these communities.”
According to the 2010 U.S. census, there are over 500,000 Latinos living in Connecticut. However, in cities like Harford, Latinos now represent more than half the population;; Lino notes that this segment of the population is not being reflected in many campaigns.
A common ‘rule of thumb’ to reaching Hispanic consumers by general advertisers has been that Spanish speaking Latinos can be reached through Spanish language vehicles, and English speaking Latinos though general media.
Lino, however, says an important component is then missing in many of those campaigns: the messaging and approach that resonates with Latinos, who despite their language preference, strongly identify with their ethnicity.
She does note that more advertisers are beginning to understand the nuances of this market and she adds. “The interest to invest in Latino markets is changing a little bit, but the challenge is still there.”
Ramon Peralta, founder and creative director of Peralta Design located in Shelton, CT, says he has encountered similar challenges.
Peralta, an American-born Latino and a seasoned advertising man, was a part of the team that started Priceline and worked with the inventor, Jay Walker, for 10 years, starting a variety of companies.
Five years, ago Peralta decided to branch out on his own and established Peralta Design, and while he’s been successful, he has not been able to tap into the lucrative Latino advertising dollar, which continues to evade his firm as well.
“I don’t know if it’s a cultural thing,” says Peralta whose entire creative team is bilingual, adding, “It’s frustrating at times, because I feel like there’s an entirely untapped market with the Hispanic buying power that I’m not really taking advantage of.”
Peralta has joined numerous organizations within the community in order to get exposure to other Latino organizations, in the hopes that these community ties will help him get his foot in the door with potential clients and/or corporations.
Another challenge Peralta faces is in finding advertising budgets for the Latino community, from the community itself.
“My experience with the Latino community, with the smaller businesses, is that they don’t really have a budget or value a budget for the types of services we provide,” he explains. “So education is probably going to be one of those entry points for me. If I could access small businesses that are owned by Latinos, and just explore the value of good branding, of consistent branding, of proper messaging or how to reach their target markets, then perhaps they would value it.”
Both Peralta and Lino are optimistic, as they continue to establish themselves as reputable Latino agencies in Connecticut. They know time is on their side, as the U.S. Latino market is now 53 million strong, but it’s projected to be 132 million by 2050 –an extraordinary amount of buying power.
Annika Darling CTLatinoNews.com