Saturday, November 14, 2009

As American as Tres Leches

The 2010 Census will radically alter the demographic map and the rules of engagement between Hispanic and general-market shops. Hispanic Americans continue to grow in number at a rate four times that of the general population, with the 2010 Census expected to show their total rising to nearly 50 million, from 38 million in 2000. And second-generation Hispanics are fast becoming the driver of the group's growth, with 88 percent of Hispanic children born in America, versus 61 percent of adults.
As a result, agencies that market to this segment are finding themselves in a strong position, armed with the skills and techniques to take on general assignments from big-name clients. Meanwhile, in a tight business environment, general agencies are starting to compete for work previously reserved for specialist shops.

"In the 2010 Census, we'll see confirmation of a shift from Hispanic consumers who are first generation, where Spanish is the dominant language, to second-generation, bilingual, bicultural consumers. It totally transforms how we market," says Cynthia McFarlane, chair of Publicis Groupe's Conill, a Latino agency. There is a new American culture forming, and these consumers are having a tremendous impact on mainstream America."

McDonald's, which sees higher brand loyalty among its Hispanic consumers, has added offerings like breakfast burritos to its national menu. In further evidence of the growing bilingual voice of Hispanic consumers, McDonald's runs ads with Spanish taglines in general-market media, and earlier this year used "Spanglish" in general-market advertising for the Quarter Pounder.

Hispanics now have about $863 billion in discretionary annual income, more than any other minority group in the country. (As of the third quarter, Americans overall had disposable income of $10.8 trillion.) Agencies argue that spending power is still underestimated and that upcoming Census findings -- expected to be released beginning in early 2011 -- will deliver a wake-up call to marketers.
"It will be a huge eye-opener when we see the growing affluence of the Hispanic marketplace, not just in buying power but also in household wealth," says Conill's McFarlane. In 2006, Toyota liked a Conill TV concept for the Camry so well; it turned it into a Super Bowl spot.

"There are certain categories, geographies, brands where the Hispanic market is now the general market and the Hispanic marketing strategy will be the overriding strategy," says Alex Lopez Negrete, CCO at independent Lopez Negrete Communications in Houston.

Language does remain an important factor. Some 44 percent of Hispanic consumers say, at home, they speak Spanish only or more often than English; 25 percent say they are equally bilingual; and 31 percent use English only or more often than Spanish, according to research from Synovate and Nielsen. (That last number offers a glimpse of the future Hispanic marketplace: Among second-generation consumers, 93 percent say they are bilingual or English dominant.)

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