Branding Is Key When Breaking Into New Markets

Firms considering outreach to the Hispanic market should put some considerable thought into a branding strategy, according to an advertising expert who spoke in Washington last week.

Luis Vasquez-Ajmac discussed advertising and marketing to the Hispanic community at a Greater Washington Board of Trade event I attended at the National Press Club.

Vasquez-Ajmac is a native Guatemalan who moved to Washington when he was six. He founded national branding agency MAYA in D.C. in 1990 and recently opened an office in Los Angeles. His firm has done work for the Navy and Homeland Security departments, insurer GEICO, Ringling Bros. and Freddie Mac, to name a few clients.

"A brand is the totality of who you are: It's your company, your product or service, the idea that guides you and everything for which you stand," he said. It's also a "value proposition, boiled down to a single, thought-provoking image or idea."

For example, he cited singer and actress Jennifer Lopez as someone with a strong brand. "Her brand is her persona and she lives in two worlds with great success. She is a dynamic Latina who embraces her Latina roots and relishes her urban hip hop lifestyle." He said Lopez appeals to both the Hispanic community as well as a broader demographic.

Vasquez-Ajmac offered eight steps to building a brand:

1. Research the core values that drive acceptance and benefits of your brand. Know "about the members of your target audience and how they react," he said. "Reach out to the hip-hop generation or middle aged men by segment marketing...Get inside people's minds. But unless what you're doing has measurable metrics," it's not usually worth the effort.

2. Analyze your competition and its role in the marketplace. "Know the market better than your competition and understand niches, nuances and dynamics," he said, adding the classic military strategy book The Art of War can provide insights in this area.

3. Communicate your brand's fundamental benefits with absolute clarity. "A clear, targeted message will stand out from the herd. An ambiguous one will never be embraced." He recommends involving members of the target audience as a company tries to develop its message.

4. Position your brand for specific target markets. "Trying to reach everyone with generic messages and materials is a sure formula for reaching no one...If you're targeting specific cultures make sure your staff includes people from those cultures."

5. Develop a brand image that is contemporary, exciting and on target.

6. Create brand consistency using media, public relations and research. Consider your brand's attributes when you decide which events to sponsor. He suggests that if your firm is supporting health promotion programs for Hispanics, you would be better off sponsoring a reception for the opening of a Hispanic health clinic rather than a golf tournament benefiting an entire hospital.

7. Use media and public relations to expand awareness and build goodwill for your brand. For example, as more Hispanics began to buy homes in the United States, the Freddie Mac Mortgage Banking Association used public relations to respond to a shortage of bilingual banking professionals.

8. Plan and invest in your brand's future and continue to evaluate your marketing results. "Do not expect your brand to grow overnight...Consider it as you would a long-term financial investment."

He added that there have been big changes in how marketers reach out to Hispanic Americans, largely because more of the community is going online. The AOL Latino 2006 Hispanic Cyberstudy found that there are upwards of 16 million U.S. Hispanics online, which is about 55 percent of the total U.S. Hispanic population. Nearly 80 percent of that 16 million has access to broadband. About 68 percent of Hispanics online say the Internet is the best source in making final brand decisions. They also enjoy social networking, with about 68 percent of the community using instant messaging and 52 percent saying they read or post blogs.

UPDATE: I went through my notes from the event and added this information addressing some of the comments to the original post:

*Hispanics come from 22 different countries, so there may be cases where a marketer wants to drill down into the interests of a particular community. It's not always necessary to segment it out like that;

*Consider regions of the U.S. that Hispanics may live in - one panelist noted that a 27-year-old Mexican worker who immigrated to Charlotte, N.C. is going to have a different assimilation experience than someone who fits that profile but ended up in Miami;

*If it makes sense for your business, start by translating your firm's literature, menus, etc. into Spanish. Papa John's pizza had great success doing this in the D.C. market. Be aware that not all lingo is the same among Spanish-speaking communities;

*Chevy Chase Bank has had success by having Spanish-speaking employees wear badges that say "I Speak Spanish" in Spanish. Potential customers were intimidated to seek out a Spanish speaker in customer service and often would try and talk to someone who looked Spanish to them;

*Enrique Carrillo, a v.p. at Chevy Chase with Cuban-American roots, hosts a Cuban-themed party each year at his own house for about 200 top clients. Vasquez-Amjac hosts an event themed around the December Christian celebration of Las Posadas.

*Panelists agreed that marketers should consider that Hispanics in general like to touch, feel and shake things.

*GEICO had an excellent response to a direct marketing campaign that was in English but included Spanish words. "Latinos feel strong about their cultural identity...Spanish words do resonate but make sure you do a test market," said Vasquez-Ajmac;

*Hispanics are extremely loyal. Wendy Thompson, general manager of Telemundo, said when she first came to the U.S. she worked as a nanny for eight years. She could only find one bank that would allow her to open a checking account. The bank has since been bought by Bank of America and she says she will never leave that bank no matter how many solicitations she gets.

*There is a digital divide between Hispanics and non-Hispanics, but the gap is quickly closing. It's hard to tell at this juncture how online marketing will affect the Hispanic community, but it's worth noting that there's a large population of online Hispanics under the age of 18 and an even bigger population under 34.

By Sharon McLoone |  July 1, 2008; 10:26 AM ET Tools and Tips
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Please email us to report offensive comments.

Nothing new here. These "rules of branding" apply to all branding and are not particularly insightful. It would be more helpful to know what type of branding messages appeal to Hispanic consumers and whether they respond more to Spanish communications versus English.

Posted by: DB | July 1, 2008 11:15 AM

I have to agree with the previous poster, and I'd like to know more about the big changes in marketing (and whether they seem successful) as a result of Hispanic consumers going on-line.

Posted by: Chuck Davies | July 1, 2008 4:59 PM

Responding to the previous two commenters, there has been a large amount of research on online advertising to Hispanics. Notable reports include those from Pew, Yahoo, and the IAB. The most important takeaway, in my mind, from that research, is that the US Hispanic market is big enough now that there is not one sure way to reach Hispanics (e.g. Spanish vs. English), it really depends on which Hispanics you want to reach, whether that is 1st generation Spanish-speaking immigrants or 3rd generation English-speaking teens. As with all good advertising, you have to think about who you want to reach and then craft an online strategy to reach that particular person.

Posted by: Danny Allen | July 2, 2008 7:53 AM

Hi. Thanks for the comments. I went back through my notes and pulled out speaker comments addressing specific marketing ideas in reaching out to the Hispanic community. I added those notes to the bottom of the original post.

Posted by: Sharon M. | July 2, 2008 11:01 AM

Ms. McCloone: Thanks! Helpful additions.

Posted by: Chuck Davies | July 2, 2008 11:56 AM

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