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Targeting the 12.5

Posted At: January 1, 2008 9:40 AM 
Effective communication in the growing Hispanic market

by Christine Palma

According to the 2000 U.S. Census Report, 12.5 percent of Americans are Latino or Hispanic. The U.S. Census Bureau projects that percentage will increase to 15.5 percent in 2010, 20.1 percent in 2030 and 24.4 percent in 2050.

Public relations professionals are learning how to reach the Hispanic market, which might account for a quarter of the U.S. population in the next 40 years. To understand this growing market and its influence on the public relations field, Armando Azarloza and Rosanna Fiske offered their knowledge and relevant expertise.

Armando Azarloza is president of the Axis Agency, Weber Shandwick’s multicultural marketing firm. The purpose of the Axis Agency is to assist clients in creating and developing campaigns targeting diverse audiences.



Rosanna Fiske, APR, is associate professor and graduate program coordinator at Florida International University. Her professional experience includes public relations management and consulting for many global corporations.



Defining Diversity

To understand this concept of diversity in public relations, Azarloza and Fiske offered their definitions of the word.

“Diversity to me is an appreciation for the multitude of cultures and contributions made by people,” said Azarloza, “It’s not a color thing, not an issue of nationality. It’s about lifestyle, and the reflection of language and culture. It reflects the celebration of what, as a country, makes us unique.”

Fiske defined diversity as “diverse thinking and perspectives, usually stemming from many different aspects of diversity, such as ethnicity, background, nationality, religion, age, functionality, gender, etc.”

In the last decade, Azarloza has observed substantial changes in the Hispanic market and multicultural communications. Only in the last five or six years, he said, have companies begun to recognize the importance of multicultural campaigns.

“We used to knock on their doors,” said Azarloza, “Now they knock on ours.”

He also noted a greater sophistication of marketing in the multicultural segment. In the past, companies wanted simple translations and organization. “The old way of doing it,” according to Azarloza.

“Today, campaigns are created to speak to culture and community,” he said. The Axis Agency does not just add to or translate an existing campaign, but actually creates specific campaigns for diverse markets.

Targeting and Trends

When targeting Hispanic markets, communicators must recognize specific trends, according to Azarloza and Fiske.

First, the digital divide is closing quickly. At one point, many believed the Hispanic market to be digitally illiterate, but those statistics have changed, said Azarloza. More Hispanics are online than any other group. Specifically, Hispanics are communicating with “home” audiences in Latin America, reestablishing and reinforcing their cultural heritage, said Fiske.

Because of the growing Hispanic market online, Azarloza said that every communication plan developed for the Hispanic market must have a digital component.

Fiske emphasized the importance of social media specifically. “The Hispanic market is adapting to new/social media at a faster rate than any other market, shaping conversations and influence publics,” she said.

Second, marketers must engage Hispanic consumers on a personal level.

“The days of the 60-second spot are way gone,” said Azarloza, “Hispanic consumers welcome touch and feel products.” While the 60-second spot may be great for brand awareness, Azarloza said that corporations must adapt to “bring a brand to life.”

Fiske also explained the Hispanic “dual identity” as a significant cultural trend. “With your non-Hispanic friends, you’re ‘the Hispanic’; with your Hispanic family, you’re ‘the Americano,’” she said.

In addition, Hispanics are engaging in retro-acculturation, which is establishing one’s heritage based on his or her ancestors.

Effective Adaptations

When asked how corporations can adapt their strategies to be effective in a diverse market, Azarloza offered three steps.

First, corporations must understand their target market. Companies should know who their market is and where they are going. This also means defining segments within an audience. In the Hispanic market, for example, there are both English-dominant and Spanish-dominant language groups. There are also varying levels of acculturation, or adoption of a new culture based on the surrounding environment. Knowing the market dictates elements of the resulting campaign.

Second, if a corporation launches a campaign, it must have the resources and tools available to support and sustain its efforts, said Azarloza. This includes Spanish spokespeople and accurate written materials.

“Infrastructure is incredibly important,” he said of corporations launching multicultural campaigns.

Third, corporations must recognize the importance of customization. They must speak to specific lifestyles and specific markets. Many mass campaigns lack specific language and cultural cues.

“If customization is king, content is God,” said Azarloza about customization, “If you don’t have content that speaks to them, you’ve got nothing. You’ve got a campaign full of holes.”

Fiske’s advice to adapting corporations? Research, research, research!

As an example of a successful multicultural campaign, Azarloza cited the launch of Nintendo’s Wii in the Hispanic market. Nintendo’s initial reaction, said Azarloza, was to develop the campaign in Spanish. However, market research revealed that only 40 percent of the 12- to 17-year-old Hispanics targeted spoke Spanish regularly. This particular segment’s results were the opposite of the national average.

Nintendo decided not to launch a Spanish language campaign. Instead, they created a Hispanic-themed bilingual campaign that incorporated the proper cultural cues. Ultimately, this campaign was so successful that it won the 2007 PRSA Los Angeles PRism Award for Best Multicultural Communications Program for a Business.

Fiske echoed this important lingual distinction in the Hispanic market. “There are many Hispanic-centered campaigns that have been successful and were completely conducted in English. Sometimes it’s about cultural affinity and understanding and not necessarily language,” she said.

As the Hispanic population grows, so does the opportunity for skilled PR practitioners to target this vital market. Fiske and Azarloza are among those blazing the trail into a more diverse public relations field. It is up to the rest of us to follow.

E-mail: Armando Azarloza 
E-mail: Rosanna Fiske


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