January 26, 2001


Spanish strategies

Top Hispanic marketers share some key traits — they emphasize research, speak
the language and tap media aimed at their target audience

By Doreen Hemlock and
Joseph Mann
The Fort Lauderdale Sun-Sentinel

January 22, 2001 - It's 2001, your company wants to do more targeted marketing, and you've decided to reach out to the fast-growing Hispanic community in South Florida that already tops 1.5 million people.

Where do you start, and what strategies might work best?

The experience of three companies successful with U.S. Hispanics— Goya Foods Inc., BellSouth Mobility and Hispanic PR Wire Inc. — shows there's no substitute for doing research, using Spanish appropriately and tapping media aimed at Hispanics.

Goya, the biggest U.S. Hispanic food company, has boosted sales to roughly $ 700 million a year by tailoring its products to the tastes of Hispanic groups: red beans for Puerto Ricans, black beans for Cubans and half dollar-size olives for Peruvians, for example.

BellSouth Mobility, which won the Greater Miami Chamber of Commerce award as the top Hispanic marketer in 2000, opted for a "neutral" Spanish-language accent in its cell-phone ads to appeal to a wide range of Hispanics from diverse national backgrounds.

Hispanic PRWire, meanwhile, carved out a public relations niche with its U.S. Hispanic media database, so companies can send out news releases in Spanish and English to specific reporters and media outlets — from the large Spanish-language TV network Univision to small weekly newspapers such as El Venezolano.

Here's a look at how they succeeded:

A matter of taste

From its 1936 roots serving mostly Puerto Ricans in the New York area, Goya Foods today reaches markets across the United States and beyond, serving Hispanics and non-Hispanics alike.

The Secaucus, N.J.-based firm, founded by two immigrants from Spain, now offers more than 1,000 processed food items — from fried plantain slices to frozen mango and 30 types of beans and peas. Sales last year were expected to top the $ 685 million posted in 1999.

So, how did Goya evolve to reach a crazy quilt of Hispanic groups, including Cuban-Americans in South Florida, Mexican-Americans in California and Salvadorans in Washington, D.C.?

To start, said Goya spokesman Rafael Toro, "You do the market research. You go into the neighborhoods, you go into the stores, you talk to your people."

The company also seeks employees who know Hispanic tastes. "Our director of marketing is Hispanic. Our director of purchasing is Hispanic. Ninety-five percent of the people who work at Goya are Hispanic," Toro said. That includes more than 200 employees in South Florida, one of the company's largest markets.

Once Goya identifies the type of Hispanics in a specific community, it caters directly to those tastes. "You can't sell Puerto Rican food to Mexican-Americans, or Mexican food to Cuban-Americans," he said.

That helps explain why the company, upon finding many Mexicans moving into New York City, introduced new products there — such as chilis, salsas and refried beans — designed for Mexican palates.

To market the products, Goya highlights family and communication as key themes. Ads underscore the importance of meals as a time when family and friends come together, said Rudy Quant, advertising and public relations manager in Goya's Miami office.

When Goya targets a specific Hispanic group, such as Mexican-Americans, it tailors ads even further "to use the right verbiage, music, dishes and setting" for those consumers, said Adalis Arroyo, senior account supervisor at Lopez Negrete Communications in Houston, which handles advertising for Goya. She said Goya wants to make sure "people see themselves in our advertising and products."

Goya does not limit itself to Hispanic buyers. With the rising popularity of Latin celebrities, music, food and films, the company also is reaching out to people with no Latino roots.

Said Toro: "Hispanics aren't the only ones who eat beans." The right tone.

When BellSouth Mobility decided to pitch its wireless services directly to Hispanics, it wanted to find the right tone. So, it hired a firm specializing in Hispanic marketing to supplement its own skills.

The company saw great potential for Hispanic business in southeast Florida, already the fourth-largest wireless market in the United States.

Today, more than 40 percent of South Florida residents from their mid-teens and up subscribe to cellular services, with that portion likely to reach 80 percent by 2003, studies show. Plus, more than one in four of the area's residents now is Hispanic.

BellSouth chose Miami-based IAC Group Inc., which describes itself as a multicul-tural marketing and communications firm, to help craft a long-term plan to reach the area's diverse Hispanic groups.

Through focus groups and market studies, BellSouth researched Hispanic residents from Vero Beach to Key West. It found many share common values: family, communication with loved ones and loyalty. Also, while many residents speak both Spanish and English, a large number prefer to talk with sales and service personnel in Spanish.

"We have to speak to people in the manner they want to be spoken to," said Pat Collier, Hispanic marketing manager in Florida for Cingular Wireless, the joint venture that recently combined BellSouth Mobility with SBC Wireless.

"Getting to know the communities and offering support are important," she added. "People do business with people they know."

Next came the task of finding the right ad themes, words and images for Hispanic campaigns.

One print ad, for example, used a photo of a female gymnast in mid-somersault, along with the Spanish phrase, "Siempre caen bien." The message is catchy, because it's a play on words meaning at least three things: "They always land on their feet," "They always make good (telephone) connections," and "They're always appealing."

Ads for TV and radio presented another challenge: which Spanish accents and slang to use. BellSouth opted to go "neutral," eschewing regionalisms and appealing to Hispanics as broadly as possible.

To reflect the diversity of the community, ads also used the "rainbow of colors" concept, choosing actors who resembled Hispanics of various races, said Gabriela Alcantara, who handles the BellSouth Mobility account.

Beyond advertising, the company also reached out to the community, joining organizations that serve Hispanics and supporting Hispanic festivals. In one Miami program, it helped buy 1,000 bicycles for children — many of them Hispanic — in low-income neighborhoods.

Plus, the company aimed to make sure the program would be long-term and consistent, earmarking funds just for Hispanic markets and separate from its general marketing budget. That move helps avoid battles that sometimes surface as marketers fight over limited resources. "Some companies struggle if these are not separate," said Collier.

Targeting the media

In reaching U.S. Hispanics, there's power in Spanish-language media — from nationwide TV networks such as Univision to regional and local radio, magazines, newspapers and Web sites.

Consider, for example, that Univision's WLTV-Ch. 23 ranks as the top TV station in any language in South Florida.

No wonder marketer Manny Ruiz was frustrated.

Working in public relations in South Florida, Ruiz had no problem helping companies get out their message to media in English. He simply tapped into services that send news releases to specific reporters and news desks, from BusinessWire to SportsWire.

But for releases in Spanish, Ruiz faced major headaches. He often found he spent hours at the computer, sending out faxes and e-mails one by one to reporters he had personally identified.

As he built up his own database of journalists who reach Hispanic audiences or cover Hispanic topics, Ruiz saw the chance to offer the service for companies and public relations firms nationwide.

So last October, he and several partners started their own firm, Hispanic PRWire, with an initial investment of less than $ 1 million and offices in Kendall near their homes in south Miami-Dade County.

Hispanic PRWire offers Spanish translations of English-language news releases and sends out those releases in both languages to targeted reporters and media. Clients now can choose from 14 distribution channels focused on technology, immigration or other fields. Or they can opt to reach nearly 200 Latino organizations, such as the National Council of La Raza, or the 5,000-plus elected Latino officials across the country, said Ruiz, the company's chief executive.

For Porter Novelli, one of the world's largest public relations firms, the service proved useful for mass distribution to Hispanic media of news about Crest toothpaste, said Cristine Clavijo-Kirsh, who runs the multicultural practice at the South Florida office.

"I don't think the big (mainstream) services were providing the Hispanic service we needed," she said. "This gets to the right hands."

Ruiz said the time is especially ripe for his service, now that Hispanic media are becoming more specialized, with such new Miami-based magazines as Teen en espanol. And the media base is expanding, with plans for a third nationwide Spanish-language TV network in the states, joining Univision and Telemundo.

So, how can firms best spread their message to the 1,000-plus Hispanic media outlets nationwide?

On news releases, Ruiz suggests companies get specific about Hispanics, not simply translate the same message aimed at general media. A pharmaceutical company trying to sell a diabetes medicine, for example, might mention in a Spanish-language release how many U.S. Hispanics have diabetes.

Furthermore, he suggests integrated marketing, with news releases as part of a broader campaign that also includes ads and outreach in the Hispanic community. To succeed, he said, companies can't expect to scrimp on marketing budgets, even if some Hispanics are poor.

"If you're promoting an event, don't think that Hispanics will be happy with a free T-shirt, if you are giving general audiences a free T-shirt, Frisbees, visors and other things," Ruiz said. "Hispanics will know."

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