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Hispanic consumers share ‘opiniones’ on direct mail

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Are Hispanic consumers more likely to respond to direct mail? According to Vertis Communications’ “Customer Focus OPINIONES” survey, the answer is a resounding “Sí.”

The survey, unveiled last month, found that 64% of Hispanic adults surveyed had responded to direct mail advertising in the past 30 days, compared with just 46% of the general U.S. population. Also, 71% of Hispanic consumers indicated that they read direct mail. The medium was even more popular among certain subsets: 75% of Hispanic females and consumers of Puerto Rican origin told researchers they read direct mail.

The survey was conducted as part of Vertis Communications’ annual Customer Focus research, which helps direct marketing and retail professionals better understand how consumers make buying decisions. Using random-digit dialing to reach a representative sample of Hispanic households across the U.S., researchers collected phone feedback from 500 adults in August and September of 2006.

In addition to direct mail readership, the “OPINIONES” survey considered other issues important to Hispanic consumers, including linguistic preferences, incentives and country of origin. Perhaps the most surprising findings were in the area of linguistic preference and propensity to respond to direct mail.

Sixty percent of Hispanics who speak English at home said they responded to direct mail in the past 30 days, while 70% of Hispanic adults who speak only Spanish at home said they responded. Interestingly, those who speak Spanish both inside and outside the home were even more likely to respond to direct mail advertising, coming in at an impressive 74%.

Scott Marden, Vertis Communications’ director of marketing research, said the key message for marketers is, “Get Spanish-speaking Hispanics to read your mail because, if they do, the data suggests that they are going to respond and they want to act.”

Scholastic’s At Home division, which markets continuity programs for children’s books, learned this lesson firsthand when it began marketing to the Hispanic community in 2001. Following comprehensive testing, the company decided to communicate exclusively with Hispanic customers and prospects in Spanish, as opposed to using bilingual materials.

Nick DiMarco, VP-marketing for Scholastic At Home, said, “You really have to know your audience and understand whether or not you should be marketing in Spanish only or … in a bilingual fashion.”

Based on DiMarco’s experience, the primary challenges associated with marketing to Spanish-dominant consumers are finding appropriate sources. Lists and magazines targeting the Hispanic market are “very limited,” he said. In addition, marketers sometimes need to abandon traditional sales techniques in favor of those that are clearer and more, well, direct.

“You need to be … upfront with Hispanic consumers,” DiMarco explained. “We did research a while back and found that when they saw an offer that gave them something for free, their first thought was ‘what’s the catch?’ Part of it’s an education process … and that sometimes goes against the grain of a lot of direct marketing tactics.”

But there’s little doubt the extra time and attention targeted marketing to Hispanic consumers requires is worth the effort. The Direct Marketing Association’s 2006 “Reaching The U.S. Hispanic Market Report” indicated that more than 49 million Americans are of Hispanic descent. Projections from the U.S. Census Bureau suggest that by 2050, 23% of Americans will be of Hispanic origin.

Vincent Andaloro, president-CEO of Latin-Pak, a St. Louis-based Hispanic direct marketing firm, encapsulates the significance of Hispanic consumers: “Hispanics have become a stronghold for America’s economy,” he said. “In the past, it was more of a luxury to be able to market to Hispanics. … Now it’s a necessity.”

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