Taking Hispanic Marketing Beyond Language, Acculturation

SMG, Telemundo Study Will Offer Insights for Marketers, Help Develop Relevant Content

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NEW YORK (AdAge.com) -- Starcom MediaVest Group is partnering with NBC Universal-owned Telemundo Communications Group on an in-depth Latino-identity study to give marketers more insight into the changing U.S. Hispanic market and help the companies develop relevant content.

Monica Gadsby
Monica Gadsby
The study will go beyond language and acculturation, said Monica Gadsby, CEO of SMG Multicultural, the multicultural media holding company within Starcom MediaVest Group. "It's too easy to put Hispanic in the Spanish box that clients check and move on. In the last five years, the Hispanic market has gotten far too complex. It's impacted by language and levels of acculturation but also passions and interests and lifestyle that shapes a person's identity."

Last year SMG Multicultural partnered with black futurist Nat Irvin II in a study called "Beyond Demographics" that explored different African-American archetypes he had developed, then linked with MRI and Nielsen data to plan and buy against those consumer groups on behalf of clients such as Walmart, Walt Disney Co., Dell and General Motors.

"We started with African-American because we felt there was significantly less information available, and the largest level of misconception about the value of doing something targeted," Ms. Gadsby said. "Every time we shared African-American [research] with a client, we got positive feedback, and the first question was always when were we doing the Hispanic one."

Lacking the archetypes Mr. Irvin had identified for the African-American study, SMG and Telemundo assembled an eclectic group they dubbed "cultural translators" that included Hispanic ministers, priests, a TV cooking-show host, academics, the entertainment editor of People en Espanol magazine and an agent for Creative Artists Agency to devise a dozen or so Latino archetypes during a two-day session this summer in New York moderated by Mr. Irvin.

Those results were shared with a client advisory panel that included executives from Procter & Gamble, Walmart, Kraft Foods, Burger King and Wrigley, who also gave their input.

The next stage is to find and do in-depth focus groups and home visits with people who fit the 14 different archetypes, which range from mostly Spanish-dominant recent immigrants to global Latinos who are multilingual and whose "orientation is the world," said Esther Franklin, exec VP-director of cultural identities at SMG. "It will illuminate Latino identity beyond language and how marketers can prepare themselves for when a large percentage are going to be English-dominant but cultural relevance will still be critical."

Jacqueline Hernandez
Jacqueline Hernandez
With Telemundo as a partner, SMG can not only share costs but develop programming with one of the biggest producers of original Hispanic content. "It's not about one message reaching all Hispanics," said Jacqueline Hernandez, chief operating officer of Telemundo. "It will help us understand who our consumers are, and help us mirror them. A character in a novela could be one of the segment archetypes in the study."

Ms. Hernandez, who fits the global Latina archetype herself, said her two favorite archetypes are the "Menos Macho" new Hispanic man and the independent Latinas dubbed "Las Liberadas."

The timing is smart. After all the interviews are done and the quantitative data added, the "Beyond Demographics Latino Identity" study will be out next year, giving SMG and Telemundo new marketing platforms and content just as the 2010 census data starts to emerge. The last census, in 2000, led to an explosion in Hispanic advertising dollars as marketers realized the Latino population was much bigger and faster-growing than many had realized.

"It's a convergence of challenges, to deliver one-on-one engagement, redefine delivery formats and transcend language," Ms. Gadsby said. "We want to be well-positioned with our knowledge of the consumer to take advantage of new platforms in a uniquely Hispanic way."

At the same time, she said, she doesn't want to scare clients. "We're being very careful about not making this so overly complex that it's not actionable."

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