|The J&J tractor trailer pulls into a Wal-Mart parking lot, sets up shop and welcomes crowds into its Hispanic 'home,' where a family demonstrates how they use the company's health-care products.
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Called the VidaNuestra ("Our Life") program, the tour started March 5 in Miami. The complex undertaking is noteworthy because it is considered an extraordinary feat for a company as determinedly decentralized as Johnson & Johnson. It also underscores the growing sophistication of Hispanic marketers in general as well as the importance that J&J places on this now-crucial market segment.
“It hasn’t been easy because it involves 15 brands and 7 individual operating companies,” said Rosalinda Markels, franchise director of the Hispanic Business Unit at McNeil Consumer & Specialty Pharmaceuticals. “We started a year ago.”
“You hear about the power of grassroots marketing, and [the different J&J operating companies] all wanted to do it, but it’s oh so expensive,” Ms. Markels said. In the end different operating units agreed to combine forces.
“Everyone contributed what it could, then we went to corporate, and it was spread over two years, starting in 2004,” she said.
The exterior of VidaNuestra trailer is painted to resemble a hacienda, and the inside is segmented to feel like a six-room house occupied by the 10-member Bueno family, represented by life-size cutouts. All the Buenos are engaged in using an amazing array of J&J products as a part of their daily lives.
Plaza in a parking lot
The VidaNuestra experience starts when Hispanic consumers come upon what looks like a Spanish plaza, blaring Latin music, at a Wal-Mart or a local fiesta. They enter the trailer and go from room to room to see how different products are used by the cutout family's parents, grandparents and four children, ranging in age from infancy to 16. The story is narrated by preteen daughter Sofia in a series of bilingual print bubbles modeled after foto novelas, a print version of popular telenovelas, said Shelly Lipton, executive director of AIM Alternative & Innovative Marketing, a San Diego-based Hispanic marketing and promotions company that organized the program.
Consumers are asked simple multiple-choice questions, and the answers are behind oversize product packages of each featured brand. For instance, the first question is “What is Splenda?” Sofia explains that her family uses the no-calorie sweetener in coffee, a popular Mexican fruit-flavored drink called aguas frescas and homemade cookies, Mr. Lipton said. Elsewhere in the kitchen, Grandpa Javier uses LifeScan's OneTouch for diabetes testing.
Product samples and health tests
At the end of the five-minute tour, consumers get product samples, a VidaNuestra custom magazine and the chance to do health tests such as a blood pressure screening and diabetes risk assessment. A bilingual VidaNuestra.com Web site coming soon will have tour data, content from the magazine and links to J&J brands, some of which have content or sites in Spanish. The Web address will appear on the truck and in the magazine, and a national public relations campaign will help drive consumers to the site.
During a typical VidaNuestra day, the Bueno home parks at a Wal-Mart for eight hours. The tour kicked off at the Calle Ocho festival in Miami in mid-April, and will end in California in October.
The advantages of working with Wal-Mart are that the retailer is dedicated to the Hispanic market, recognizes the value of educational programs, and has the volume of customers to make an effort such as VidaNuestra work, Ms. Markels said.
“We’ve been doing the best we can on a brand-by-brand basis, but for initiatives like this we can leverage costs and expertise,” she said.
She said this is a trial year but that VidaNuestra has the potential to skyrocket as J&J masters the complexities of the multibrand promotion.
“We quickly had to rein ourselves in and focus on the basics -- the tour, messaging, the partnership [with Wal-Mart] -- then we can talk about how to create more buzz and marketing,” she said.
Ms. Markel’s own role has changed since planning began for VidaNuestra. She was a retail marketing manager for J&J but since December has been leading a new dedicated Hispanic-only marketing team for McNeil, a departure from the marketer's usual brand-by-brand approach. “It goes a little against our natural brand focus, but the operating companies are paying attention,” she said.
$50 million Hispanic ad spend
All 15 products participating in VidaNuestra have some affinity with the Hispanic market, but their efforts range from only TV or just promotions to fully-integrated programs. Johnson & Johnson spends about $50 million a year on Hispanic TV and print media, according to TNS Media Intelligence measured media spending figures.