Retailers Break Out of Multicultural Silo

Walmart, Kmart, Target and Kohl's Focus Programs and Advertising to Appeal to Developing 'Total Market'

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No one lives the "total market" -- the term used to describe the blending of the general and multicultural markets -- like Walmart.

Last month Gisel Ruiz was elevated to exec VP-chief operating officer at Walmart, and Rosalind G. "Roz" Brewer was named president-CEO of Sam's Club, becoming the first woman and the first African-American to hold the CEO title at a Walmart unit. Ms. Brewer's successor as president of one of Walmart's three U.S. regions is Hispanic.

Walmart is also serious about diversity in its agencies, according to Steven Wolfe Pereira, who has a dual role as exec VP of MediaVest and managing director of MV42, MediaVest's multicultural unit on the retailer's account. "Ten percent of all Walmarts are in Texas, 6% in Florida, 4% in Illinois and 5% in California," said Mr. Pereira, emphasizing that one-quarter of the stores are in heavily Hispanic states.

Walmart still works with the first U.S. Hispanic agency it hired 17 years ago, Lopez Negrete Communications. The independent survived Walmart's review, started in 2005, in which it fired all its general-market agencies.

Lopez Negrete gets not just a seat at the table, but a good one. Tony Rogers, Walmart's senior VP-brand marketing and advertising, said at the Association of National Advertisers' multicultural marketing conference in November that the company planned to "blow up" its multicultural marketing budget, moving the money out of that silo and into the individual business units.

About 80 of Lopez Negrete's 200 staffers are involved with the Walmart business, and one works out of its Bentonville, Ark., headquarters. The agency now deals more with individual category leads. Walmart's Hispanic Center of Excellence functions primarily as a consultant, which shifts more of the responsibility for growing Walmart's multicultural business to Lopez Negrete.

The agency, for example, plunged into the humorous "Every Cart Tells a Story" TV campaign developed by the Martin Agency, Walmart's general-market shop. Spots always start with items at the checkout counter, then cuts to how they're used at home. One item is always incongruous. Lopez Negrete's "Tea Time " includes a tea pot, a princess dress, cookies -- and mouthwash. At home, a little girl entertains her father with a tea party, until he realizes that she has filled the teapot with water from the toilet (hence the mouthwash).

There are subtly different general-market and Spanish-language spots. The dad in the former version is goofier; in the latter he has more interaction with the daughter. The mouthwash brand is Listerine in the English version, Scope for Hispanics.

Walmart is the biggest-spending retailer in the Hispanic market, and No. 15 among all advertisers in Spanish-language media, at $66.6 million in 2010, according to Ad Age 's Hispanic Fact Pack. Sears Holding Co., which includes Kmart and Sears, is No. 19 with $53.9 million spent in 2010, followed by Target Corp. at No. 27 with $40.3 million. Kohl's spent $14.8 million.

Sponsorship of Q Viva! The Chosen ties in with apparel lines.
Sponsorship of Q Viva! The Chosen ties in with apparel lines.

Some of the discounters focus their efforts on collections with Latino celebrities. Kohl's rolled out clothing lines with Jennifer Lopez and Marc Anthony last year. It also sponsors their TV show, "Q'Viva! The Chosen," which airs on both Spanish-language Univision and Fox.

Kmart is linking with Colombian-born Sofia Vergara of hit comedy "Modern Family." Kmart launched Sofia Vergara lines of apparel, footwear, accessories and jewelry last fall, with TV and print ads in English and Spanish by PMH. A campaign featuring Ms. Vergara is expected midyear. "The general market and the multicultural market have merged," said Mr. Stein. "She's relevant to both."

The four retailers aren't big on Spanish-language websites or Facebook pages, although Kmart does have a Spanish-language web presence.

Kmart is continuing last year's Kmart Latina Smart platform, built around a group of blogueras that has brought in more than 26,000 Facebook fans. And Sears Holding, which includes both Kmart and Sears, is a founding sponsor along with General Mills, General Motors' Chevy brand and Procter & Gamble of Mamas Latinas, a site for Hispanic moms started by CaféMom in late January and run by Lucia Ballas-Traynor, the former publisher of People en Español magazine. Kmart has built out a style and fashion area, and is running ads throughout the site for the Sofia Vergara collection and Kmart's layaway program.

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