BRAND LOYALTY OPPORTUNITIES ABOUND: AS TEEN MARKET GROWS, SO DOES CHALLENGE TO REACH BILINGUAL NICHE

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Marketers intent on wooing Hispanic consumers should take a hard look at the impact marketing efforts could have on brand loyalty among the huge Hispanic youth market, say experts.

Nearly 35% of the U.S. Hispanic population is under the age of 18. Marketing experts are keenly aware of the significance of this market and the need to cultivate brand loyalty among a group of consumers destined to become part of a burgeoning adult population.

According to statistics from Strategy Research Corp., of the 30.5 million U.S. Hispanics, about 10.5 million are under the age of 18. About 3.2 million are ages 12 to 17.

TEEN MARKET TO BOOM

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, by the year 2010 the U.S. Hispanic population will escalate to 42.6 million. In addition, there is expected to be a 90% growth in the Hispanic teen population, increasing from 12% to 18% as representation of the entire U.S. teen population.

Regardless of what language a person speaks, "You have to think about when brand preferences have to be formed," says Dolores Kunda, VP-account director at Chicago-based Leo Burnett USA's Hispanic unit.

"You can't ignore this [young] block of the population," says Ms. Kunda. "It is becoming more and more valuable. The [population] numbers show that advertisers need to look at U.S. demographics and see that they will loose out on the future without the Hispanic teen market [today]."

BILINGUAL MARKETING

Loretta Adams, president of Marketing Development Inc., says, her research company conducted a survey among 500 Hispanic teen-agers ages 12 to 17 last October, in the top Hispanic markets of Houston, Los Angeles, Miami, New York and San Antonio.

Results showed 88% of the teens surveyed were born in the U.S. Half of those had at least one parent who was born outside the U.S. About 34% speak Spanish at home while 4% speak Spanish with friends. About 14% speak English at home and 37% speak English with their friends.

The data also indicate Hispanic teens are closely oriented with their family, heritage and culture.

PURCHASE INFLUENCERS

According to Ms. Adams, teens have an important influence on their parents' purchases and for this reason, too, they should not be overlooked.

"Culture defines attitudes," says Ms. Adams.

Hispanic teens are not rebels. In general, their attitudes tend to reflect the morals and values of their parents.

Family relationships are valued and, according to the MDI survey, more than 75% of those surveyed perceive their parents or family members as heroes.

Advertisers should learn to understand the culture and language of Hispanic teens because as their numbers increase, so will their weight as consumers, according to Ms. Adams.

Ms. Kunda says the concept of understanding what it means to be bicultural is important in order to reach the consumer of the products that marketers are promoting.

Tony Dieste, president, Dieste & Partners, Dallas, says the Hispanic teen market is "the hardest group to target. [Hispanic teens] are more illusive, on top of trends and constantly changing [their] opinions."

CREATIVE CHALLENGE

He uses the term illusive to explain the way the teens navigate between two languages and two cultures. It is a marketing challenge to develop a creative strategy to reach this group because they are both a bicultural and bilingual group.

MUSIC AN IMPORTANT ELEMENT

In an integrated campaign by Dieste for Frito-Lay's Doritos brand, themed "Sabor a todo volumen," which roughly translates to "The loudest taste on earth," bold and loud Hispanic music is used. Ads feature Hispanic teens and tout Doritos' bold and spicy taste.

Outdoor boards promote the campaign in heavily populated Hispanic neighborhoods. Grassroots sampling was done inside schools and in neighborhood parks.

According to Mr. Dieste, the music was an important component of the TV commercials.

"Music is one of the major in-culture attributes of Hispanic teens that bind them together," says Mr. Dieste, who adds that Hispanic teens share a passion for Latin music. The styles of music differ from salsa to Latin pop, but are all based on Latin roots, he adds.

Magazines and radio continue to be the top media vehicles for reaching Hispanic teens -- with TV following a close third.

According to Teenage Research Unlimited, in a study of 2,000 teens ages 12 to 19, 58.2% reported listening to the radio, 58.6% reported reading magazines and 55.2% reported watching cable TV, as their top media choices.

NEW TEEN PUBLICATION

In response to statistics such as these on the growing youth market, Latin Girl, a new teen girls beauty-fashion title from MicroMedia Affiliates, is set to be launched in November. The title was selected after review by a focus group comprised of Hispanic teen-age girls.

Former Urban Editor-in-Chief Lu Herrera will edit the title targeting the college-bound, bilingual, culturally Hispanic girl who listens to Spanish and English music and watches general-market TV programs such as "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," "Living Single," "ER," etc.

SOMETHING TO CALL THEIR OWN

"It is a huge market not being served by anyone," says Bill Ryan, Latin Girl publisher. "Focus groups gave us a positive response [to the format]. They are looking for something."

Mr. Ryan says the publication will eventually include a Web site and other products. Although he's not ready to reveal advertisers, he says he sees a strong interest in this market.

Michael Wood, director of syndicated research at Teenage Research Unlimited says: "There is no real single bullet to reach teens. [Advertisers] need to be pervasive in all sources of [Hispanic teens'] lives by giving them something they can relate to and creating brands that belong to them."

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