Getting Hispanics to be a Pepper, too

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For Dr Pepper, it's not as simple as just picking a language, Spanish or English, for its first Hispanic campaign.

The challenge, one many marketers agonize over, was to find a concept that works with both acculturated Hispanics who grew up drinking Dr Pepper and recent immigrants for whom it's essentially a new product. To make it tougher, everyone knows rivals Coca-Cola and Pepsi-Cola. Coke is one of the biggest brands in Mexico, country of origin of two-thirds of the U.S. Hispanic market. And Pepsi figures its fastest-growing market is multicultural youth and markets accordingly, spending $22 million, or 11% of its U.S. budget on Hispanic advertising last year, according to TNS Media Intelligence.

To reach its dual target, Dr Pepper has come up with one word, in two languages: "inconfundible," and its English equivalent, "unmistakable."


But it took slow, deliberate steps to get there. Last September, Plano, Texas-based Cadbury Schweppes Americas Beverages hired Stephanie Bazan as Hispanic marketing manager to kick-start the Hispanic effort, starting with a test in Texas. Ms. Bazan, a Puerto Rican raised in New York, was working in ethnic marketing at Blockbuster after marketing stints in Latin America.

"Acculturated Hispanics speak English and are part of the American mainstream but identify with their Hispanic heritage," Ms. Bazan said. "They're watching general-market TV and listening to Hispanic radio. For the unacculturated, who are Spanish-dominant and have been in this country less than five years, this is more of a product launch."

Hispanics generally consume more fruit-flavored beverages than non-Hispanics, and acculturated Hispanics drink 62% more Dr Pepper than the general-market population.

"That was eye-opening," she said. "We knew they were drinking lots of Dr Pepper but we didn't know we had such a huge opportunity with the unacculturated. Hispanic is where we think the growth opportunity is for Dr Pepper."

In November, the company picked a Hispanic agency, Cartel Group, based in San Antonio and run by CEO Victoria Negrete, originally from Mexico, and Exec VP Jesus Ramirez, a native of San Antonio.

Mr. Ramirez hit the road, renting an RV and traveling around Texas to interview pockets of Dr Pepper lovers he found through friends of friends and their friends.

"We had Dr Pepper lovers and people with no relationship with the brand," he said. "We had to figure out a bridge to get them together so we could proceed with one target the way it is in the general market."

He discovered that bridge was Dr Pepper's taste, easily distinguished from rival cola brands that taste much alike.

"People didn't always say it was better," Mr. Ramirez conceded. "But even if they don't like it, they can tell you what it is. We harnessed that insight."

A TV spot that broke last month uses those familiar with Dr Pepper as advocates for the brand. Blindfolded teens in a laboratory sip canned drinks through a straw, rejecting each with a bored "No." When given Dr Pepper to sample, they recognize it instantly and refuse to give the cans back.

A series of radio commercials come in both acculturated and unacculturated versions. In one Spanish-language spot, Hispanics asked to try Dr Pepper on the street are surprised and delighted at the taste. In the English-language version, acculturated Hispanics are asked if they can pick out Dr Pepper in a taste test. All are confident, agreeing to wear blindfolds and even bet money.


"For both my audiences, it's about inducing trial," said Mr. Ramirez. "Get the ones who have never tried it and, on the other side, those who haven't had Dr Pepper in a long time."

In another pair of radio spots, a guy brings his girlfriend a soda, hoping that in the darkened movie theater she won't realize it isn't Dr Pepper. She does, and other moviegoers complain about their hissed argument. Like in Latinos' real lives, the English-language version is peppered with Spanish. When she tastes it and complains, a guy sitting nearby calls out in English "Dude, buy her a Dr Pepper!"

All ads end with "unmistakable" or "inconfundible."

Now the same process is starting with other Cadbury Schweppes' brands. Last week Ms. Bazan went to a focus group that is a first step in Hispanic efforts for 7Up, Sunkist and Squirt, brands handled by the carbonated drinks division's other Hispanic brand manager, working with Cartel. (Cadbury Schweppes' multicultural marketing director, Omar Garcia, is leaving the company next month.)

Noncarbonated drinks are further behind. A spokeswoman said Snapple has no Hispanic effort, and Hawaiian Punch just does some local Hispanic radio. But as planning starts for 2006, the company is looking at adding Hispanic efforts for a number of brands, she said.

The big exception is Cadbury Schweppes' Clamato, which several years ago gave up on the general market and now markets only to Hispanics with humorous spots from Omnicom Group's Del Rivero Messianu DDB, Coral Gables, Fla.

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