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Advertisers have an enormous opportunity to reach Hispanic consumers through direct marketing, according to the results of a three-year study conducted by Simmons Market Research on behalf of agency Draft Worldwide, Chicago.

According to the study, published in March 1998, 40% of respondents say they receive only 10 mail pieces annually, 72% say they always read their direct mail, and 33% want more.


The reason for this consumer hunger is simple: There is so little "good" direct mail created for the Hispanic consumer, says Cristina Benitez Turner, former senior VP-director of ethnic marketing services at Draft. Ms. Benitez Turner spearheaded the study for Draft, but she has since left to start her own consultancy, Lazos Latinos, Chicago.

Experts agree that direct marketing efforts must account for cultural nuances in order to succeed with Hispanic consumers.

"When marketers go through the exercise of marketing to Hispanics, they need to recognize the culture and the set of needs the Hispanic consumer, or else they're wasting their money," says Isabel Valdes, president of Cultural Access Worldwide's Market Connections consultancy unit. "Even for bilingual people, Spanish is more than a language issue."

Marketers must understand the similarities and differences in the cultural backgrounds of consumers born in the U.S vs. those who immigrate. Language is a significant factor when reaching out to the U.S. Hispanic consumer.


"Marketers have to continue to restate the obvious and reintroduce marketing tools because new immigrants come from a country where [direct mailings] are not available," says Ms. Valdes.

"There are some agencies using Hispanic creative and developing targeted mail by using the Hispanic `hot buttons' which address their needs and behavior, while there are countless other agencies who take general market programs and just translate that into Spanish," says Ms. Benitez Turner. "That doesn't work. Think about it. If you try and translate a play-on-words in your copy from English to Spanish, it's not going to translate well."

In the Latino culture, the significance of family cannot be understated. The Draft study shows 71% of respondents say they believe their family relationships are closer than those of other cultures.

Households often include several generations of family members -- some of whom speak only English, only Spanish or are bilingual.

"Bilingual mailings are important," says Esther Novak, president of Vanguard Communications, New York, another marketing communications shop specializing in the Hispanic marketplace, with clients such as Gillette Co. and AT&T Corp.

"We do direct mail tied to intelligence through pre-qualified leads found through telemarketing. This gives us updated accurate addresses," says Ms. Valdes, who notes that without pre-qualified leads "a very high percentage of samples and direct mail don't reach the target."

Ms. Valdes, whose clients include Hoechst Marion Roussel, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer and Procter & Gamble Co., is developing a new promotion tool to generate pre-qualified leads via a toll-free number.

Despite the complexities, marketers are taking advantage of opportunities.

Sprint PCS targets Hispanic consumers in the New York metropolitan area in an integrated campaign.

"There are over 3 million Hispanics in the New York area that are undermarketed to by wireless carriers," says David Strauss, director of marketing-New York metropolitan area for Sprint PCS.

According to the 1997 Yankelovich Hispanic Monitor, "Trusted brands can function as risk minimizers, providing reassurance and reducing the anxiety that can be associated with trying an unknown brand."

However, the Yankelovich findings also reveal that Hispanics are more discerning than ever before and a "brand as badge" loses ground among Hispanics to brands that focus attributes such as utility, purchase simplification and quality assurance.


Gillette long ago recognized the opportunities to reach Hispanic consumers and has invested in what it describes as ongoing major marketing efforts to reach the Hispanic market for the last four years. However, that effort has not been without roadblocks.

"We wanted to first build awareness and generate trial, and then we went to find the sources available in order to reach these consumers through direct mail," says Cathleen Chizauskas, director of ethnic marketing for Gillette USA. "We bumped into lots of walls. The list companies don't have lists that meet our requirements. They don't usually have enough names to do a proper sampling."

She hasn't completely given up.

"We never stop looking. We keep waiting for someone to crack the code," she says.

And while the marketer waits for the code to be cracked, Gillette continues working with its partners.


"We've tied into other marketers' databases. One program we did with a national retailer with a database of names was based on the consumer's desire to receive monthly bills in Spanish," says Ms. Chizauskas. "They have a magazine to these consumers, and we used that magazine to insert a coupon for a free razor. We got an incredible redemption rate that was

much higher than general market programs that have been done by Gillette."

That program pulled roughly a 7% response rate.

The list rental issue is vexing.

"You are limited the more targeted you try to be because the names just aren't available," says Ms. Chizauskas. "I

think that's why the Hispanic consumer is not receiving a lot of direct mail. There aren't [updated and accurate lists of names] available to reach that community right now. You have the issue of whether you are reaching someone

Spanish-dominant, bi-lingual or English dominant. Spanish surname lists are not addressing that. You have to be careful

that you don't reverse offend someone."

Reader's Digest, which publishes Selecciones, a Spanish-language edition here, and in Latin America, has continually used direct mail and sweepstakes for both renewals and new customer acquisitions.

"The Hispanic consumer is very responsive to sweepstakes," says Ronald Wieselberg, marketing manager for Reader's

Digest Latino America. "All our direct mail campaigns are heavily based on sweepstakes. The Hispanic sweepstakes

generates more response than [the sweepstakes effort to] the general population. We've dabbled with other channels like

DRTV and non-direct mail activity, and direct mail is the most profitable to this market."

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