Hispanic Market the Hot Topic at Nielsen Conference

It Looks Like Marketers Are Finally Taking Notice

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Two weeks ago, I attended the annual Nielsen Conference, considered the Holy Grail for researchers, media companies and marketers obsessed with better understanding the American consumer and their behavior vis-a-vis media consumption. Although this event has been in existence for years, it, like so many other venerated conferences, has never focused much on multicultural audiences, which are often relegated to "niche" conferences like the Hispanic Retail Conference or the Multicultural ANA.

So, needless to say, I was intrigued when I read Nielsen was going to have a panel on understanding the multicultural consumer and that my colleague Roberto Ruiz was going to be on it.

Last year I bemoaned in Ad Age the lack of focus on multicultural marketing issues at other conferences (Move Multicultural Marketing from the Ghetto to the Golf Course). I doubt the article persuaded Nielsen to include such a topic in its conference this year, but maybe it did help it consider the idea. I headed to Orlando, ready to be disappointed, once again, by the marginal treatment we who toil in Hispanic marketing always get at these things.

To my great surprise, however, the very first speaker, Coca Cola CMO Bea Perez, focused on the importance of multicultural marketing during her presentation when she said that 86% of the growth through 2020 for Coca-Cola's youth-target market will come from multicultural consumers, especially Hispanic, and that focusing on this segment was critical to the company's future growth. "Wow," I thought, "this is great. Here is Coke validating what I've been saying for years." Then I thought, it must be a fluke, right? But then, it made sense. Coke is a leading global brand, so the execs there get it.

A presentation by Debra Lee, the CEO of BET, followed Coke. Lee talked about a new segmentation study she had conducted with her African-American audience that guided new programming strategy to build scripted dramas. Two hours of speeches dedicated to multicultural marketing at Nielsen! Again, I thought, "That's just a quirky coincidence. Like a perfect storm, you know."

But the skeptic in me would soon be proved wrong. Throughout the two-day conference the importance of the Hispanic consumer kept on coming up in presentation after presentation on the main stage, as well as in the breakout sessions. It didn't matter what industry sector we were talking about -- beverages or CPG or retail pharmacy chains: Over and over, everyone acknowledged the need to better understand and address the needs of the Hispanic consumer. In his closing remarks, David Calhoun, CEO of Nielsen, told the 1,400 attendees that he would encourage them all to spend 65% of their time "figuring out their Hispanic opportunity" because it was no doubt the single biggest source of growth for all companies in the U.S. in the short and long term.

Clearly, the "New American Reality" is having an impact. Companies like McDonald's have experienced 31 quarters of growth thanks to its marketing mantra: leading with multicultural insights. McDonald's applies a "30-40-50 rule" to every effort. It reminds its teams that 30% of their customers are multicultural who, in turn, account for 40% of their sales and they always remember that 50% of the multicultural population is under the age of 18.

Those are powerful numbers, and that 's why every company that is focused on growth must start focusing on the Hispanic consumer. The Latino baby boom is the biggest thing that has happened to American demographics since the baby boom 50 years ago. Like the boomers, we will redefine every life stage as we enter it, leaving marketers with one of two choices: either figure out how to ride this giant wave into the future -- or get left behind with the Hula Hoop.

Chiqui Cartagena Chiqui Cartagena is VP-corporate marketing for Univision Communications Inc. She is also the author of Latino Boom!: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business in the U.S. Hispanic Market. Follow Chiqui on Twitter @chiquicartagena.
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