Key Takeaways From the ANA Multicultural Conference

'If You're Not Humble, You Can't Learn'

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Do you suffer from Multicultural Marketing Conference Fatigue? Do your eyes glaze over when you're subjected to generic case studies, lacking in metrics and heavy in hyperbole? Is your hope that finally you'll hear something you've never heard before, in a way that it has never been said before?

Then you needed to attend the 14th annual ANA Multicultural Conference in Miami. This gathering continues to be in a class by itself. The highlights?

Immersion Tour. If you have any doubts about the profitability of leading with cultural insights, then experience an in-store chat with Tony Gonzalez, manager of Publix's Sabor supermarket. This was stop one on the Association of National Advertisers Immersion Tour. The first thing you notice when you walk into Sabor is the beauty salon, which is a huge success. Gonzalez says this salon-within-a-supermarket was almost cut from the concept, since it didn't align with the traditional non-Latino management perspective on what a supermarket is all about. But wiser minds prevailed, and now more Sabor stores have opened, with more on the way. Non-Sabor Publix are incorporating some of the product lines and approaches of Sabor in response to non-Latino interest in cultural fusion and exploration.

Next stop: The new Marlins Stadium, smack in the heart of Little Havana (aka Calle Ocho). Juan Martinez, Marlins' director of multicultural marketing, is one of only a handful of multicultural marketers in baseball. Hard to believe, given the multicultural-consumer interest in the sport. Clearly the stadium is betting on the Hispanic community to drive traffic, and has catered to this audience at every turn. The "Taste of Miami" concept is one example, featuring three popular Miami restaurants with a decidedly Hispanic flair. The team's Facebook page is available in Spanish, but regardless of language, fans would be happier with better-than-last-place stats.

Latinos in the C-Suite – Ram Truck & Chrysler. Percentage-wise, Latino leaders in the C-Suite are still few and far between, but they are steadily growing in number and influence. Fred Diaz, president and CEO of Ram Truck Brand and CEO of Chrysler de Mexico, was compelling as our keynote speaker. His goal of achieving market share equal to or superior to Chrysler's general market numbers was clear, as was his mandate to reject a cut in Hispanic spending, which is often incorrectly perceived as a luxury and the first thing to go. Diaz denounced "tolerating" diversity, as opposed to embracing it. He is unequivocally proud of his Latino heritage and his bilingualism, a leadership quality that many Hispanics who have gone before him have had to sublimate as they climbed the corporate ladder.

A Couple of White Guys Sitting Around And Talking. Perhaps my favorite moment of the conference was being treated to an intensely focused business conversation between two major executives who understand the value of Hispanic marketing. Not because they are Hispanic-- which they are not -- or work for a Hispanic media entity-- which they do not -- or because they need to be PC, but simply because it's smart business.

Bob Davidson, president of Kellogg's North America, shared a thought that everyone interested in this market should take to heart, "If you're not humble, you can't learn." He spoke about going to great lengths to spend time with Latino consumers and retailers and experience first-hand what it is to live in their homes, walk in their shoes, shop in their stores and eat in their kitchens. He has made cultural immersion mandatory for his brand managers as well. A veteran Hispanic marketer from his days at General Foods, ANA President Bob Liodice challenged Davidson on how he had missed the opportunity in multicultural marketing for so long, being that so much data exists. Davidson held himself accountable, but also acknowledged he had confronted his agencies with that very question. The response from Lapiz, his Hispanic agency, was, "We pushed you Kellogg, you just wouldn't listen."

More White Guys Sitting Around and Talking. The Walmart guys were also noteworthy. Back for their second year, they proclaimed that 100% of their growth is multicultural, and they plan to double their spend in this space.

Verizon and Warner Bros. Asian Marketing. Asian marketing is still getting short shrift in the multicultural marketing arena and at conferences like these. That said, highly effective case studies presented by Verizon and Warner Bros. were a testimony to the critical importance of this market segment. Those claiming that this market is too complex to reach effectively, primarily because of the Asian community's linguistic and cultural differences, should pay close attention to these thought leaders. Verizon took its message to Union Square in San Francisco, breaking the mold of relying upon siloed "deep-in-the-hood" marketing and instead celebrating Asian Lunar New Year with musical acts, emcees and multilingual-marketing materials fine-tuned for the diverse Asian audience attending this innovative, first-time event. Warner Bros. leveraged Asian celebrity role models and engaged bloggers in conversations about the lack of Asian representation in Hollywood.

William Levy. Needs no explanation. If you're not familiar with this Cuban-Amerian star, a quick look at the video will clarify. Small wonder that AT&T U-verse wireless call volume was up 51% with William Levy making the pitch.

The ANA Multicultural has grown consistently year after year. Its Multicultural moniker would benefit from dialing up the volume on LGBT, Asian and African-American case studies and thought leaders (although fellow Ad Age blogger and author-- and Big Tent blogger-- Pepper Miller was a standout on the subject of marketing to black consumers). Still, it remains one of the few "must-attend" conferences in the Hispanic space (alongside NGLC and Geoscape).

We can read a lot and get video content from the comfort of our desks. But it takes going to a good conference to drink a mojito with a cluster of colleagues and meet new contacts who can have a transformational impact on our business and the way we think about it. Here's to next year's ANA.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco is chief Hispanic marketing strategist, for Walton-Isaacson, Los Angeles, Calif. She has also served on several boards of directors including the Hispanic Organization of Latin Actors, The Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies and the Los Angeles Association of Advertising Agencies.
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