What should the company do?
The first step is more research to understand everything about the Hispanic market vis-à-vis this company's products or services (we'll call them products for simplicity moving forward). More often than not, we arrive back at where we started - Hispanics are generally unfamiliar with the products because they did not use them in their home country. And since arriving in the U.S., and without the trusted advice or recommendation of their large network of family and friends, the brand is in what I call the conundrum of the "Hispanic vicious cycle."
The Hispanic vicious cycle is exemplified by a Hispanic consumer who is unfamiliar with a product, and therefore does not purchase it. And while they would be willing to try the product if recommended by a family member or friend, the fact that their family and friends are also unfamiliar with the product means they will continue to never purchase it.
Breaking this vicious cycle can be difficult, but the results can turn the tide and result in a fortuitous cycle, whereby product usage by a small group of Hispanics is amplified by word of mouth recommendations and advice, results in a multiplier effect and potentially rapid growth in the market.
So how does a marketer help its clients break the "Hispanic vicious cycle" and convert it into a positive fortuitous cycle? The answer is to apply a two-part marketing and communications strategy that simultaneously emphasizes trial with word of mouth (WOM) activity.
While the exact approach to driving product trials and word of mouth activity in the Hispanic market will vary depending on the particulars of each product, company and industry, there are some general guidelines that can be used as an effective framework. Let's start by looking at driving trial product consumption.
Driving Trial Activity
There are numerous tactics and vehicles that marketers can use to generate product trials, ranging from online coupons, to street-level handouts, to direct mail and in-store trials. More important than the vehicle for delivering the trial is providing a culturally relevant context in which to try to the product.
For instance, trying to get Hispanics to try a new instant coffee product will need to be positioned and "sold" in the context of how most Hispanics consume coffee - i.e., mixing it with milk instead of water (resulting in some variation of "café con leche"). The context of the trial activation will have to be adjusted to cultural tendencies of the Hispanic market. This context will involve everything from the messaging on the trial materials to whom, when and where the trial is offered.
Building a Word of Mouth Campaign
Simultaneously, to flip the "Hispanic vicious cycle" into a fortuitous cycle, an effective WOM strategy needs to be developed and executed. How do we do that in the Hispanic market?
• Insights. It starts with identifying the key insights that will get Hispanics to talk about the product. This is where great planners and strategists dig deep to uncover strategic insights that contribute to the idea. But that's not enough. The insights will drive the messaging, but what and who will generate that spark?
• Influencers. The "who" that is critical to igniting conversations are Hispanic influencers -- people who:
o have high social influence and are effective communicators.
o enjoy new things and have a propensity to trial new products.
o have social networks three to six times larger than the overall Hispanic population.
Research can help create a profile of influencers, and these are the people to focus on to "seed" conversations. So how do you reach them?
• Generating the spark. The best ways to spark conversations is with digital media, social media and experiential programs. Digital media allows marketers to target consumers with the type of precision that is necessary to pinpoint and reach Hispanic influencers.
For instance, a media buy can be placed targeting 25 to 34-year-old Spanish-dominant Hispanic moms living in certain ZIP codes with social networks of more than 200 people. Social media tactics and programs allow influencers, and then other consumers, to virally spread information at the click of button.
While this trial and WOM approach is hardly the norm in Hispanic marketing today, I see it becoming the future of our industry. The writing is on the wall as the U.S. Hispanic market continues to grow with more companies competing for Hispanic consumer pocketbooks, combined with trends toward tighter advertising budgets, greater emphasis on ROI and increasing prominence of social media activity.
Awesome article Jose and awesome advice! As a second generation Hispanic woman in the US it occurs to me that perhaps a "bottom-up" approach could ignite some WOM as well. By "bottom-up" I mean starting with the younger, 2nd/3rd generation Hispanics who are already immersed in digital and social media. Would you agree that they would be the easiest to engage (little-to-no Spanish language advertising necessary) and then spread the conversation to their parents, grandparents, 1st generation family members, etc?
Back when I was a student in my marketing courses we often discussed how a parent's brand loyalty influences the purchase behavior of their children. Your article made me realize that I have never really thought about how MY choices as a consumer impact my parents buying decisions. My dad is HOOKED on Hulu.com as a result of me introducing it to him and I helped him pick out his last cell phone.
The qualifiers you listed for "influencers" all described local radio djs. Perhaps that's the place to start WOM, since more than 90% of Hispanics listen to radio every week, and return to the same stations and djs day after day. And many of the station websites have social networking connections to offer than can take listeners back to the digital social networking world.