Commentary

Celebrations And Holiday Opportunities

Something published recently by Nielsen Homescan reminded me of a quote by funny man Milton Berle: "If opportunity doesn't knock, build a door."

Nielsen's recent survey on Hispanic heritage celebrations underscored that Latinos represent a door that is only partly ajar when it comes to occasion-based marketing (OBM). To open that OBM door, the first thing marketers need to do is recognize that Hispanic celebrations today comprise a blending of events traditional to Latino culture with others that Latinos have adopted.

Let's start with what some may find surprising: The most popular celebration among Hispanics is Thanksgiving, complete with pilgrims. Next in popularity: Easter, Cinco De Mayo, Holy Week, and Three Kings Day.

Yet every autumn, sometime before the fourth Thursday of Turkey Month, I hear the inevitable, "Do Latinos really celebrate Thanksgiving?" Well, the Nielsen study answers that question pretty demonstrably. But beyond it are OBM results that are far more revealing, for the mixture of dates celebrated by Hispanics says that here are shoppers who are truly bicultural. Yet as you move down the event list you will see a diversity — a perfect cornucopia — of occasions CPG manufacturers are unbelievably “underleveraging” at retail.

What is more revelatory is that a significant number of Hispanic occasions fall within traditional retailer windows, like Halloween. OBM events drive consumption — but only if you know where to look. The point here is that you don't need to re-draw the Gregorian calendar. You don't need new holidays. Nor do you need to worry about your sales force brainstorming more programs to put in front of retailers, who are already overwhelmed by manufacturer initiatives. The trick is to leverage the right holidays. The treat is working with retailers to deliver tangible relevance to Latino shoppers. 

Consider Christmas. In that timeframe, there is a clear opportunity to build that relevance for Hispanics. One example is creating meal solutions for the Posada occasion. Another would be to extend the holiday in the New Year by incorporating a Three Kings Rosca de Reyes (King Cake), which is celebrated Jan. 6. Increasing gift basket size is another tactic that works, but there are others. Some retailers offer a free turkey during the holidays to those who buy a certain amount of groceries. Why not design a free Rosca de Reyes program linked to the purchase of certain merchandise?

And who said the Halloween goblins have to flee on Oct. 31? Hispanics' Day of the Dead is celebrated Nov. 1 and 2. Called "Dia de Los Muertos," this purely Latino observation is making inroads into popular culture — to the extent that Disney already holds Day of the Dead events at its theme parks. Disney is also planning a new Pixar release around this idea in 2015. Some predict that as Day of the Dead goes mainstream, turning Halloween into a three-day CPG holiday, it will grow retailers' basket size in a big way.

Cinco De Mayo is already mainstream. Thanks to beer and beverage companies like Corona and Coca-Cola, what originally was a distinctly Hispanic holiday is now a major Mexican-themed event, which both Hispanics and non-Hispanics celebrate. CPG companies are embracing this retailing reality by expanding Mexican cuisine choices around the holiday.

Opportunities to leverage holidays that were once perceived to be Hispanic are flowering as cultural perceptions change. Americans more than ever before are becoming multicultural shoppers. CPG companies are becoming more creative in enriching these occasions in a way that enables a broader demographic to recognize holidays as their own — creating "buy-in" for retailers' selling strategies. Many retailers in key markets are cognizant of the power of the "majority minority." Hispanics are a demographic that will seek out retailers who reach out to them with holiday solutions that are culturally genuine. These shoppers are hungry not just for products that fill their baskets, but their hearts.

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