(Note: This version of this blog corrects imprecise data originally supplied by JC Penney about its marketing awareness of its Hispanic customers.)
It would be a stretch to say “The Gift of New Traditions” doesn’t look like the commercial it is, but the new offering from JCPenney, working with AOL’s BeOn division, shows how branded content can sell without appearing to try.
The series, which began last week and continues through Jan. 10, will be vignettes featuring Hispanic families traditions for Thanksgiving and the other holidays to come. Like ethnic families of the past, it's a blend of American tradition and customs from the old country.
One of the U.S. traditions in the first episode, “Cena de Thanksgiving” is shopping. There’s a conversation about how all the kids are bolting from the parental home dinner table to head for Black Friday sales (“Hitting midnight, we’re gone!” says one), but JCPenney is never mentioned.
The episode starts with a holiday-themed ad for the store and JCPenney says they’re wearing Penney’s clothes. The video itself, explaining the traditions, is mostly in English (with subtitles), the sentimental stuff of a Hallmark ad. If you grew up in a large family and not everybody spoke English, this video will look pretty familiar.
Though JCPenney planned it long ago, coming as it does amid the immigration fracas in Washington, it delivers a good Thanksgiving message it probably never intended: We assimilate.
The younger members of the Saucedo family took over the Thanksgiving dinner preparation role a few years ago, and they say, their first efforts were just fine. But in halting English, and apparently out of earshot of the offspring, the three elderly women of the family deliver a more equivocal review. It’s the sweetest moment in the video, which is less than four minutes long.
Besides the AOL site, the ad will also run on JCPenney’s Latino Facebook page and YouTube channel.
Is this the most effective way to reach Hispanic consumers? Maybe not at the very tip-top, but no doubt, it’s a good place to look. Lyris Leos, director of multicultural marketing, points to eMarketer research that says Hispanics over-index versus the general market on mobile usage and watching video online.
Also, JCPenney points to data that says AOL's Hispanic 18-49 viewership watches 217 million videos there every month and averages 50 minutes of viewing time, according to comScore’s Video metrix.
Some 10% of JCPenney customers are Hispanic. In an email exchange, Leos explained: “Our Hispanic designated stores continue to be some of our highest-performing stores and our Hispanic customer consistently rates JCPenney higher on shopping experience."
She says as Penney's aims to focus on its image-conscious, fashion-forward customer, it has determined more than a quarter of them are Hispanic.
So while there’s not any overt Penney pitching in the videos, that’s left to Leos in the press release. “From posadas to Tres Reyes, the series serves as the perfect vehicle to showcase how JCPenney, with its extraordinary assortment of merchandise at a truly unbeatable value, can help them ‘Jingle More Bells’ – or provide ‘Mas Navidad Para Repartir’ – throughout this holiday season,” Leos is quoted saying, as if anyone really talks like that.
But that’s the kind of overt messaging that might make a Hispanic consumer really appreciate the soft alternative of the branded video, a little group hug from the department store chain.