Media Metrics: Connecting With Hispanics

Much has been written about the growth of the U.S. Hispanic market as a consumer segment having high marketing value. But a close look at Hispanic demographics shows that advertisers may be missing the mark if they view Hispanics as a monolithic market or consider country of origin to be the best predictor of consumer behavior within that market.

MRI's recently collected data from in-home surveys across the U.S., published in our spring 2006 "Survey of the American Consumer," reveal that Hispanics can be effectively segmented and targeted based on whether they speak mostly Spanish or mostly English. That's because English- and Spanish-speaking segments often have not only different demographic characteristics, but disparate purchase patterns, leisure pursuits, and attitudes about life - all reflecting cultural differences that can exist between these two segments. Most brands skew to either English- or Spanish-language speakers and each segment has distinct media usage habits.

In many instances, English-speaking Hispanics have more in common with non-Hispanic consumers (although there are attitudes and brand purchases that the two segments of Hispanics have in common as well). This is why it's critical to look at the specific brand that is being advertised when it comes to deciding how and when to communicate to Hispanic audiences.

For example, although English-speaking Hispanics comprise only 45 percent of Hispanics, they represent a strong majority of Hispanics who are younger, better educated and earn higher incomes. English speakers comprise a full 77 percent of Hispanics who have professional/managerial occupations. They are 74 percent of Hispanics with an individual employment income of $40,000 or more.

When it comes to product usage, English-speaking Hispanics are a ripe market for movies, electronics, CDs/DVDs, fast-food restaurants, candy, and liquor. (Some of this can be explained by their youth, as 56 percent of all Hispanics between the ages of 18 and 24 are English speakers. (By comparison, 13 percent of all U.S. adults are in this age range). Nike is a favorite brand of English-speaking Hispanics, while Spanish-speakers favor Adidas. Coke has a Spanish-speaking skew, while Pepsi skews to English speakers.

Although both language groups are interested in personal style and improving their social status, Spanish-speakers have a more traditional outlook for women/gender roles and are slightly more religious. They are also more likely to be sensitive to the environment. Among English-speaking Hispanics, collecting sports trading cards, participating in karaoke, and playing chess are some of the leisure activities they participate in well above the general population. Meanwhile, participation in civic/public activities by Hispanics, whether English- or Spanish-speaking, is well below that of the non-Hispanic population, but it will be interesting to see whether this changes given the recent debate on immigration restrictions and the controversy this has fueled.

As far as geographic distribution, the two language segments overlap somewhat in Texas and California.

There is a much higher concentration of English-speakers in New York, New Jersey, and the Southwest, while Spanish-speakers are found in greater numbers in Florida.

Considering these distinctions, what's the best way to deliver advertising messages to these Hispanic segments? Let's start with the Internet. Currently, it may not be the best way to reach Spanish speakers, as just 29 percent of them use it on a monthly basis compared with 69 percent of the general population and 71 percent of English-speaking Hispanics. This segment also makes scant use of Yellow Pages, with just 15 percent of them using this vehicle versus 39 percent of English-speaking Hispanics.

Interestingly, across all three groups - the non-Hispanic population, English-speaking Hispanics, and Spanish- speaking Hispanics - use of daytime television is nearly equal (30 percent, 29, and 28, respectively). English-speakers are heavier readers of magazines and newspapers and both Hispanic groups are much more likely to be heavy moviegoers than the general public, so in-theater advertising shouldn't be ignored.

Marketers won't adequately reach English-speaking Hispanics (remember, 45 percent of all Hispanics), if they rely exclusively on Spanish-language media. It's crucial that English-language media play a role in reaching the English-speaking segment, especially when advertising products and services strongly skewed to them. To do otherwise could have serious sales implications.

The best approach is a mix of both English-language media and Spanish-language media because, despite the strength of general market media among English speakers, they are still reached by Spanish-language media, just not in as large percentages as Spanish-speaking Hispanics. Moreover, identifying with their Latin heritage is often an important driver for English-speaking Hispanics, so English-language ads should reflect that aspect. To engage them, advertising creative should include Latino subjects and touch upon relevant aspects of their lives.

Among both English- and Spanish-speaking Hispanics, coupons aren't nearly as much a part of the shopping experience as they are with the rest of the U.S. Regarding the working world, both groups are much more likely than the non-Hispanic population to view their job as "just a job." And they would appear to be good targets for several industries whose goods and services they currently use less than the general population, including banking and automobiles, property, and medical insurance. While both Hispanic groups have low participation in such leisure-time activities as fishing, hunting, and golf, they also have a low incidence of doing crossword puzzles and playing word games.

Which retailers do particularly well in the Hispanic market? MRI research points to Macy's, Gap, Victoria's Secret, and Toys "R" Us, each of which meets a different retail need. The popular brands that have strong skews to English-speaking Hispanics are more numerous than those for Spanish-speakers. Beverages, restaurants, and candy bars appear repeatedly. The brief list of brands skewing strongly to Spanish speakers is dominated by personal-care products.

In conclusion, looking at the U.S. as simply Hispanic vs. non-Hispanic conceals large differences between English-speaking and Spanish-speaking Hispanics. These differences result in significant contrasts in media use, product purchases, leisure pursuits, and attitudes. Effective media strategies must take these differences into account.

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