Familiar Brands strike Gold in Hispanic e-mail Marketing

As the digital divide narrows and more Hispanics access the internet, marketers are seizing the opportunity to reach them via email. Many marketers view email marketing as a great way to reach young Hispanics, given that 35% of all Hispanics online are under 24 years old. There are two ways an advertiser can approach email marketing: One way is to purchase a 3rd party mailing lists and send out blanket emails, hoping to net some curious consumers. The other is to craft a campaign from scratch, enticing consumers to opt-in via promotional offers, and then managing the relationship based on that consumer’s interaction with the product and other factors such as the consumer’s age, sex, ethnicity, etc.

While the bulk email approach seems tempting because of its relative ease and lower cost, John Santiago, co-CEO of Hispanic digital marketing company Media 8 says it should be avoided whenever possible. “Hispanics are as skeptical about brands that they are unfamiliar with as they are loyal to brands they know and trust. As such, a Hispanic consumer is much less likely to respond to an email offer that comes out of the blue, than they are to respond to one that they are expecting or that has been referred to them by a friend or family member. We’ve tried both approaches, and we decided to abandon the 3rd party list approach a few years ago. Hispanic consumers simply don’t respond to unsolicited, unfamiliar email offers.”

Ahorre Marketing president Geoffrey Gonzalez agrees: “There are a lot of people in the industry that highlight the benefits of mass emailing because it is so much cheaper than print and broadcast marketing. But when it comes down to it, the ROI just isn’t there. You can sell it, but you can’t really deliver, and you can’t control it.”

Gonzalez also warns against the legal pitfalls one can succumb to when using third-party lists: “You have to be really careful when emailing in bulk, because you can never be absolutely positive that all of the emails on your list have been obtained in the right way. If you don’t, you can find yourself on the wrong end of a lawsuit.”

Vice president of multicultural marketing at 21st Century Marketing Rick Blume says that the legal concerns might be a bit overstated, and that they should not be a deterrent for someone considering buying a list, as the credibility of list brokers rests on the voracity of their lists. To provide ill-gotten emails in these lists would be incongruous with the advertiser’s interests.

Blume does acknowledge that the demand for Hispanic e-mail lists is nominal: “Probably the biggest issue is list quality. While companies like Univision and Terra have these massive lists, the fact is that the vast majority of people on those lists have not made any purchases and demonstrated a proclivity to buy, but have more likely signed up for something free, like a sweepstakes, and had there email thrown in the bucket with the rest of them.”

While Hispanics are generally wary of unsolicited offers, they are conversely quite responsive to those that have been referred to them by a friend. As such, it is important to include features like “Send to a friend” buttons in the mailings to capitalize not only on the viral nature of email messaging, but also on the validated messaging inherent in an email sent from a friend or family member.

Media 8 recently managed a sweepstakes campaign for the Mexican airline company Mexicana, a campaign whose success rested upon effective email management. The objective of the campaign was to build an opt-in list from scratch and sell tickets. Toward that end, the company offered consumers various prizes, including free hotel stays and airline tickets. Media 8 enlisted the services of an email marketing company called RightNow to provide the technological infrastructure to track customers’ purchase history, their location, and other important segmentation-related data.

“Keeping track of this customer-specific info is crucial to effective email messaging,” says Media 8’s John Santiago. “One has to be cognizant at all times of the consumer’s relationship with the product. After all, we want to be speaking quite differently to someone who has already made a purchase, than we do to a prospective customer, or a customer who has made repeat purchases.” Santiago notes that open rates for emails sent to established customers can range between 5%-10%, higher than bulk email open rates.