In the pitched battle for Hispanic market share, mobile service providers are targeting this prized demographic with special features and plans. There are currently over 3.3. billion active cell phones, while just over 1 billion people are connected to the Internet. With the increasing availability of smartphones, and their prices ever lower, it is clear that much of future online marketing efforts will be targeted at users through their phones. “I’ll stop short of saying that cell phones will replace personal computers in the near future,” says Pablo Traverso, COO of mobile publishing company Primiro, “but I think the  mobile arena is developing toward greater features, bar codes, better video,” applications for which the Hispanic market has already displayed a keen appetite.

In the last few years it has become clear that Hispanics are more engaged with their cell phones than the general market, making greater use of advanced features, such as text messaging and video capabilities. And they rely more on their phones than any other segment including African Americans. According to the Pew Internet & American Life Project survey released in May, 54% of Latinos said that it would be difficult to give up their cell phones, compared with 51% of African American and 49% of white respondents. Perhaps the biggest surprise of this finding is that roughly half of all respondents said that it would not be difficult to give up their phones, so integral they have become to the daily lives of so many Americans.

Latino Mobile Consumption

The reasons for greater Latino engagement with their mobile devices are many: One is cultural. Latinos are known for placing great importance on staying in touch with relatives in the States and abroad. As such, they spend more minutes speaking to more people than their general market counterparts.

Another reason for the greater engagement is socio-economic: for many Hispanics, their mobile device is their primary, if not their sole, means of accessing the Internet. According to Forrester Research, just 66 percent of Latino mobile users have broadband access at home compared with 70 percent for other mobile users.

This explains for the greater use of advanced features than the general population. The Pew Internet & American Life Project revealed that 56% of Latino respondents reported having sent or received email, accessed the Internet, played music, or accessed directions with their mobile device, compared with 50% of African Americans and 38% of whites.

Mobile Marketing Initiatives

While mobile marketing is a highly-enticing proposition for advertisers, given the direct and highly personal relationship that people have with their phones, it is an area that must be carefully approached. Because of the personal nature of cell phone usage any marketing efforts can be seen as intrusive. After all, who wants to pull out their phone and see a slew of credit card offers and other solicitations? 

As a result, one of the primary  means of engaging consumers with their phones has been text-to-win programs, where the user “opts-in” by texting a short-code to a given number. In exchange for sharing their information, the user gets access to whatever is being offered. Sometimes the premium is a chance to win a vacation, other times it is access to sports scores, weather reports and the like. Even so, the nature of this exchange is not always clear to the user. A person might text in to receive a wallpaper of their favorite soccer player and will then be surprised when he starts receiving advertising messages. But that is the trade-off: when one texts-in to one of these programs they are implicitly agreeing to receive marketing messages from the person offering the content and their partners. In addition, some initiatives also charge a premium for participating.

AT&T’s Mobile Marketing Push…

Another interesting application of mobile marketing is event-driven. AT&T has a partnership with the Florida Marlins, and recently held a text-to-win contest where the first hundred people to text into the specified number got to attend the after-game latin music concert at field level. This not only promoted use of their phones to participate in a marketing effort, but helped to build brand affinity among the users, says Hendrik Schouten, director of marketing for the Hispanic segment at AT&T

This effort is indicative of a larger strategy by the company in not treating the Hispanic mobile market as an afterthought. To the contrary, it is proceeding with a multi-pronged effort to get an edge on its competitors in this vibrant market segment, including nationwide print placements in top markets, online campaigns and event sponsorships.

Currently, AT&T claims to serve more Hispanic customers than any other wireless carrier, with 7 million in all. Annual revenues generated from the Hispanic market are at about $5 billion.

The trajectory to its current position has not been completely smooth. The company got off to a slow start, as many companies have, by taking a simple translation approach to it’s marketing efforts. “We were often simply dropping Spanish-language voiceovers into the ads running in the general market,” says Schouten . “Our results showed us that we had to do something more if we were going to reach Hispanic consumers. We had to radically re-approach this market and make a major commitment to invest.”

The company realized that it needed to make its advertising more relevant to Hispanic culture – associating AT&T Mobility with the forms of entertainment, arts and leisure activities that are most relevant in the Hispanic community. With this aim, AT&T was among the first advertisers to leverage the popularity of telenovelas, and entertainment gossip shows to carve out its space in the national Latino consciousness.

The company currently pursues a strategy of connecting with individual sub-segments of the market by linking itself with a broad range of Hispanic celebrities and performers, from those who have become mainstream, to emerging faces who show strong regional or local appeal.

By 2005, the company had found religion with regard to the enormous opportunity presented by the Hispanic market, and had created some 150 “HIT” stores, or Hispanic Intensive Traffic stores. The company sought to establish a hit store n every market with 40% or more Hispanic population, featuring bilingual signage, collateral and staff. Today, the company has approximately 700 such stores and credits them with having helped to establish their current market position.


Sprint Wireless is waging their campaign in rock arenas and sports stadiums. “Our approach really is centered on the core Latino passion points of music and sports,” Veronica Ruiz, Sprint’s Multicultural Manager tells Portada.

In the musical realm, the company recently ran integrated programs with Latin music sensations Maná and Juanes, whose fans are fiercely loyal and highly engaged. “We really took an integrated approach to working with these artists,” says Ruiz. “We did everything from online to print and event marketing.” For its print programs Sprint concentrated on magazines such as People en Espanol, Ocean Drive and Latina. On the newspaper side, Sprint has run programs with La Opinion and HOY, New York.

Sprint is also tapping the musical passion of their Hispanic target audience by offering over 150,000+ full-track downloads through Sprint Music. To offer this content, Sprint works directly with the labels of artists they want to include in their catalog.

On the sporting side of things, Sprint is focusing its efforts, naturally, on soccer. It is a sponsor of the Copa de Oro, and is also backing the reality series “Juego Suprema (Ultimate Game)” which features veteran soccer players widely known in Hispanic circles. “Another initiative we’ve undertaken is with Nascar, really introducing the sport to Latinos and encouraging them to get involved through events and on-track promotions,” says Ruiz.

Another area that Sprint has been working to expand upon is its social networking capability. The company currently has three Latin-centric “mobile communities,” as they call them:

  • Latino Lounge
  • Chat Del Mundo
  • MuchaChat

“We realize that most Latino youth are already established on sites like Facebook, Myspace, etc.,” says Ruiz. “So we’ve been working to optimize the mobile Hispanic user’s experience on those sites as well.”


Portada Staff

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