Experts Demand More and Better Research

Hispanic publishers and advertisers are moving forward in an effort to improve readership measurement and market research.

At the American Magazine Conference last year, Jack Kliger, the new chairman of the Magazine Publishers of America, called for the end of the rate-base economy.
Mr. Kliger’s criticism of circulation-based metrics in calculating advertising return on investment was music to the ears of many publishers, especially Hispanic publishers, who have been complaining about the problems with circulation based metrics for a long time. Hispanic publishers, along with the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, have already begun to develop an independent research study with a large enough sample to provide accurate and credible audience measurement on even smaller circulation Hispanic publications.
Francisco Framil, marketing manager for Publicitas LHM, says that there should be a measurement tool in place by next year. The problem with Hispanic audience measurement currently being done by some syndicated research companies is that their samples are not large enough to produce credible data and often lose credibility because they are typically paid for by the publishers themselves. “What we need is independent research that is funded by a large enough group so that there is no question of one person’s interest being represented,” explains Framil.
Mediamark Research Inc. (MRI) has begun to do audience measurement on the five Hispanic-targeted publications whose circulations are large enough to be included in a national probability study: Latina,Selecciones, Ser Padres, Nuestra Gente, and People en Español.

But even available circulation data can be inaccurate or not readily available. The national Hispanic lifestyle magazine Vista has an ABC audited circulation of 1,000,000. But they aren’t included in MRI’s study, and don’t appear in any list of the top circulating Hispanic magazines. What’s wrong with existing research? The research currently being conducted on the Hispanic market is of varying quality and often yields contradictory findings. Recent scandals involving even the most reputable and experienced research firms make it hard for advertisers and marketers to know who to trust when it comes to getting reliable, useful data on Hispanic consumers.
According to Blaire Borthayre, a consultant in the field of Hispanic marketing and author of the recently released Marketing to Hispanics: A Comprehensive Guide for Tax Preparation Offices (TRC Publishing), the majority of the research being done on the Hispanic market is being conducted by people that are too far removed from the actual Hispanic consumer to be able to provide useful or accurate data. Cathy Areu, publisher of Catalina women’s lifestyle magazine (bimonthly, bilingual) and author of the forthcoming Latino Wisdom (Barricade Books, 2006) agrees. “I’m like my readers, so I don’t need a lot of research to tell me how to reach them. We hold events where I can actually walk my sponsors into a room full of Catalina readers and let them see for themselves who our audience is,” explains Areu.

Borthayre looks closely at who is conducting the research and how it is being conducted before deciding whether to trust the data that has been gathered. She uses data collected by The Pew Hispanic Trust, but not The U.S. Census. “A lot of immigrants are not going to answer the door for the census takers because they’re scared that they might get reported. So there is a whole segment of Hispanics that aren’t included in the data they’re gathering,” explains Borthayre.

Ed Rincon, President of Rincon and Associates, disagrees. He sees the Census as the most reliable study, against which all other studies can be matched to check for disproportionate numbers of certain demographics, like females or foreign born Hispanics. “No study is going to be 100% accurate, but the U.S. Census tells you what the undercount is on different segments of the population, so if the immigrants aren’t answering their doors that will be reflected in the research” explains Rincon.

Felipe Korzenny, Ph.D., professor and director of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communications at Florida State University, says the lack of solid, accurate data is due largely to a lack of skilled researchers. “Research is as much an art as it is a science. If the numbers aren’t well-interpreted and well analyzed then the research is a waste of money,” says Korzenny. “It is very hard to find people who have marketing experience and good research capabilities.”

New developments in Hispanic marketing Syndicated research companies like Simmons, MRI and Nielson have incorporated Hispanics into their national consumer studies, including media consumption habits and audience measurement of print publications to varying degrees. MRI’s national study includes a representative sample of Hispanics, meaning that since Hispanics make up about 13% of the U.S. population they account for about 13% of the 26,000 in-home interviews MRI conducts each year on media consumption habits and usage of products and services.

Simmon’s national study includes a much larger Hispanic sample. Of the 27,000 surveys mailed to homes throughout the U.S., about 7,500 go to Hispanic households.
Syndicated research is useful for national advertisers who want to look at the entire U.S. consumer market and make decisions on how much to spend on which segments of the population. “MRI, Simmons and Nielson provide a good baseline from which to get started asking questions about how you are going to market specific products to certain segments,” explains Felipe Korzenny.

But according to Ed Rincon, advertisers are increasingly dissatisfied with syndicated research because often sample sizes are not big enough to do segmentation studies or provide in-depth information on Hispanic  consumers. Julian Baim, executive vice president/chief research officer for MRI, agrees. “As you slice and dice, even a large sample can get small very quickly if the information you’re trying to get at is very narrow,” says Baim, who is currently looking at how MRI can do more segmentation and provide audience measurement for even smaller circulation publications. “The sample size would have to be bigger. The only way we could do that would be to conduct the study over two years or double the number of Hispanics,” explains Baim. Since MRI does in-person surveys this would require hiring more staff, which would be both time-consuming and expensive.

Smaller, independent research companies are developing research tools and strategies to meet advertiser demand for customized, in-depth research. Synovate is doing more ethnographic research, including bringing advertisers and marketers into Hispanic homes or on shop-alongs with Hispanic consumers, according to senior vice president Dick Thomas.
Synovate also offers telephone omnibuses TeleNación (top 10 Hispanic markets) and TeleNacional (national) as a fast, cost-effective alternative to customized research. Thomas says that even as marketers are trying to get more detailed knowledge about specific segments of the Hispanic population, they are also looking for commonalities between segments.

“Advertisers want to come up with strategy and branding that speaks to all Hispanics.” According to Korzenny, network analysis is another valuable, but underutilized, form of qualitative research, especially in the Hispanic market where “the culture is highly gregarious and word-of-mouth is strongly influential.”

Network analysis has been around for about 40 years, but has not been exploited in marketing research. “Consider the importance of knowing who talks to whom about what in a community. Network analysis could help in understanding patterns of opinion leadership and influence. It could also help make sense of decision making processes and provide an understanding of how advertising interacts with word-ofmouth to create the momentum for a brand.” Korzenny says that the problem with network analysis is that it is very time consuming and expensive.
Are we overlooking whole segments of the Hispanic market? Hispanic marketing consultant Blaire Borthayre says the majority of the research being conducted still doesn’t take into consideration the major differences that exist within the Hispanic market. She sees a huge lack of research on foreign born Hispanics who’ve lived in the U.S. for less than 10 years. “Good research on this segment of the Hispanic population is difficult because they’re scared of getting reported, so they’re not going to answer the door or talk to someone they don’t know,” explains Borthayre. “A lot of the data being collected is really on Hispanics who’ve lived in the U.S. for more than 10 years. That’s a really different group, with very different needs. You’re not going to speak to new immigrants in the same way that you’d speak to these more established Hispanics, even though you might use Spanish to reach both groups.”

Borthayre divides the Hispanic market into four segments based on acculturation, or how long they have lived in the U.S.—The new immigrant who has lived in the U.S. less than five years and speaks little or no English, the transitional immigrant who has lived in the U.S. less than ten years and is still Spanish dominant but speaks some English, the acclimated Hispanic who has lived in the U.S. for over ten years, and the U.S born second or third generation Hispanic.
Although market segmentation by acculturation is not new, Borthayre says that marketers have not fully realized the methodological implications involved in collecting data on each demographic. “To get information on recent immigrants you have to go through non-profit organizations, health clinics or community centers, through people they already trust. You can’t just walk up to their door or call them and expect to get open, honest answers.”
Beyond segmentation by acculturation Korzenny agrees on the need for more market segmentation,vbut predicts there will be a move away from acculturation levels and toward lifestyle. “Lifestyle is a more refined segmentation which is based on how people live their lives. Of course, this will be influenced by their level of acculturation.” According to Korzenny, lifestyle has more impact on consumer behavior than acculturation.

Carrie Barnes