Through Rain, Sleet or Snow: A Look at Hispanic Direct Mail

Portada: What are the most important things for advertisers to understand about direct mail campaigns geared to the Hispanic market?

GG: Many Hispanic direct mail programs fail to achieve their objectives because they chose the wrong list. The best Hispanic lists are response lists. However, their universes are limited. As marketers move to increase the size of their mailings, they have to rely on compiled lists. So, when using these lists, direct marketers must have an excellent understanding of the source and the method used to identify Hispanics.

The best-compiled lists are those that (among other things) provide a good acculturation and language index. These could be the elements that define the success of your program. Copy is the second most important element because if you are communicating in the wrong language, your response is very likely to suffer. Many people assume that because a person speaks Spanish he or she is also able to read it. This is not the case in the U.S. Hispanic market. As people become more acculturated, their language preferences and skills begin to change accordingly. Many second- and third-generation Hispanics may be able to speak Spanish but are unable to read it. Since this is direct mail, marketers have to be extremely careful about this element.

The offer is very important in any direct marketing program, including Hispanic programs. However, at this point in time, the list and the copy take priority. This is why I only assign 10% to the offer. However, more sophisticated mailers that have the right list and know what language to use for each prospect should increase the emphasis on the offer. This is true because Hispanics will respond differently to the same offer according to their level of acculturation. This is why variable printing is so important. You can change the content and emphasis of the offer, copy and creative for each recipient according to their level of acculturation.

P: What are the most frequent mistakes made by advertisers targeting Hispanics through direct mail?

GG: This may sound like a broken record but translations continue to be a problem.  However, even for companies that are beyond the translation challenge creating relevant message is a challenge. Even if someone receives a direct mail package that is in-language/in-culture, the message needs to be relevant in order to increase response.  Just because a direct mail program is in the right language and has the right feel doesn’t guarantee success. 

One piece of marketing intelligence that is essential to make relevant offers to the Hispanic market is the prospect’s or customer’s level of acculturation. Acculturation is important because an offer addressed to a person that is highly acculturated must be quite different than one addressing a person that is less acculturated.  For example, a financial institution offering a credit card to the Hispanic community will be more effective if they develop at least two versions.  One version that highlights no annual fees and low interest rates aimed at more acculturated Hispanics, and another focused on credit education and the benefits of using credit wisely to those that are less acculturated. 

P:How do you see the future of Hispanic Direct Mail?

GG: I see direct mail playing an increasing intricate role as part of integrated campaigns. The line dividing above and below the line marketing activities is disappearing. Clients will be looking for better ways to maximize the available media to maximize ROI.   Variable printing will have a great impact on this process specially when clients find ways to effectively merge Hispanic and general market campaigns into one common mail stream to achieve economies of scale.

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