Divide and Conquer: Segmenting the Diverse U.S. Hispanic Market

In recent years, Hispanic marketing efforts have become much more focused, as advertisers have increasingly come to regard the U.S. Hispanic population as the complex and heterogeneous market that it is. “One of the biggest changes in the last few years has been the slow realization that marketing to Hispanics does not just mean marketing in Spanish. It's more about the culture, while language is just one variable,” says Juan Tornoe, Latino marketing and advertising consultant at Hispanic Trending. “After all, when you're trying to sell pepperoni pizza to Latinos, you don't identify what's Hispanic about the pizza and try to emphasize that-you make a good ad that takes their realities into consideration and sell them the pizza. It's about inserting little cultural cues, small touches that Hispanics recognize and relate to,” he says, emphasizing that advertisers needn't hit their Latino target over the head with how Hispanic their product is in order to connect with them.

Identifying the target…

Of course, to reach your target, you need to identify it and know as much about it as possible. Many marketers and publishers are turning to research companies to do just that. One company in the field is newlyformed The Futures Company, which took life when the research company Yankelovich merged with the British company Henley Center Headlight Vision. “The name change is really reflective of what we are all about: examining today's trends to get a picture of what tomorrow will look like,” Sonya Suarez, VP multicultural marketing insights, tells Portada.

The company has just returned from the field after interviewing some 4,000 people for its annual multicultural study. The results of the study were released to clients in February and to the broader public sometime in March or April.

An Enhanced Acculturation Model…

The Futures Company segments its multicultural audience with what it calls an “Enhanced Acculturation Model.” Ms. Suarez notes, “Traditional models usually are based on language preference and time spent in country. Our model focuses much more on attitudes than these other factors.”

David Bersoff, who is the head of global knowledge and intelligence at the Futures Company, says that this attitudinally based segmentation approach is better than traditional models because the underlying assumptions of traditional segmentation methods are not borne out in reality: “The traditional model assumes that the more time one has spent in-country and the more facile one is with the English language, the more 'Americanized' that person is. This simply is not born out by the facts.”

Bersoff says that there are many Latinos who have been in the U.S. for many years who maintain strong ties to their Hispanic heritage and traditions. Conversely, there are some Latinos who have not been here for very long, but who are intent upon becoming “American” and have little use for their Latin customs.

As a result, The Futures Company's Multicultural Marketing Study divides its Hispanic audiences into the following four segments:

1. Spanish-oriented high cultural affinity: Slower to accelerate the acculturation process. (Mostly Foreign Born)
2. Spanish-oriented low cultural affinity: More of a desire to speed up the acculturation process (Mostly Foreign Born)
3. Bicultural: (One foot in Hispanic world and one in Anglo world) Best of both worlds, but also torn between worlds. More fluent in English, but still very tied to Hispanic culture. (Mostly US Born)
4. Relatively Assimilated: Identifies more with mainstream American values than with Hispanic identity. (Mostly US Born) “Whether you reach out in English or Spanish is more of a strategic decision than a tactical decision,” says Suarez. “For many years, marketers would simply translate. More seasoned marketers use both languages, multiple mediums, and focus on relevance. Content is the key, here.”
Also important is to be attuned to the target's orientation with regard to heritage and culture: The Futures Company defines Heritage Orientation to be the respondent's high or low affinity to their Hispanic culture.

Cultural Orientation has to do with the degree to which the consumer is sensitive to Spanish-speaking customer service personnel, icons, signage, etc.

“We have found that financial clients have tended to favor bilingual approaches,” says Suarez, noting that they are benefited by having the wherewithal to cast a broad net. “These clients are really interested in the foreign born, less acculturated Hispanics, because they understand the importance of establishing a relationship at the beginning of the acculturation process,” says Suarez. More acculturated Hispanics are more likely to have established a relationship with a bank, by contrast, and are therefore less promising as a prospect, although more acculturated Hispanics also tend to have more income. Suarez tells Portada that Healthcare is another industry reaching out to less-acculturated Hispanics first. “Both groups understand the importance of educating this group to establish long-term relationships,” she says, adding that soft drink and CPG companies who have the resources are also targeting Hispanics in both languages.

With the economic climate being what it is, however, many advertisers are not able to pursue bilingual strategies and have to pick one. It is in this instance that effective segmentation is crucial to achieving maximum ROI, according to Suarez. She adds that reaching Hispanic consumers in a holistic manner ensures cultural, personal and life-stage relevance. Understanding, too, that there are varying acculturation levels and dual language proficiencies in many Hispanic households support the idea that the media vehicle chosen by Hispanics is driven by the content regardless of language. “Of course, traditional media including TV and radio works well with all the Hispanic consumer segments. But today marketers must also add the new technologies to the mix-including digital, online an mobile marketing-to reach all the Hispanic segments.”

Stephen Palacios, Executive VP of the consulting firm Cheskin, says that he would like to see greater uniformity in the terminology used by market research and segmentation firms: “I think it can be overwhelming on the client-side when they hear such a range of terminology used to refer to the same things. As an industry we should acknowledge this as an issue. Many companies try to put forth more complicated models to be perceived as more comprehensive. It's similar to how a razor with four blades is seen to be better than the one with three.”

Stephens says that while he does believe in having a robust algorithmbased system, the more important work is done on a case-by-case basis looking at the target's attitudes toward the specific brand and product, and calibrating marketing efforts accordingly. “While acculturation level is certainly a factor  in the equation, it is not the only factor,” says Palacios. “Also very important are things like what life-stage the consumer is in, how they already view the brand and product being advertised, and what informs that view. So while identifying level of acculturation is a good starting point, it is not the end point.”

Also important according to Cheskin's model is the consumer's category- based acculturation. While a consumer might be quite familiar with the fast food category, perhaps because they had McDonald's in their home country, that same person might be quite unfamiliar with the U.S. financial category, since the concept of credit is not nearly as established in their home country.