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Marketers hone in on a burgening Hispanic kid demo

Numbering 35.3 million and representing 12.6% of the total U.S. population, the Hispanic demographic has been pegged by the 2000 Census as the fastest-growing segment in the country. As the demo's purchasing power is projected to grow from US$451 billion to US$1 trillion by 2010, marketers are falling all over themselves to reach this burgeoning market.
September 1, 2001

Numbering 35.3 million and representing 12.6% of the total U.S. population, the Hispanic demographic has been pegged by the 2000 Census as the fastest-growing segment in the country. As the demo’s purchasing power is projected to grow from US$451 billion to US$1 trillion by 2010, marketers are falling all over themselves to reach this burgeoning market.

Hispanic kids represent a particularly desirable target–mainly due to their ubiquity. The Hispanic population has a higher-than-average birthrate, so families tend to include many children. A September 2000 newsletter from Multicultural Marketing Resources states that 15.4% of today’s toddlers (ages zero to four) are Hispanic and that 35% of Hispanics are under 18 years of age. Marketing efforts aimed at Hispanic kids are popping up everywhere in hopes of tapping into this new niche.

Burger King’s latest spot for Hispanic kids ages four to 11 keys into market research that indicates fitting into U.S. culture, becoming independent and parental validation are important elements in Hispanic kids’ lives. ‘Football,’ which airs on Spanish-language networks Telemundo and Galavision until September 30, focuses on a Hispanic boy playing pee-wee football. When he scores a touchdown, he looks to the bleachers for parental approval to hear his dad (more familiar with soccer and a bit confused about the sport at hand) yelling ‘GOL!’

‘Hispanic kids tend to hang onto the apron strings a little bit longer because their parents have a hard time letting them go,’ says Sandy Salinas, director of ethnic marketing at Burger King. One method some Hispanic parents employ to prevent their kids from becoming independent at too young an age is to hinder their child’s opportunity to earn disposable income. Most Hispanic kids aren’t given regular allowances; if they need money, they ask their parents for it. So because Hispanic kids’ purchases hinge to a greater degree on parental approval, marketing must target both kids and moms.

Preservation of culture is another point to keep in mind when targeting Hispanic kids, says Debbie Haag, director of Barbie marketing at Mattel. ‘Hispanic girls will buy the blonde doll and they’re fine with that. But their moms want them to know their heritage.’ So in May, Mattel came out with its first mass-market Hispanic doll. The Quinceanera Barbie (as a blonde and brunette) celebrates the Hispanic tradition of a girl’s 15th birthday, which marks the beginning of the journey toward adulthood.

To build brand loyalty with Hispanic girls ages three to 10, Mattel launched www.barbielatina.com, a Spanish-language website, in July. The reason? A Nickelodeon/Yankolovitch study reports that 62% of U.S. Hispanic children speak Spanish at home more than half the time.

Mattel is also looking at the possibility of introducing Spanish/English packaging in the U.S., as well as launching a line of Hispanic friends for Barbie in 2002.

Based on a February 2000 study conducted by California-based Cultural Access Group showing that teens ages 13 to 17 use the Internet more than any other U.S. Hispanic age group, Procter & Gamble created an on-line game specifically targeting that demo to promote Head & Shoulders Refresh shampoo. The game debuted on a stand-alone website in March after Q4 2000 test runs on Hispanic portals www.yupi.com and www.terra.com. Mission Refresh, still running on www.missionrefresh.com until the end of this year, features Capitan Cool’s fight to destroy the Evil Empire of Dandruff using a bubble machine and the Refresh wave.

‘We’re targeting Hispanic kids 14 to 24 because kids start to experience dandruff when they’re about 14,’ says Anastasia Kitsul, interactive marketing manager at Procter & Gamble. During the test run, over a third of games played were repeat sessions, and the link was forwarded over 4,000 times.

According to Silicon Valley market research firm Cheskin Research, computer ownership among U.S. Hispanics reached 47% in 2000–this marks an 80% annual growth rate for the previous two years, compared with only 21% for the overall U.S. population. Based on a number of similar findings, Disney Interactive glommed onto the Hispanic kids market last November when it released its first 10 Spanish-language interactive entertainment products, including Disney’s The Lion King Activity Center. Five new titles will be introduced next month, and the Mouse House is adding Hispanic-exclusive retailers like L.A.-based La Curacao to its mass-market distribution path in order to put the titles where Hispanic kids are shopping.

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