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With roughly 65% of babies born in the States boasting an Hispanic background according to U.S. census data, it's clear that this demo is poised to become the next gold mine for youth marketers. But beyond the sheer scale of the Latino baby boom, what makes this phenomenon even more exciting to advertisers is the fact that Hispanic kids influence family purchases to an even greater degree than their non-Hispanic counterparts. Many Latino kids are the first U.S.-born members of their family, and so are more familiar with the English language and more immersed in U.S. culture. Foreign-born parents often depend heavily on their acculturated kids to guide the bulk of household purchases.
May 1, 2002

With roughly 65% of babies born in the States boasting an Hispanic background according to U.S. census data, it’s clear that this demo is poised to become the next gold mine for youth marketers. But beyond the sheer scale of the Latino baby boom, what makes this phenomenon even more exciting to advertisers is the fact that Hispanic kids influence family purchases to an even greater degree than their non-Hispanic counterparts. Many Latino kids are the first U.S.-born members of their family, and so are more familiar with the English language and more immersed in U.S. culture. Foreign-born parents often depend heavily on their acculturated kids to guide the bulk of household purchases.

But that’s not to say that all messages targeting U.S. Hispanic youth should be created in English only. Latino parents like to be very involved in their kids’ lives, and watching Spanish-language TV is very much a family activity centering around cultural learning in many of these households. Then there’s the fact that Hispanic kids regularly and effortlessly switch between Spanish and English in their everyday conversations, often blending the two. They also enjoy the influence their language and culture are having on U.S. popular culture as a whole.

Generally speaking, then, the best approach for marketers targeting this demo is to straddle the language barrier. When San Antonio, Texas-based Hispanic marketing agency Bromley Communications was designing its teen-skewing campaign for Procter & Gamble’s Always brand of feminine protection pads, the company decided to introduce the product benefits in Spanish in TV, print and out-of-home channels. But it also used the word ‘always’ throughout the campaign in the hopes that teens would introduce the brand/word into the Hispanic youth market’s pop culture lexicon.

Influence works both ways. In a twist to the traditional bilingual creative process–where an English ad is simply dubbed into Spanish–unique Spanish ads are finally being picked up for use in the mainstream English market. A Spanish-language campaign developed by New York-based The Ruido Group for the U.S. government’s Office of National Drug Control Policy and the non-profit Partnership for a Drug-Free America is now being translated into English for national broadcast next month. The animated spot, which debuted in the U.S. last November on Spanish nets Telemundo and Univision, examines the possible consequences of smoking marijuana and humorously ends with the main character’s grandmother hitting him over the head with her purse. Roberto Ramos, president of The Ruido Group, says this grandmother element touches on the importance of family within the Hispanic community.

This and similar insights into the attitudes and lifestyles of the Hispanic family are what drive most kid-targeted campaigns for McDonald’s, according to the fast-food chain’s director of U.S. marketing Max Gallegos, who oversees the national Hispanic market. While it’s well-known that Hispanic kids tend to have a close relationship with their immediate and extended families, McDonald’s research has also discovered that their attitude towards fast-service dining is very different from that of the general population. ‘Typically, consumers view fast-service restaurants simply as refueling stations,’ he says. ‘But for the Hispanic family, it’s quite the opposite–the dining experience adds to the dynamic of spending quality time together.’ That’s why Latino-targeted Happy Meal advertising tends to showcase a parent playing a prominent role in the child’s experience, he says.

For example, a recent Spanish-language spot called ‘Man to Man’ opens with a boy walking with his father. A young girl hands the kid a flyer; he looks at it and then curiously asks his dad, ‘What is sex?’ On a mission to break down the facts of life, the man trundles his boy off to a McDonald’s, and from outside the window, the camera shows the father explaining things to his bored-looking son. At the close of the conversation, the son points to the flyer, where it’s indicated that one should fill out one’s sex (or gender), and asks, ‘And all that fits in here?’ Gallegos says that this style of humor, hinging on dual meanings, is often used in McDonald’s spots created for the Hispanic market because a double entendre enhances the group’s tendency to remember the spot and its message.

McDonald’s also relies on grassroots efforts to target the Hispanic teen, putting money and effort into supporting Latin music, which has been having a profound influence on mainstream pop culture of late (as evidenced by the pervasive popularity of Ricky Martin, Enrique Iglesias and Shakira).

In 2000, McD’s launched a program to search for a new Latin act that could open for the company’s Noche de Carnaval celebration in Miami (which was televised on Univision) and perform at the Latin Grammy party. Diestra, a boy band from Atlanta, Georgia, ended up winning the contest and has since moved to Miami to further pursue its music career, according to Gallegos.

Burger King, meanwhile, has been focusing on what it calls Big Kids–the six to 11 age range. Bromley account director Sandra Garcia says the experiences of Hispanic kids during this stage in between preschool and tweenhood can be significantly different from the experiences of the general-market child. ‘While the overarching insight of a Big Kid is the same, it happens a little later for Hispanic kids,’ she says, pointing to the reluctance of Hispanic parents to push their kids into the next life stage as a factor in the later drive for independence.

So whereas the general-market creative will focus on irreverence and independence, Garcia says the Hispanic creative will have a softer tone. For example, the company’s ‘Football’ spot, which features an NFL-style game in which the star player is a kid, has the child looking up to his parents in the stands to share his glory.

While the size of the Latino kid market has grown substantially, Bromley’s Garcia says Hispanic marketers are still very limited by the number of outlets available for the dissemination of their messages. On the TV side, there are still relatively few Spanish-language kids shows around which media buyers can place ads for this demo, and Spanish-language channels have a much smaller reach than English cable nets–making it difficult to have any real impact. That’s why Hispanic marketers are increasingly turning to English channels to target the Hispanic demo.

Nickelodeon, for example, has started to run bilingual spots around English programming that caters to Hispanic kids, such as The Brothers Garcia, Taina and Dora the Explorer. Texas-based restaurant chain Chuck E. Cheese was the first to step up to the plate, with 15-second ads airing since January around Taina on Sunday evenings and Dora the Explorer, which averages a 10% share on weekday mornings. In the spots, Chuck E. Cheese’s mouse mascot calls parents ‘estudiantes’ (students) of fun, adding in English that ‘parents don’t have to get it; they just have to get you there.’ But after showing slices of parents whooping it up at the restaurants with their kids, Chuck grudgingly concludes, ‘No está mal novatos’ (not bad for beginners).

Despite the fact that marketers better understand the dynamics of the Hispanic youth demo these days, it’s still a trial-and-error game to figure out what message delivery strategies work best, and not all marketing efforts directed at this group are a resounding success.

Mattel, for example, is still learning what works and what doesn’t when it comes to selling its popular Barbie line to the Hispanic market. In 2001, the company released a Quinceanera Barbie–a white-gowned doll that tapped into the traditional Latin coming-of-age celebration. According to Debbie Haag, director of Barbie doll marketing for Mattel, the line’s first retail outing failed because of scattered distribution and lack of advertising for the launch.

Why didn’t the toyco tout the heck out of the release? The quota couldn’t justify a spot, says Haig, and Mattel had learned that advertising–which traditionally provides a massive boost in sales–doesn’t necessarily work with the Hispanic market. A year earlier, Mattel ran its first Spanish-language ad (albeit dubbed) promoting the launch of Jewel Barbie. Whereas a general-market ad will typically double sales for a toy in week one and triple them in week two, no such results were recorded in the Hispanic market.

That doesn’t mean the company is giving up. Quite the contrary. This past year, in time for the holiday buying season, the company launched its first official multicultural dolls. Before this, says Haag, Mattel had only offered brunette Teresa, who wasn’t officially Hispanic. New multicultural dolls Kayla (Hispanic) and Leah (Asian) carried their own advertising donuts and are featured on the company’s websites that are offered in more than 10 languages. Mattel’s Hispanic website www.barbielatina.com looks pretty much the same as the popular www.barbie.com, except that it hosts fewer games because they’re difficult to translate and less appealing to Hispanic girls.

For more information about KidScreen’s Marketing to U.S. Hispanic Youth event, check out our website at www.kidscreen.com/hispanic_youth.

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