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The Basics of Marketing to Customers Who Don’t Look Like You

Meet Nicholas Segura, founder of Somos Agency and an alumnus of ScaleUP! Kansas City. Somos Agency’s sole purpose is to effectively connect any brand, product or service with Hispanic consumers.

If your business is ready to reach out to untapped markets, Nicholas is here with some actionable advice to get your efforts started on the right foot:

Emerging markets, like the exploding Hispanic market, create unique challenges in marketing communications. Many in the industry have never faced the experience of having to market to a culture that is not their own. When it comes to considering Hispanic consumers, many in marketing are faced with a different culture and language, and are left with more questions than answers.

Nicholas Segura somos agency multicultural marketingIn today’s multimedia marketplace, the basics of marketing should be updated to include as many cultures as possible. If there’s one thing we can guarantee—our world is becoming smaller and the United States is becoming more diverse.

Tapping into emerging markets is critical if you want to seriously grow your business. In August 2012, Forbes magazine said “Hispanics, now underserved by advertisers, will be the most important U.S. growth market through midcentury”.

Let that sink in for a moment; “…the most important U.S. growth market.”

Some brands are content with translating their work into Spanish and calling it a day, but we know there’s a smarter approach. If your business is making its first outreach to Hispanic consumers, here are the four basics you can’t get wrong:

Connect through culture

All products, brands and services offer some “thing.” Do you have an app? Do you offer a wearable? Maybe you have a new grocery product? Understanding your product and its unique value proposition is critical in order to connect it to a cultural touch point that a broader Hispanic audience can relate to.

Emerging markets have felt left out of the marketing mix since, well, forever.  Now, these emerging markets understand they have buying (and voting) power. Connecting your product with this audience will be greatly rewarded.

In the Hispanic marketplace, there are many opportunities still to be first to market. The task of understanding the culture should not be taken lightly, nor is it done easily, but it can be worthwhile.

Understand the market

First, all Hispanics do not speak Spanish. Many don’t speak Spanish at all! In fact, most Hispanics these days are born and raised in the United States and the American culture is their first. Many marketers want to take the easy way out and focus on their American-ness while ignoring their Hispanic roots, but we advise against that. Within the Hispanic market there are a broad range of cultures and the audience is diverse.

The problem with most marketing agencies is the lack of diversity on their team, which hampers deep understanding of the market. Hispanics are seeking brands who really understand them, and that requires an investment in learning how the product or service connects directly to Hispanic aspirations and culture.  Translating your brochure into Spanish will not suffice, and if you measure growth based on translating your materials alone, you will surely fail.

Hispanics have long insisted that we’re not one big homogeneous group. Asking the Cuban woman in the office what she’s doing for Cinco de Mayo…FAIL.  Dominicans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Brazilians, Cubans and many more reside in different parts of the country, and they bring their own unique perspectives when looking at products. Researching and understanding universal truths that resonate is the key to winning these audiences.

Know not just what, but how


The U.S. Census Bureau reports that Hispanics average 15 years younger than the broader American audience, 27 vs. 42 years old.  When you consider those who are 15 years younger than you, you quickly realize they get their news, music, entertainment in very different formats.

Hispanics are known as early adopters of technology. Nielsen reports that Hispanics are “first to mobile”: they spend more time on their mobile devices, download more mobile apps, stream more video, use social media and most importantly shop online 20 percent more than the general consumer.  

Another great untapped opportunity is that 50 percent of the entire Hispanic market is in two states: California and Texas. Combine the target capability of online marketing and social media, and you’re on your way to gaining some traction!

One other area for growth is Hispanic media. Large conglomerates like Univision are diversifying their offerings from their standard Spanish-speaking novellas to modern urban channels that are dedicated to English-only Hispanic audiences. Understanding those channels and where your product fits in will help you succeed.

Send the right message

With Hispanic and emerging markets, a variety of messages need to be developed. Combining product with culture and language is what marketing is all about.

Creating each message in the native language (versus translating English to Spanish) is a must. Some words simply don’t translate, and you will want to utilize cultural touch points to which Latinos can relate. Plan to develop a unique English message, a unique Spanish message and even a bilingual message. If you want to be really bold, play your Spanish ad on English media!

Finally, good Hispanic or multicultural marketing cannot be learned in an article, a lunch-n-learn, or even a day long seminar. It can’t be managed by hiring one Latino who is expected to encapsulate and interpret the whole Hispanic/Latino experience. Just like all of marketing, it is a practice, a constant observation of how trends are built from culture, behavior and data. Finding a team that has been dedicated to this cause and is passionate about helping your brand is crucial, and the returns on investment will be exponential.

When Hispanics finally recognize a brand that understands them, that brand will win the prize of long-term loyalty, and with that, growth in a new untapped market.

Nicholas started his Hispanic marketing career at Reyes Media Group. After creating a variety of campaigns and creatives for clients, he started CHE Creative. His first firm was sold to a larger advertising agency and within five years Nicholas started Somos Talent Agency to exclusively represent ethnic and multilingual talent in commercial broadcast, print and radio. In addition, he created Somos Agency to connect corporate clients with the growing Hispanic consumer market.

He has also worked with a variety of nonprofits such at the Greater Kansas City Hispanic Chamber of Commerce and Rose Brooks. In 2013, he received the U.S. Small Business Administration area Minority Business Champion Award for his work to support growth with the Kansas City minority business community.  Visit Nicholas at SomosAgency.com or send him an email at nicholas@somosagency.com

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