Political observers regularly draw parallels between political communications and consumer marketing. Whether it’s increasing use of social media, data mining or breakthrough creative style, political campaigns and consumer ad campaigns are always watching each other — looking for the next great idea.
In 2012, no trend may be more important than efforts by political campaigns to learn from consumer brands’ response to the enormous opportunities that come from connecting with the U.S. Hispanic community.
We have seen the numbers and understand why parties and brands alike need to reach out to Hispanics. There are more than 50 million Hispanic Americans, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. This is, by far, the fastest-growing segment of our population, driven by U.S. births. Every month, 50,000 Hispanics turn 18.
The Hispanic population is remarkably engaged in the political process — 84 percent of Hispanic registered voters turned out to vote in 2008. In addition, though the Hispanic community has in the past been located almost exclusively in a small number of states, some of the fastest-growing pockets of Hispanics are in places like Iowa, North and South Dakota and Ohio.
Today, young Hispanics switch easily from English to Spanish. They are deeply rooted in their own culture, yet readily interact with things most interesting to them in non-Hispanic culture. They choose to watch TV in Spanish not because they can’t understand English — but because English language TV doesn’t always understand them.
For marketers, all this adds up to what we call total-market strategy. That approach means: Develop one brand positioning, one message, one creative platform — and then tailor it to different languages and cultures. This is what the largest consumer brands do every day. And they’re reaping the benefits of a deep relationship with a consumer segment that offers more growth potential than any other in the U.S. market.
That same thinking should drive campaign strategy in the 2012 presidential election. Hispanics have rarely been thought of as a target audience in elections. There have been many reasons for this.
But the big obstacle is the misperception that connecting with Hispanics requires a whole new message and strategy. In fact, all it takes is total-market strategy — one message tailored to Hispanic culture.
Every piece of data, and every experience, confirms that Hispanic voters share similar concerns, interests and expectations as voters everywhere. They care about the economy, immigration and education — and are looking carefully at candidates of both parties to see who is going to articulate a vision that gives them confidence in the future.
Some politicians have understood the importance of this strategy — including former President George W. Bush, former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush, President Barack Obama and Sen. Harry Reid (D-Nev.).
Roughly 14 million Hispanics are expected to vote in 2012. As they demonstrated in Arizona this month, in California last year and in the 2008 presidential elections, they will likely be a deciding voting bloc in elections around the country.
Hispanics will represent 10 percent or more of all votes in some of the most critical battleground states — from New Mexico to Florida to Colorado. They are expected to have a huge impact in North Carolina, Virginia, New Jersey and beyond.
Candidates ignore Hispanics at their own peril. It is a voting bloc that no candidate or campaign can bypass if they want to win. Candidates should speak directly to these voters to make their case.
Hispanics are not just this election’s swing constituency. They represent the future of U.S. politics.
The 2012 presidential election may well be decided by the Hispanic vote. It will likely be remembered as the race in which our political parties realized what consumer marketers are already implementing: The new U.S. reality is not about multicultural America; it is about one America that is massively multicultural.
Randy Falco is president and chief executive officer of Univision Communications.
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