By Glenn Llopis (Forbes.com)
As organizations seek to find new ways to capture sustainable business growth, the estimated $1.2 trillion dollars of Hispanic consumer purchasing power in 2012 represents a time-sensitive opportunity for America’s corporations to earn this powerful relationship. Creating and sustaining momentum with this rapidly growing consumer segment is key, yet risky if not executed properly. In fact, many brands have tried to market to Hispanics, yet have failed miserably losing millions of dollars along the way. These unsuccessful attempts have proven that Hispanic consumers are looking for brands to create greater cultural affinity and to listen to their needs more carefully. As a group of participants shared with me at a Hispanic Consumer Roundtable event my company recently hosted, “If you take the time to know me you will not need to sell me.”
Hispanics in the United States are growing frustrated with how brands represent their voice and identity in their marketing, public relations, social media campaigns and grassroots efforts. The success of any campaign effort to Latino consumers will be measured by how well brands authentically embrace and become an integral part of what matters most to the Latino community at-large. Simply put, Hispanics don’t want to be sold – they want brand owners to help advance their voice, respectability and opportunities for their families in America. Savvy Latino consumers are making one thing clear: “Respect our voice and help create opportunities for advancement to earn our trust and vote of confidence.” Brands must focus on ways to enable Hispanics in America, helping them discover their full potential – as leaders and small business owners, as parents and students, as anything they want to be – by leveraging their Hispanic heritage.
Here are a couple of ways brands can earn the respect, trust and loyalty of Hispanic consumers.
1. Become an Integral part of the Hispanic voice – Communicate with Hispanics, Not at Them
Don’t force Hispanics to speak like your brand. Get to know Hispanics and their cultural nuances so you can begin to position your brand as an advocate of their community. By ignoring the Hispanic voice, you minimize the value of the Hispanic consumer mind share. Believing that your brand will overpower the Hispanic voice because of how it has been accepted in the mainstream market weakens the credibility of your efforts.
The key is to communicate with Hispanic consumers, not alienate them. Help Hispanics find their path toward advancement by helping them overcome the hurdles they face. For example, the Center for Hispanic Leadership has partnered with organizations to provide Hispanic consumers the culturally tailored professional/personal development and career tools to help them succeed at work or advance in their personal lives. Hispanics are confused about whom to trust, what to invest in and how best to commit their time. Therefore they are more inclined to start trusting a brand that genuinely cares and invests in their advancement. Unfortunately, most brands that have attempted this only do it with words (selling hope), but not with actions and real tools that can measurably advance the Hispanic individual or community along with the brand owners.
Hispanics want brands to embrace their cultural identity and lifestyle needs in ways that naturally connect to their cultural values. Hispanic consumers want to be an authentic part of your brand promise, rather than be forced to believe a promise that doesn’t resonate culturally. This fact alone makes it a business and societal imperative for brands to invest in earning a trustworthy relationship with Hispanic consumers. Until you embrace this approach for your brand’s success and begin to show genuine intention in the Hispanic market will you be headed in the right direction. Intention is more powerful than you think as long as you act on it. It gets you closer to earning the trust your brand desperately needs to dominate your industry. Doing it the old way hurts your brand and is a waste of time and money.
2. Don’t Marginalize Hispanic Consumers – Empower Their Identity
Don’t allow your brand to define Hispanics, let Hispanic consumers help define your brand for themselves and their community. For example, on the political front, politicians have destroyed their credibility with Hispanics by solely associating their identity with Immigration Reform and the fate of the Dream Act. Hispanics interpret this behavior as a sign of disrespect and thus are growing uncertain about voting in the 2012 Presidential election.
Hispanics want to align themselves with brands that strengthen their identity. Stop believing that your Hispanic focus groups are necessarily revealing the truth or properly guiding your brand initiatives. Perhaps you are not asking them the right questions? This is the case most of the time because the brand owners don’t really know what they are looking for other than market share. Hispanic consumers are most transparent and become incredibly valuable for your brand when they believe your brand can be trusted. However, this trust must be earned not by your efforts to “pay for their voice” but rather showing them that you genuinely care about empowering their voice.
This is why Latino consumers have not yet forged strong alliances and loyalty with most brands and they have every reason to feel this way. Remember, Hispanics in America are fighting to hold onto their cultural identity and this gets lost when their voice is marginalized.
Hispanics believe they have heard it all before from brands that don’t understand them. This requires brands to change the conversation; change their approach and build a more meaningful and purposeful relationship with Hispanics whose community desires leadership.
Brands must help to shape a refreshed mindset and empowered identity with Latino consumers. If they do, they will soon be on track to dominate their industry. Brands become a more integral part of the Latino voice and everyone wins.
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