Last year I completed a professional certification in Hispanic Marketing Communications through Florida State University. Since 2009, the F.S.U. Hispanic Marketing department has offered a course that is geared primarily to working professionals. It was a great opportunity to augment my credentials and I would highly recommend the course to others. For a final class assignment, students were asked to study a particular company or industry and develop a comprehensive Hispanic marketing strategy. For my assignment, I choose Grand Rapids based retailer Meijer, Inc.
For those of you not from the Midwest, Meijer is a superstore retailer with almost two hundred locations in Michigan, Ohio, Indiana, Illinois, and Kentucky. For my assignment, I suggested strategies for Meijer to expand its base into the Hispanic market. Some of these included defining groups and patterns among Latino shoppers, culturally relevant media approaches, and positioning and brand message creation to deliver value for Hispanic consumers. As an example, I suggested Meijer could build credibility by expanding its community support into Latino dominant schools and neighborhoods. This would complement Meijer’s current commitment to supporting the communities where their customers reside.
During my research, I was pleased to find that Meijer has test marketed with store location strategies in ethnically diverse neighborhoods in the Chicago area. This indicates, at least for Meijer, there is an acknowledgement of the importance multi-cultural markets. However, a recent column by Geoscape founder César Melgoza suggests many retailers have yet to properly engage Hispanic communities.
Melgoza explains that many retailers have relegated their Hispanic marketing efforts to “putting salsa” over their existing general market campaigns. He also relates some marketers of retail companies consider Latino customers as “downscale” consumers – shoppers that don’t purchase premium products. Not only are these strategies ineffective, but also they make some general assumptions about Hispanic consumers that are inaccurate.
So, what can retailers do to connect with Latino shoppers?
- Realize that general market campaigns may not resonate as well with your Hispanic audiences. Remember, good marketing communications will deliver value based on relevance to an audience. Hispanic shoppers, depending on acculturation, may have different values and attitudes from their general market counterparts.
- Latino shoppers, when marketed to correctly, can be lucrative. Don’t assume because many Latino populations are recent immigrants that they are also low spenders. As Melgoza points out, Hispanic households will actually spend more, not less than white non-Hispanic households.
- An untapped market can be an untapped opportunity. Since the release of the 2010 Census results, many companies are now hot to find ways to connect with Latino consumers. Remember, Latinos tend to be brand loyal. A retailer that can be first to market with Latino shoppers can be looking at long-term profits.
So there you have it, some free advice. By the way, if you are an executive from a retailer like Meijer, please feel free to get in contact with me. I would be happy to talk about the Hispanic marketing strategy work mentioned above and how it can be applied to your business.