Brand marketers in the U.S. have been known to invite two or three Hispanic media to a product launch and consider that their Latino PR. Or send Google-translated press releases to Spanish-language media. In other words, any outreach to Latino media was really just about “ticking the box.”
That is an outdated, lazy way of doing Hispanic comms in 2017. The new normal recognizes the massive size of this market and, just as importantly, a growth rate outpacing that of the general market.
According to Nielsen’s 2016 study From the Ballot Box to the Grocery Store, Hispanics represent almost 18% of the U.S. population – 57 million people. Its size is expected to double within the next two generations, reaching 119 million by 2060.
With those numbers, and the fact that word-of-mouth and referral rates are three times higher in the Hispanic community than the general market, savvy marketers are building outreach to earned media and social influencers.
But to encourage that positive referral, Hispanic PR pros say that outreach has to be authentic, consistent, and culturally relevant.
Hispanics rely on word of mouth to keep informed, whether it is family, friends, or media
Alejandra Molinari, TurboTax
One of those companies that has put outdated Hispanic PR into the rear-view mirror is Fiat Chrysler Automobiles (FCA). The Hispanic population’s growth rate caught the automaker’s attention, but so too, did their clout in driving auto sales. In 2016, Asians, African-Americans, and Hispanics accounted for 27% of all U.S. vehicle purchases, according to Catalyst for Insight: New Registrations 2015 vs 2016.
Within that multicultural auto-buying segment, Hispanics accounted for a commanding 63%. “We started looking at how we could amplify the content that we generated for the general market to Hispanic media, mainly Spanish-speaking media,” says Ariel Gavilan, the automaker’s head of international and Hispanic communications.
“One of the main complaints we heard from U.S. Hispanic media generally about the auto industry and auto news was the poor quality of the material that was being generated in Spanish. Some of the releases they were receiving were translated in a way that was actually offensive and seen as very disrespectful,” he explains. “What we needed to do first was build trust with earned media in the U.S.”
Rather than translated, content is adapted from general market comms. “Our philosophy is that we’re looking to capture the meaning of the content, not the specific words,” says Gavilan.
Now with a hub of high-level material, FCA is looking to generate content specifically for Hispanic media. For example, it invited two well-known automotive journalists, Franky Mostro from Mexico and Univision’s Jaime Gabaldoni, to race off at its 16th annual Mopar Mile-High Block Party in Golden, Colorado. Mostro has more than 275,000 followers on Twitter and Gabaldoni more than 20,000.
“Many of these journalists have their own brands, so they post content not only on their main outlet, but also on their own platforms, as they have followers who value their opinion,” points out Gavilan.
The automaker is also about to finalize a contract with its first Hispanic PR firm, having been encouraged by a positive lift in its share of Hispanic vehicle buyers.
Expanding to social influencers
Intuit’s TurboTax has a very strategic approach to earned media. It offers up tax tips to Hispanic media by offering them bylined custom content and interviews with internal spokespeople, such as TurboTax’s certified public accountants or third-party advocates.
“There is not much out there in terms of educational content around taxes, so we try to get as out there as we can,” Alejandra Molinari, PR communications manager of Latino strategy at TurboTax, tells PRWeek. “That is important because Hispanics rely on word of mouth to keep informed, whether it is family, friends, or media.”
This past tax season, Intuit partnered with lifestyle expert Marines Duarte. A former Latin America group publisher for Cosmopolitan and Good Housekeeping, Duarte writes for several media outlet including Univision’s Despierta America and website TodoBebe.com.
“She has a ton of equity in the Latino market and so we went on a media tour with her,” says Molinari. “Duarte shared tips on taxes and for helping parents get their kids to save.”
In addition, Intuit partnered with nine social media influencers who highlighted TurboTax’s product features – including that the income tax software offers on-demand bilingual assistants – and ease of use.
A brand should review past branded content and see how the influencer is able to incorporate the brand in organic way
Andy Checo, Havas Formulatin
“We strategically worked with influencers that had distinct audiences from family to finance to reach a wide spectrum and not have them overlap,” says Molinari.
Andy Checo, senior director at Havas Formulatin, the PR AOR for TurboTax on U.S. Hispanic earned outreach, social content development and influencer programs, says they also looked beyond number of followers in evaluating social influencers.
“A brand should review past branded content and see how the influencer is able to incorporate the brand in organic way,” he says.
“The language chosen for a post can also play an important role. Many brands will choose bilingual posts, but this should be dictated by the influencers’ audience and interaction. No need to have a post covered in both languages if the influencers exclusively communicates in just one,” advises Checo.
Tremendous sway and reach means bigger budgets for Hispanic marketers
Brands traditionally have spent very little of their Hispanic marcomms budget on social media influencers. That is changing. Brands say these influencers are proving to have tremendous reach and sway on purchase intent and positive brand sentiment of their target.
Kymber Umaña, Sprint’s Hispanic marketing manager since 2009, says, “social influencer communications was an add-on in the past, but now we put it on the same level of parity as earned media and social media. The evolution of the Hispanic market has largely been about the rising importance of social influencer engagement. If you’re not doing that engaging, you’re missing the boat.”
Prince Royce and Lele Pons are Hispanic-American influencers Sprint has partnered with on its cross-cultural marketing campaign, #LiveUnlimited. Both are well-known in the community particularly among younger Latinos: recording artist Joyce for topping the Latin album charts four times, and Pons for the funny short videos she makes like My Big Fat Hispanic Family, which has more than 10 million views on YouTube.
Both have been promoting the campaign on their popular social media channels.
According to Pew Research, Hispanics share posts on social media five times more than non-Hispanics. And Hispanics are 35% more likely to click on a post when they see that it has been shared by another Hispanic.
To that end, Sprint has been doubling down on some of their relationships, as they work to turn Hispanic influencers into long-term brand ambassadors. “There is still a time and place for ad-hoc partnerships, but we’ve been working ongoing with some influencers,” says Umaña. “We may have started with them on an ad-hoc basis, but recognized that they really embody our brand.”
Royce is a case in point. Sprint began working with him in 2015 after the company’s CEO Marcelo Claure, himself a Latino, met the singer at a party. While trying to make it as a musician, Royce used to work at a Sprint store as a greeter in the Bronx, making him an authentic fit for the brand. “He represents that relatable, quintessential Hispanic story of tightening your bootstraps, working hard, and finding success,” says Umaña.
Like many American-Hispanic influencers, Royce posts in English and Spanish as a lot of his fans are 13- to 21-year-olds who are a little more English dominant – a key demographic for Sprint.
Working with Sprint on its Hispanic outreach is APC Collective. Former Edelman executive Audrey Ponzio started the agency in 2015 at the request of Sprint, which had been impressed with her work while she was a consultant. APC now works with a number of major brands. “At a time when some marketers have been cutting back, we are working with budgets that have grown,” says Ponzio.
Influencers bring celebrity-like wattage
The Snickers brand has been leveraging influencers for a general market audience for about two to three years now. Michael Italia, senior brand manager for Snickers at Mars Wrigley Confection, says they’ve had strong results in reaching younger consumers this way versus traditional marketing tactics.
Now they want to replicate the success with Snickers’ Hispanic marketing dollars. “Social influencers are a rapidly growing source of information for the Hispanic millennial consumer,” he explains. “We also know the Hispanic consumer over-indexes in the value they put on celebrity endorsement, and with the ever-changing social landscape, influencers now hold celebrity-like status.”
Working closely with them to develop content in their own brand voices, the chocolate bar brand partnered with three Hispanic influencers for its You’re Not You When You’re Hungry brand message: Jay Mendoza, a former Vine star who has been rebuilding his following on other platforms (influencers to watch, below); comedian Jesus Garcia; and Krystaalized, the Instagram personality for actress Marilyn Flore.
Being Latino, a Hispanic social media marketing firm, helped Snickers find influencers that aligned with the brand. The firm’s president and founder Lance Rios advocates influencer programs that target both Hispanic journalists via earned media outreach and online content creators with paid partnerships, depending on the objective.
He notes journalists are still widely trusted sources of information among Hispanics, while online personalities provide entertainment, education of very specific content, and a sense of belonging. “Brands have the ability to scale significantly by leveraging journalists and video influencers in combination because they’re connecting with them via both kinds of word-of-mouth connections,” says Rios.
Snickers plans to continue working with Hispanic influencers on developing sharable content, encouraged by the results of its first foray into it. Two of the influencer videos reached over 1 million views on the Being Latino Facebook. Also, engagement rate was 39.9%.
And Italia notes the content can travel beyond just Hispanic audiences.
“Even though they might have a slight Hispanic skew, we can show the content to the general market and not worry if it’s relevant,” he explains. “I see a day where we won’t have a dedicated Hispanic plan and a dedicated general market plan in working with influencers, because what works with one audience also works for another.”
Three to watch: Lance Rios of Being Latino picks
three Hispanic influencers on the rise.
Followers: 281,000 on Instagram, 252,602 followers on Facebook
Has worked with: Coca-Cola, Mars, Honda, T-Mobile
A Mexican/Salvadorian American from California, Jay Mendoza has proven that you can be bilingual, riotously funny, and a loving family man all at once. Having first built his comic personality on Vine, Jay has since expanded to Instagram and Facebook to rebuild his audience post-Vine. His videos are mostly in English.
Followers: 106,000 subscribers on YouTube, 24,700 on Instagram
Has worked with: Kia, Vicks, Dove, Neutrogena
A bilingual blogger, Rocio Isabel creates most of her social media content around her curly hair under the brand RisasRizos. By following her haircare advice, loyal followers look to stay connected to their roots (pun intended). A video post from her can garner as many as 80,000 views.
Followers: 1.9 million on YouTube, 81,000 on Twitter
Has worked with: Wendy’s, Dr. Pepper, General Mills
Taking his love for food worldwide, El Guzii creates his own culinary spin on dishes in Spanish and English. His gregarious personality, mixed with his ability to connect with his followers on a personal level, makes him a unique influencer. He communicates mostly in Spanish.