Tag Archives: Hispanic marketing


5 Marketing Mistakes You Won’t Believe People Make

As the title implies, some—if not all—of the mistakes I’ll be pointing out in this post may strike you as being basic—so basic that your reaction to some may be, “Thanks for the observation, Captain Obvious.”

However, since I’ve run into them repeatedly at different times over the years, it strikes me that they’re worth reviewing once again.


#1 Guessing about Customers

Solid market research is crucial for making marketing decisions, yet I’ve seen a number of companies rely more on guesswork than quantitative evidence. When I worked in book publishing, my firm worked hard to understand the kinds of books the readers were interested in. Our core was health and fitness books and my initiative published books aimed at Spanish-dominant Hispanics. That said, we also looked at other lifestyle topics in our research to make sure we weren’t missing other areas of interest, like personal finance, beauty, general self-help, relationship advice and more. We also tested books from other publishers with our audience to see if they worked so that we could acquire rights if they tested well.
In contrast, other publishers didn’t rely on research to reach Hispanics. As a result, they chose books on topics that we knew from our research that Hispanics weren’t interested in. Sometimes they even compounded the error by publishing wrong-topic books by celebrities most Hispanics never heard of, like translations of Susan Powter’s diet books. How can you market a personality-driven book to an audience that doesn’t know your personality, when the personality cannot do a media tour and has no media platform to reach the audience? Stop the insanity, indeed…

#2 Ignoring Representative Samples

In discussing research with certain colleagues and clients, the idea to do a web survey comes up, since it seems quick and easy. But when we discuss response rates and representative samples, they quickly tune out. Even marketing professionals can have trouble understanding that if you have a customer base of 20,000, you have to randomly select a representative sample to survey. And enough people have to respond to ensure a statistically significant response. So with a survey of 100 people and 4 responses, those 4 won’t be representative of the 100. Seems straightforward, right? Well, I have had people argue to me that 4 people in leadership positions that were surveyed over the phone were in fact representative of a universe of 32,000 customers.
Or that I could send an e-mail survey to a client list of 5,000 and whatever response I got would represent all 5,000.
Avoiding this mistake is easy: hire a good firm to help you find out what you need to know about your customers with a properly designed survey.

#3 Confusing Qualitative and Quantitative

Focus groups are a nice tool. You can get a small group of customers in a room and get their thoughts about your product. But even a randomly selected group of people will still be small—focus groups are usually 10-15 people at the most. Trying to run a focus group with more is counterproductive. And as indicated in mistake #2, 10-15 people don’t usually represent a company’s entire customer base. Instead, focus groups are a great way to get more detailed responses about certain aspects of products and services. That’s why they are usually referred to as qualitative research. Focus groups are also helpful in developing questions you can use in quantitative research like a survey of a representative sample.

#4 Not Caring about Customers

I once got an assignment to copy edit Spanish-language books for a major publishers. The guidelines stated that I use English-language punctuation and usage norms. This meant small things like placing periods inside quotation marks or using em dashes for dramatic pauses (common in English, not done in Spanish). It also meant capitalizing the names of certain groups: “Rusos” (Russians) as opposed to rusos. Problem is, applying English norms to Spanish is incorrect. You wouldn’t do this any more than you would apply Spanish norms to English copy.
Essentially, I was instructed to make sure that the book had as many spelling, grammar and punctuation mistakes as possible. I never knew the justification, but I would have to speculate that the publisher thought the Hispanic audience would be too dumb to pick up on the mistakes. The publisher also didn’t seem to mind that it was portraying its brand to the Hispanic audience as a purveyor of poorly written books. Well, as it turns out, putting out a quality product actually is important and—note my dramatic pause with em dashes—that publisher had to cancel its Spanish-language program due to poor sales.

#5 Launching without Researching the Market

Sometimes brands will launch products without any research into pricing. Instead, they set the prices they think will best allow them hit their margins. I’ve seen this happen—and the unsurprising poor results. In other instances, the lack of research involves customer need. For example, often a product doesn’t need to innovate to sell: plenty of me-too products attest to this. But if a me-too offers considerably fewer advantages than its competitors, no amount of brand storytelling can compensate. And I’ve seen brands launch forward without even seeing how their me-too product stacks up—until years after the launch and poor sales spurred a too-late look at the fundamentals.

Of course, marketing is just something we write about for fun. Our real expertise is in planning powerful media campaigns that target Latin America. To find out more about how we can help you with a campaign in any form of media, please contact us.


6 Spanish Translation Tips for Stickier Sites

One of the interesting findings of AOL’s 2010 Hispanic CyberStudy was that online Hispanics prefer English-language media. This is partially because most web content is created in English, but it’s also due to quality. Significant numbers of Hispanic respondents said they felt that Spanish-language Web sites were less comprehensive and of poorer quality than their English-language counterparts. I edited Spanish-language translations for Rodale, publisher of Men’s Health and Prevention magazines. My books produced 1.1 million in sales and $35 million in revenues in 5 years. Here’s what I learned about connecting with Hispanics when translating products for them.

Don’t translate, “transadapt.” You spent time crafting your original copy to pull in your audience with wordplay, clever turns of phrase and fun cultural references that also delivered SEO. You have to make the same message work for Hispanics, but on their terms. Literal translations of wordplay won’t work. Neither will cultural references that Hispanics won’t get.

Example: once I had a lead for a chapter about back pain written in second person. It more or less said, “You’re dancing up a storm at your high school reunion when the back pain hits. Suddenly ‘Twist and Shout’ has a whole new meaning.” Cute, but how many Hispanics go to high school reunions? How many know the song ‘Twist and Shout’? To be safe, I changed the scenario to a Tito Puente concert. Back in the 1990s Puente had name recognition with most U.S. Hispanics and they are more likely to go to a concert than a high school reunion.

Pick top talent. I continually tested freelance translators with a background in advertising or editorial copy, around 500. I picked 3. To save time, try to recruit freelancers who were Hispanic market copywriters or Latin American editors who worked on adapting American magazine brands for their markets. They understand how to “transadapt” copy.

Test them. If you’re a Hispanic market professional, it’s likely that you are skilled in both English and Spanish. Send sample copy to your pool of prospective talent. Try around 20-30 people. Give them a deadline for handing in the sample. If you can prepare guidelines and a glossary for them to follow, even better. Grade the samples according to quality, how well they followed your guidelines and glossary and their professionalism in hitting your deadlines. Translators who won’t provide a sample for free are easily eliminated. You also don’t want someone who doesn’t follow your guidelines or is late. That behavior will repeat itself if you hire them, believe me.

What else to look for in the samples
>How they adapt wordplay and slang
>How they handle cultural references: do they catch the ones that won’t work and substitute new ones? Or do they leave in references that Hispanics won’t get at all?
>How they handle titles: Some of your titles are tied to your brand equity and can’t be changed, but other ones should be changed so you resonate with your audience. Did the translator pick up on this or not? What kind of suggestions did they offer?
>Did they ask questions while preparing the samples? Good translators will ask you about your target audience, which terms can’t be translated and other specifics. The bad ones inevitably never ask questions—they do what they want and generally hand in weak samples.

Vocabulary. Ideally, you want to create a glossary for the translator, even for the sample. Hispanics have regional differences when it comes to food terms and terms for objects. For instance, a “bicho” is a bug to most Hispanics but it’s a vulgar term in Puerto Rico. You need to review your copy to identify key terms that need to go into the glossary with preferred translations. And don’t be scared of synonyms. In Spanish, beans are “frijoles” in Mexico and Cuba, “fríjoles” in Colombia, “caraotas” in Venezuela, “porotos” in Argentina and Chile and “habichuelas” in Puerto Rico and in the Dominican Republic. You can pick one main term and 2 synonyms—for example: frijoles (habichuelas, porotos)—and connect with most of the audience. If your site has a lot of food terms, create a simple synonym glossary, put it on a separate page and add a tagline that links to it.

Offer resources. I edited a number of health books offering herbal remedies and supplements, but I thought Hispanics would have a tough time finding those products in their local stores because of language barriers. So I researched Spanish-speaking health food stores around the country and included a list of them in the back of these books. Online, it’s easy to add links to resources to help your customers learn more.

Where’s the ROI in all of this? Rodale books were sold via direct mail. When I arrived there, a big problem was the return rate. Many readers returned the books because they had trouble understanding or relating to them—lost revenues for a company with a 30-day money-back guarantee. With my approach in place, return rates dropped by 50%. Unhappy customers became happy customers who paid for their books, and the company made more money. If your site becomes stickier, obviously your bottom line will benefit. And the glue of sticky sites is great content that users relate to and enjoy in their native language.

To learn more about how we can help you leverage the power of U.S. Hispanic media, contact us at info@usmediaconsulting.com.

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Celia Cruz and the Art of Rebranding

In 1987, I was at the Jersey shore with friends and obsessively listening to the album Cuba y Puerto Rico son by Celia Cruz and Tito Puente. My friend Mario asked me, “So she’s like the Latin Madonna?” I had no response—I couldn’t think of two more different people than Celia and Madonna. But years later, I see something in common with them besides being singers. Madonna has consistently been hailed as a marketing master. Her ability to reinvent herself and absorb new musical trends keep her relevant in a Lady Gaga world.

Celia Cruz has never been called a marketing master—but she was. In her own way, she managed to rebrand herself effectively by following certain core principles. Before we get into that, let’s look at her brand’s liftoff.

Branding Brief
Celia built her brand in Cuba by scoring hits with the Sonora Matancera in the 1950s. She was a national star with some international recognition, mostly in Mexico and the Dominican Republic.
Celia left Cuba in 1960 and recorded with and without the Sonora in Mexico. Later in the decade she teamed up with Tito Puente. It seemed like the right move. Her compatriot La Lupe had teamed with Tito Puente on the same record label and notched a series of hits. However, despite being good, the albums—including my favorite, Cuba y Puerto Rico son—sold poorly. By the early 1970s, she was in danger of becoming a nostalgia act.

Then Celia rebranded. Here’s what she did.

Brand alignment. First, she appeared in a Latin opera called Hommy, produced by star bandleader Larry Harlow. This got her in front of the young salseros who were fans of Harlow and the other stars featured in the opera. She followed this up by signing with Fania Records, the hottest salsa label around. Celia was paired with megaproducer Johnny Pacheco, who had his own major brand equity with salseros, and produced the hit 1974 album Celia y Johnny. That same year, she traveled to Zaire to perform with the Fania All Stars in a concert before the Muhammad Ali-George Foreman championship bout.  Suddenly her brand was tied with that of Muhammad Ali’s, however indirectly, and a whole new audience of Africans became fans of the newly-crowned Queen of Salsa.

Customer relationship management. Celia’s fan base started in Cuba and followed her into exile. Celia never lost sight of her brand identity as a Cuban singer, so her albums always featured songs referencing Cuba or covers of famous songs by Cuban composers. Examples include “Canto a La Habana,” “Si acaso no regreso,” “Ochun con Changó,” “Vieja luna” and many others. This retained her original customer base—good, smart CRM.

Expansion. Celia made a point of selecting songs like “Toro mata”, a Peruvian folk song, the Brazilian song “Usted abusó” and other tunes from Latin countries beyond Cuba. These picks gave her an entry point with new markets who started with the song they recognized and then later bought into the rest of her brand. Heavy touring in these countries further expanded her brand into Venezuela, Colombia, Peru and Panama.

Strategic refreshes. Celia worked with a variety of producers to keep her sound fresh but wisely avoided trends like salsa romántica that were a poor fit for her brand. She also sang duos with stars from other countries, like Vicente Fernandez and Caetano Veloso, and mentored young salsa diva India. This ensured relevance with younger audiences—the  result was a steady stream of hits well into her 70s.

Consistent brand identity. Fans could count on Celia for fresh, fun songs, not odd artsy experiments. She knew her base of working class Hispanics and Latin Americans wanted escape through dancing, and she delivered: “La vida es un carnival” is a good late-career example.

She also kept her appeal to women strong by rebuking machismo with songs like “Que le den candela.” Beyond music, her brand identifiers included wild stage outfits, wigs and her catchphrase, ¡Azúcar!

Strict quality control. Celia didn’t abuse alcohol or drugs. She didn’t miss shows, either. As such, her target market (the audiences) and her distributors (concert promoters) valued her consistent quality. In contrast, her rivals and contemporaries did abuse drugs and miss shows, destroying not only their brands but themselves.

Tireless crossmedia promotion. Celia toured constantly, marketing herself on the front lines through concerts all over the world. She supplemented this by appearing in movies and soap operas. Celia was friendly and open with press of all kinds—an anti-diva who gave funny, charming interviews. Because of this, aside from some minor missteps in the 1990s, she consistently garnered great press. Her ability to adapt suggests that if she were still alive, there’s no doubt that she’d have a formidable Facebook page and thousands of Twitter followers.

The Takeaway
While none of this suggests Celia was cracking open marketing books or taking classes at Wharton between tours, it does demonstrate a profound marketing intuition on her part. Celia was far from the only music star to leave Cuba after 1959. But none of them had anywhere near her success.

What made the difference? It wasn’t mere talent or hard work: she was brilliant in the 1960s and worked hard with little success to show for it.

Ultimately, her astute rebranding maximized the impact of her talent and hard work, transforming Celia from a regional star to a worldwide Latin music icon.

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