Consumer tech brands answer call to tap Hispanic audience

The growth of the Hispanic population in the US has generated a lot of news coverage in the last few months, but Manny Ruiz, CEO of Hispanicize, an online resource for Latino social media marketers and bloggers, says a lot of companies fail to reach out to this market.

The growth of the Hispanic population in the US has generated a lot of news coverage in the last few months, but Manny Ruiz, CEO of Hispanicize, an online resource for Latino social media marketers and bloggers, says a lot of companies fail to reach out to this market.

He is particularly critical of consumer tech companies which he's never seen directly market to Latinos. PRWeek reached out to several consumer tech companies, who declined to talk. An executive at one major consumer electronics company, who declined to be named, told PRWeek, "We don't currently have a marketing or PR plan for this market."

An attentive audience

"Hispanics have the most voracious appetite for technology, but outside of the nation's telecoms, they are just not marketed to proactively by any of the tech gadget or computer makers," says Ruiz. "It's astounding. You could say the territory is ripe for the taking."

In the latest figures from the 2010 Census, the Hispanic population for the first time surpassed 50 million, accounting for more than half of the US population increase over the last decade. The median age of this fast-rising population is just 27, versus 42 for the white population, which helps explain why Hispanics typically over index in their adoption of new tech, such as cell phones, iPads and e-readers.

Ken Muche, PR manager for Verizon Wireless, says the company has increased its PR investment into culturally relevant promotions and programs for Hispanics.

This year, for instance, Verizon plans to expand its My Fabulous 15 Quinceañera Party contest, in which Verizon throws a 15th birthday party worth $45,000 for one winner based on online video applications.

To encourage entry, Verizon hosts in-store fashion shows with quinceañera vendors and party planners. It also uses a Twitter account specifically for the campaign, including for a Twitter party with a planner specializing in quinceañeras.

It generates additional buzz by having a pop star perform at the party. Last year, Verizon gave an exclusive to Soy Fashionista, an online community for Latinas (the party is usually thrown for a girl) which announced the identity of the star, pop/R&B artist Jay Sean. "We also promoted the announcement through Twitter and media advisories, which created additional excitement and grassroots buzz," says Muche.

Yanka Burgos, VP of RL PR, Verizon's PR AOR on the program, says even though digital media is hot, in the Hispanic community traditional media "cannot be underestimated. It is much less fragmented than the general market, so when you hit them, you hit the market big and will reach Spanish-dominant and bilingual Latinos."

She says that strategy is vital even in a youth-oriented program like this one, because Verizon also wants to target gatekeepers. "A quinceañera is steeped in tradition among Hispanic families, so in some cases it will be the parents and even grandparents telling the kids to apply," she says.

Last year the contest ran in five markets and Verizon received close to 5,000 entries, plus 2.5 million text and online votes for the video submissions. The campaign also generated 1,632 hits in English- and Spanish-language media. With the program expanding beyond the West Coast, Verizon expects numbers to rise in 2011.

Building relationships

In addition to creating events that cater specifically to Hispanic customs, experts recommend consumer tech brands build relationships with Hispanic associations and networks, to help build authenticity in their outreach.

Through these relationships, brands can get involved in cultural events and parades, says Roberto Ramos, president and CEO of The Vox Collective. It is an approach the agency uses for clients such as Macy's and Pepsi-Co, and one that could be well served among consumer electronic brands, since music is a big driver in some of these events.

"Some young Hispanics don't speak Spanish, but music is one way they've been going back to their roots," says Ramos.

The Hispanic Population and Consumer Tech

1. Eighty-seven percent of Hispanics own a cell phone, compared with 80% of whites

SOURCE: Pew Internet & American Life Project, 2010

2. Penetration of smartphones is higher among Hispanics (45%), than both African Americans (33%) and white Americans (27%)

SOURCE: The Nielsen Co., December 2010

3. Twenty-four percent of Hispanics own an Internet-enabled TV, as opposed to 15% of non-Hispanics

SOURCE: Terra comScore Ad Value Research Study

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