Home Depot retools and focuses on Hispanics

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NEW YORK - Despite some early missteps, The Home Depot Inc. is seeing success targeting Hispanics.

The Atlanta-based home improvement retailer has bilingual signs in more than 800 stores; a paint color product line called Colores Origenes; "how-to" clinics taught in Spanish and English; targeted direct and interactive campaigns; and the MiCash Home Depot card. However, it took Home Depot, the second-largest retailer in the United States, awhile to master the market. MiCash is in a test right now in two markets, Atlanta and Washington.

"We have been targeting the Hispanic market for five years now," said Pat Wilkinson, senior director of CRM and multicultural marketing at Atlanta-based Home Depot, who offered the keynote presentation on April 11 at the 14th Annual DMA Directo Days conference. "Early in the process, we had to build awareness and explain to the company why it was important to market to the multicultural customer. It's been a tough ride, but we did it."

After building internal as well as external teams that focus on Hispanics, Home Depot began producing some television commercials in Spanish - translated directly from the original English.

"While I don't think the ads were terrible, I don't think it really put the Home Depot brand in the mindset of Hispanics," Ms. Wilkinson said.

After this experience, the company started to create a greater level of awareness about the Hispanic market. It also increased its budget. Home Depot, for example, began getting involved in sponsorships that would appeal to Hispanics as well as special events and workshops.

The company also began creating Spanish-language television commercials that featured Colores Origenes and focused on paint colors, textured paints and painting techniques.

"Hispanic customers really embrace color, and these commercials highlighted that," Ms. Wilkinson said. "In fact, Hispanics are the leading purchasers of the textures paint line at The Home Depot."

The company also added some direct mail marketing programs to the Hispanic marketing mix, as well as e-mail campaigns and microsites targeting Hispanics.

Ms. Wilkinson said the Hispanic market is now featured as part of a large market push called Home Depot-True Stories. The program features television commercials in English and Spanish that show real people and their experiences with the company. It also includes a Web site which features the commercials and offers the opportunity for consumers to sign up.

"This is a small signal to the general market that The Home Depot recognizes different customers," Ms. Wilkinson said. "This is an important cue for all of our customers -that The Home Depot values all of our customers, no matter who they are."

Ms. Wilkinson was asked what advice she would give to DMers to sell the idea of targeting the Hispanic market into a company that may perceive it as not budget-worthy.

"Very early benchmarking is critical," she said. "We did have some success and we did have some failures. But iteratively, over time, we could actually track our customer spend in those stores we considered Hispanic ones and what their brand preferences. As we see those number consistently going up...it really has allowed us to keep that momentum going."

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