Cooperative Mailer Creates Hispanic Everywoman to Reach Coveted Market
"We decided to stay away from any sort of face or image of Carmen because she could be any Hispanic woman," said Shayne Walters, president of Carmen's Cupones Y Consejos, Aliso Viejo, CA.
In fact, though the character is fictitious, she is loosely based on a relative of Walters' own Latina wife.
"In her family there is a woman who is a Carmen-like figure who is gregarious in nature, very easygoing, fun-loving and knowledgeable," he said. "If you needed a recipe you'd go see her, if you needed information on insurance she'd have it, and so on."
Walters and his team developed their brand using this bilingual Hispanic female identity as the provider of the information the co-op program delivers to what Walters called Carmen's ever-growing friends and family in this country.
That growth, as evidenced by census data from 2000 showing huge increases in the U.S. Hispanic population, prompted Walters to leave his position at another cooperative mailing firm, Money Mailer, to create a program targeting Hispanics. He started the firm in summer 2001 and began doing research and focus groups.
After setbacks such as Sept. 11, the anthrax attacks and the start of the recession, Carmen's Cupones Y Consejos launched in March 2002.
It was decided that the target audience would be Hispanic females ages 25-40 with children at home and an annual household income of $25,000 or more.
Carmen's Cupones works with two list providers, though Walters would not name them. Response-based lists are used mainly, he said, including Hispanic magazine subscriber lists and survey data as well as some compiled files. It is a name-specific program, meaning that envelopes are addressed to a specific person and not to "Resident."
This year the program mailed quarterly with quantities of 2.5 million per drop.
Participants have included advertisers in categories such as Internet service providers, drugstore chains, book clubs, music clubs, satellite television providers and consumer packaged goods.
The program costs about 1-2 cents per household.
"We ask every advertiser to use a bilingual format, and most do, but ultimately it's up to the advertiser," Walters said. Sending a solely English-language piece could affect response, he added.
In keeping with the program's name, Walters encourages participants to use the program for more than just coupon distribution.
"We always try to have some information of value to the Hispanic consumer from perhaps the health or learning standpoint," he said. "We have had nonprofit pieces on organ donations by Hispanics for Hispanics as well as a program encouraging reading and a diabetes-awareness campaign in the mailer."
To expand on the tips and advice theme, the company will start a Carmen newsletter in spring 2004, Walters said. Each one will provide an empowering article, a recipe sponsored by a packaged-goods company and possibly some other lifestyle tips and advice. It will be bilingual and go out with all the cooperative mailers.
A product sampling program also is planned for 2004.
"While I am pleased with what happened this year, I expect our best year yet to be 2004," Walters said. "We're seeing the beginnings of a minor economic rebound and more dollars being released for this type of media."
Plus, because Hispanics receive less direct mail than non-Hispanics, they are more responsive, especially when they get a package that speaks to them directly, he said.
"Over the next several years we hope to become a bimonthly program mailing between 4 and 5 million homes per drop," he said.