Reaching the Growing Hispanic Market

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Imagine being in Latin America without ever leaving the Unites States. After all, the United States has the fifth-largest Spanish-speaking population in the world. Numbering almost 30 million, the U.S. Hispanic population is roughly equal to the population of Canada.

While similar language, religion and immigration experience characterize the Hispanic market, it's composed of people from many different countries, each with their own culture and traditions.

With buying power projected at well over $400 billion, the Hispanic market attracts an ever-increasing amount of advertising dollars from major corporations, some of which have adapted or developed services specifically targeted to Spanish-speaking consumers. These advertisers benefit from the presence of well-established Spanish language media outlets, which include the Univision and Telemundo television networks (and their local affiliates), radio stations, national magazines and regional newspapers.

For direct marketers, the Hispanic market represents an opportunity to tap into an audience market that receives significantly less direct mail than other segments of the population. Hispanic households tend to be younger and larger than their non-Hispanic counterparts. Although the average household income is lower than that of the general population, these families are in a mode to develop brand loyalties and acquire goods and services. For example, computer ownership and usage has increased substantially over the past few years, along with the advent of bilingual Web sites such as Inherent in this opportunity are numerous challenges, including issues of language, culture, logistics of service and, of course, availability of lists.

Both response and compiled (based on surname) lists are available to target Hispanic consumers. Response lists frequently indicate the language of the transaction. Some notable examples include La Voz Catolica and People en Espanol, which reach subscribers to Spanish-language publications. Hispanic Magazine and Hispanic Business are published in English. Editorial Televisa publishes 17 magazines for the U.S. Hispanic market, including Spanish-language editions of Elle, Marie Claire and Men's Health as well as market-specific magazines such as TV y Novelas and Christina La Revista, named for Cuban-born talk-show host Cristina Saralegui. Its master file list of subscribers is available, though not by individual title. Univision, Telemundo and Abernathy & Closther make responder and buyer lists to Spanish-language offers available.

Also consider files with ethnic enhancements. Performance Data makes its Hispanic consumers available on its master file and on specialty lists, such as Home & Hearth Home Furnishings Buyers and She's Changing Her Name. Files such as these offer the advantage of extensive demographic selections, including age, income, presence of children, use of credit card and home ownership. Finally, some list owners, mindful that they have a sizable Hispanic customer base, will frequently allow mailers to perform their own surname match select.

For most mailers, the prospect of printing both English and Spanish language versions of direct mail pieces, especially catalogs, is cost-prohibitive. Many find that advising prospective customers about the availability of Spanish-language operators is effective. International Male, for example, has a specific toll-free number for Spanish- language customers, and its call center is staffed with bilingual operators.

So much for facts, figures and anecdotes. A wealth of information exists on the Hispanic market, and with an upcoming census, this base of information will grow. With this in mind, it's up to direct marketers to decide whether they wish to target the Hispanic market outside the scope of their current direct mail program.

Larry Shoobs is vice president of list management at Fasano and Associates, Los Angeles.

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