Latin-Pak Targets Hispanics in CA Utility Dereg

After utility deregulation went into effect in California this spring, the state with the largest Hispanic population needed a way to tell them about the changes.

To penetrate Hispanic communities, agencies turned to Latin-Pak, Malibu, CA, to implement a door-hanger campaign that brought marketing materials ranging from informational brochures to refrigerator magnets to the doorsteps of California's Hispanic residents.

Door hangers are the flagship marketing tool of Latin-Pak, a 2-year-old company that specializes in bringing targeted marketing materials to Hispanics across the United States and Puerto Rico. Since its founding, the company has branched out to offer free-standing insert programs, free-standing insert co-ops, mailing list printing and lettershop services, and, starting next year, a direct mail co-op to Latino mail-order buyers.

The educational campaign for the California Public Utilities Commission sought to inform residents who receive electricity from the three investor-owned utilities in the state that they could begin choosing where they get their energy.

Information was being dispersed through television, radio and direct mail. Although direct mail pieces listed a toll-free number that non-English-speaking residents could call for information in their native languages, the San Francisco office of Flair Communications, Chicago, which worked the collateral pieces, turned to Latin-Pak because it decided a special distribution method was needed to distribute Spanish-language information.

“The advantage Latin-Pak offered was, let's say you are Hispanic or live in a mainly Hispanic household, you may never turn to the back of a brochure printed in English to find out how to get information in Spanish,” said Lisa Chorebanian, account supervisor at Flair. “This was our way of bringing information in Spanish to Spanish-speaking households.”

As there are other utilities in the state that aren't investor-owned and therefore, weren't affected by deregulation, the agencies wanted information distributed only in neighborhoods that fell within the service areas of the affected utilities.

“Latin-Pak worked closely with us and was very good about sticking to the boundaries,” Chorebanian said.

In addition, Latin-Pak targeted neighborhoods with particularly high percentages of Hispanic residents.

“For the utilities, the way we determined what neighborhoods to go to was there had to be 75 percent or more Latinos in the community,” said Vince Andaloro, general manager of Latin-Pak. For most door-hanger campaigns, the company enters neighborhoods with populations that are at least 65 percent Hispanic, he said, noting that the utilities requested the higher percentage.

Latin-Pak conducted two campaigns in the last two months. One placed door hangers containing a Spanish-language brochure at 1 million Hispanic homes. The other sent a refrigerator magnet, a bilingual brochure and a billing statement to 1.5 million homes in Hispanic communities from San Diego to San Francisco.

In a telephone study of the second drop, 80 percent of the people polled answered “Yes” to whether they had received the brochure. That figure represents a relatively high penetration rate for this type of campaign, said William Jelinik, marketing and sales director for Verified Audit Circulation.

“It was a good response no matter what type of campaign, but particularly when you are dealing with cities of this size where it is harder to get into particular neighborhoods and reach all the households,” he said.

The study, conducted by Verified Audit Circulation, Marina Del Rey, CA, involved contacting 400 random residents from communities selected by Latin-Pak.

Latin-Pak uses census records and information from state departments of finance to identify Hispanic neighborhoods, finding that information more targeted than studying ZIP codes and other ethnic identification techniques.

“It's the only way to determine where people live, especially for this group which lives in close-knit communities, or barrios,” Andaloro said. “In some ZIP codes, there may be just one census track — but in some of the larger ZIP codes, there may be four to eight census tracks.”

Door-hanger campaigns generally are limited in size to 1.5 million households at one time, but the 1.5 million can be confined to one geographic area, as in the California campaign, or spread across the country.

Latin-Pak's free-standing insert co-op programs, which reach 3 million people in the United States and 1 million in Puerto Rico, have attracted brands such as Kraft, Nabisco, Dannon, Campbell's Soup and the J.M. Smucker Co. It currently is monthly but will become semimonthly in January.

The direct mail co-op to mail-order buyers will be launched in February. It will reach 250,000 Hispanic mail-order buyers across the country, with a particular emphasis on Miami, New York, Chicago, Los Angeles and several areas in Texas. In addition, Latin-Pak plans to introduce its own co-branded credit card this fall that it will market through its own distribution avenues.

The company's services have expanded to accommodate a growing client base, which has led to a tenfold increase in revenues over the past year, said Andaloro, who would not release exact revenue figures.

“It's the Latino people who are making this happen,” he said of the growth. “We are answering a need by providing a vehicle to get marketing materials to them.”

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