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SAN DIEGO -- As the retail industry navigates the marketing waters to reach Hispanic consumers, it is important to remember to "keep it real."
That was just one piece of advice Pitbull, a rapper, singer-songwriter and record producer, told attendees at the Hispanic Retail 360 Summit, being held in San Diego this week. "Remember the Taco Bell commercial with the little dog?" he asked. "That is not real."
Pitbull, whose real name is Armando Perez, is a first-generation Cuban American who grew up in Miami. Empowering the Hispanic community is an important part of who he is, he explained. "Hispanics, Latinos, whatever you call us; I call us human beings," he said. "We are hard workers who appreciate freedom and appreciate coming to a country that allows us to provide for our families."
Tapping into that community needs to be strategic and not by force, he stressed. "You can try to invade, but it's not a culture you invade. It's a culture that lets you in."
He further explained that the retail industry needs to combine the community's traditions, culture and an understanding of the struggles of people who stay true to their roots.
"The culture is amazing and its buying power is through the roof, but I think it's about more than the buying power. It's about the real people," Pitbull added.
His advice was echoed by Jose Luis Prado, president, Quaker Foods and Snacks North America, PepsiCo. He said tapping into the Hispanic market and building brand loyalty among the consumers in that market starts with being authentic. Companies, he explained, need to be open to diversity, understand the Hispanic identity, become part of the community and, in the end, have a mutual respect for the community.
"When we combine all that, we will win the trust of the Hispanic consumer; win loyalty," he said.
In today's economic rollercoaster, capturing the Hispanic market just makes good business sense. "This is an area that can be the engine for growth that is so badly needed these days," said Prado.
Specifically, PepsiCo tackles four points of action to reach the Hispanic consumer. The beverage and snack giant applies product innovation (bringing products from the consumer's former home to the new home); connects mainstream brands with the Hispanic consumer; uses its PepsiCo reach and strengths at the point of service; and becomes part of the community -- not just a company that wants to sell to the community.
Industry insiders also have to realize not all Hispanic consumers are the same. You have different nationalities as well as different professions within the market. For example, the blue-collar Hispanic worker is loyal to brands and receptive to advertising, according to Kevin Kilpatrick, founder and publisher of Constru-Guia al dia. But retailers and merchandisers need to keep in mind this particular segment prefers to communicate in their own language.
As for Home Depot's own experience, the company strives to connect with the Hispanic blue-collar worker through key passion points, said Alejandra Barron, senior manager of multicultural marketing for The Home Depot. For example, the home improvement and construction retailer works to market to this particular consumer in a relevant way, makes shopping easier and comfortable, and constantly and consistently engages the costumers.
"We really want to develop a relationship with them," Barron said. "We want to engage in a conversation with them, ideally."
Regardless if you are targeting the Hispanic population as whole or a specific subset, the industry needs to remain focused on its audience, and it's never too early to get into the game. "Early adopters have the strategic advantage," said Mary Beth McCabe, owner of Sun Marketing.