Bicultural Can-do

From Marketing y Medios – June 11, 2007

Retroacculturation surges among English-dominant Latino youths. Savvy marketers will need to pick up their pace.

One lucky Latina will likely scream with joy this summer after winning the grand prize in Dr Pepper’s first-ever Quinceañera Sweepstakes: a free performance by Mexican pop singer Frankie J at her quinceañera ball.

Dr Pepper will hold the drawing on July 24, after a two-month promotion in 20 Hispanic markets. Customers purchase at least two 12-packs of any flavor regular or diet Dr Pepper and receive a free CD with traditional quinceañera songs, some in Spanish, others in English. Some CDs contain tickets that Latinas mail to Dr Pepper for inclusion in the drawing.

Dr Pepper’s marketing goal: Become the soft drink brand associated with a tradition that Latina teens and their families value, the rite of passage from girlhood to womanhood, akin to a sweet sixteen or bat mitzvah.

“Nobody really owns quinceañera from a carbonated soft drink perspective, and we want to own it,” said Stephanie Bazan, Dr Pepper’s manager of multicultural marketing.

Radio was the medium of choice to reach Latina teens and their parents. Dr Pepper ran English-language radio ads in markets it identified as mostly acculturated, including El Paso, San Antonio and Sacramento, Bazan said. Spanish-language radio ads ran in markets tabbed as predominately unacculturated, including Los Angeles, San Diego and Houston. The campaign included remotes with local radio stations, in-store displays and street teams handing out flyers. Dr Pepper is tracking sales volume to measure success of the campaign.

The beverage company is one of a growing number of marketers that are reaching out to the burgeoning bilingual and bicultural Latino teen population with advertising and promotional campaigns in English, or in English and Spanish.

More marketers are targeting the youths through grass-roots promotions, radio, TV, online and mobile phones.

“It’s the latest hot marketing strategy for Hispanics because more crossover media is available, especially on radio and to some extent on television and in magazines,” said Joe Zubizarreta, COO of Miami-based Zubi Advertising.

The bilingual Hispanic youth market is increasingly difficult to ignore. By 2015, one-third of the U.S. population 19-years-old and younger will be Latino, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Currently, 85 percent of Latinos 19-years-old and younger, are second- and third-generation. Half are bilingual and 26.7 percent prefer English as their primary language.

To savvy advertisers targeting the Latino youth market, there is no such thing as speaking only Spanish or only English; or consuming only Spanish media or only English media. Instead, there are degrees of mixed-language usage and degrees of mixed-media usage based on several factors, including length of time in the U.S. and their customs and values.

What really matters, marketers say, is using the right media to reach Latino youths with a relevant message in their preferred language. And that’s increasingly English.

But many marketers still avoid the bilingual youth market for the following reasons: There is no natural connection between some brands and Latino youths. Some advertisers know little about the market. Plus, it’s an especially tricky market to research.

“With Latino youths, observing them is as important as research. It’s an ever-changing market,” Zubizarreta said. “Just as you think you understand, the direction changes.”

Several studies are tracking the growing bilingual Latino teens trend. So far, research says: They embrace their complex and undefined bicultural identity — a mix of Latino, urban and American cultures. They live mostly in English but remain connected, in varying degrees, to Latino culture and language. They view themselves as teenagers first, Hispanics second.

Most important, they want content that truly speaks to them.

“They don’t necessarily see their content in Spanish-dominant or general-market media,” said Joe Bernard, vp of sales for bilingual, L.A.-based youth channel mun2. “They are creating and living in their own unique hybrid culture of media use.”

Biculturalism is a complex but consistent way of life. Sonya Suarez-Hammond, director of Multicultural Marketing Insights at Chapel Hill, N.C.-based Yankelovich, said: “People think of biculturalism as a transition piece, that you’re bicultural for a moment as you go along on the road to acculturation. It’s really not so; it’s not a transition. It’s a state of being because it’s by choice.”

People en Español did extensive research before launching its English-language Web site in January. “Had I not had the research, I probably would have done it anyway because it’s abundantly clear that this should have happened a couple of years ago,” said managing editor Peter Castro. “There is an enormous amount of English-dominant Hispanics out there who have a fervent interest in Hispanic celebrities and prefer to read about them in English.”

That’s clear from the Web site’s performance so far. The number of unique visitors has grown an average of 11 percent a month and the number of page views has increased an average of 16 percent a month, according to Omniture, a Web analytics company. Forty-three percent of visitors to peopleenespanol.com are 18 to 34 compared to 27 percent for all Internet users.

In May, the Web site received 8.5 million page views and 550,000 unique visitors, according to Omniture. The site recorded up to 750,000 hits in one day when it featured content related to People en Espanol’s “Los 50 Más Bellos” issue. The number of hits reached 450,000 the day the Web site broke an exclusive story about singer Juanes splitting from his wife, Karen Martínez.

AT&T and Telemundo’s Zorro novela are featured advertisers on the site’s home page.

Media company Batanga’s cross-promotional effort targeting bilingual Latino youths focuses on its Web site, magazines, events and concert tours — all mostly in English.

“Latinos in high school and college are educated in English and live day-to-day in English. It’s much more about reaching them from a cultural standpoint, not a pure linguistic one,” said David Chitel, president of Batanga LIVE/Publishing, the newly created unit that oversees the company’s publications.

Batanga’s LatCom Publishing unit, acquired last November, produces three English language magazines — Batanga Music, Latino High School and Latino University. They are delivered to high schools and colleges with large percentages of Latino students and showcased in branded racks.

Advertisers include Procter & Gamble, Johnson & Johnson, Honda, Toyota, Jeep, McDonald’s and Burger King. Events include GMAC’s Stroll & Roll Latino College Tour, Volkswagen’s Rhyme, Rhythm & Risas Tour, Jack Daniels’ Studio No. 7 concert series and the Más Risas Latino Comedy Series.

The first Batanga Beach Break took place in Wildwood, N.J., June 7-10, where hot reggaeton act Calle 13 performed. Sponsors included Verizon Wireless, Irish Spring, Tropez Cosmetics, Yum Brands (Taco Bell, Pizza Hut and KFC) and media partner MTV Tr3s. The first Batanga Music Tour of will hit 10 to 15 cities sometime later this year.

Grass-roots promotions are crucial to connect to Latino youths, especially for media outlets that specialize in targeting them.

Sí TV recently created Jammin’ Onstage, a grass-roots extension of the English-language Latino-themed network’s Jammin’ program, a reality/documentary show about independent bands that airs four days a week. “What started out as a television program became an online and grass-roots experience that allows advertisers to make a connection with their market in several culturally relevant contexts,” said CEO Michael Schwimmer.

Sponsored by AOL Latino, Jammin’ Onstage works like this: Independent bands upload their videos to Sí TV’s Web site, where visitors choose the three finalists. Users can network on blogs and forums about Jammin’ Onstage and the Jammin’ TV program, and view episodes of it. The Jammin’ Onstage page features a prominent photo of a guitar player branded with the AOL Latino logo.

The three Jammin’ Onstage finalists will compete for a $10,000 prize at the Knitting Factory, a nightclub in Hollywood, Calif., on June 20. Sí TV will tape the performances to create a one-hour TV special to air on August 20. At the taping, AOL Latino’s brand will have a presence through Miguel Ferrer, director of programming for AOL Latino. He will be introduced as one of the contest’s three judges.

LATV, the nation’s first bilingual music and entertainment network, distributed via digital multicast, isn’t bashful about promoting products to its target audience of Latino bilinguals, ages 16 to 34.

The Mexican soft drink Jarritos, for example, sponsors Mex 2 the Max, a music show featuring bands performing regional Mexican music. One show featured a set created partly with Jarritos bottles, said LATV president Danny Crowe. Audience members drank the beverage during the show’s taping.

MTV Tr3s and mun2 are going all-out to become synonymous with young bilingual Latinos.

Earlier this year, mun2 kicked off a branding campaign that asked viewers to consider whether they are becoming too gringo. The somewhat-controversial ad created by Miami-based la comunidad, encourages young Latinos to reaffirm their bicultural identities by watching and identifying with mun2.

The MTV Tr3s “Tu Pride” image campaign, which launched in May, features Latino youths in unscripted 30- to 60-second spots discussing their life and passions.

The spots, also featured on MTVTr3s.com, show Latinos emotionally discussing topics ranging from sorority membership to low-riding. “We will have kids upload their own videos and may run some as part of a second promotion,” said Lucia Ballas-Traynor, MTV Tr3s general manager.

In March, MTV Tr3s launched music mobile channel MTV Tr3s Mobile. Verizon, Amp’d and Sprint offer the channel to subscribers, which features content from MTV Tr3s shows along with exclusive extras. Said Ballas-Traynor, “The idea is to reflect culture to [youths] in whatever language or means they want to receive it.”