Creating Trial and Word of Mouth Activity Among Hispanics
November 10th, 2009
Posted by Jose Villa
Anyone whoâ€™s worked in Hispanic marketing has heard this scenario before â€“ a company, with an established presence in the U.S., has decided that they want to pursue the Hispanic market (a consumer market they had previously ignored). Based on some initial research, U.S. Hispanics are generally unfamiliar with their brand and/or products and services but open to using them. They now need a Hispanic marketing consultant or agency to help them enter the Hispanic market.
What should the company do? Obviously, the first step is more research to understand everything about the Hispanic market vis-Ã -vis this companyâ€™s products or services (weâ€™ll call them products for simplicity moving forward). More often than not, we arrive back at where we started â€“ Hispanics are generally unfamiliar with the products or services because they did not use them in their home country and since arriving in the U.S., and without the trusted advice or recommendation of their large network of family and friends, the brand is in what I call the conundrum of the â€œHispanic vicious cycle.â€ The Hispanic vicious cycle is exemplified by a Hispanic consumer who is unfamiliar with a product (or even how to use it or integrate it into their daily life), and therefore does not purchase it, and while they would be willing to try the product if recommended or used by a family member or friend, the fact that their family and friends are also unfamiliar with the product means that they will just continue to never purchase it.
Breaking this vicious cycle can be difficult, but the results can turn the tide and result in a fortuitous cycle, whereby product usage by a small group of Hispanics is amplified by word of mouth recommendations and advice, results in a multiplier effect and potentially rapid growth in the market.
So how does a marketer help their clients break the â€œHispanic vicious cycleâ€ and convert it into a positive fortuitous cycle? The answer is to apply a two-part marketing and communications strategy that simultaneously emphasizes trial with word of mouth (â€œWOMâ€) activity.
While the exact approach to driving product trials and word of mouth activity in the Hispanic market will vary depending on the particulars of each product, company and industry, there are some general guidelines that can be used as an effective framework. Letâ€™s start by looking at driving trial product consumption.
Driving Trial Activity
There are numerous tactics and vehicles that marketers can use to generate product trials, ranging from online coupons, to street-level hand-outs to direct mail and in-store trials.
More important than the vehicle for delivering the trial is providing a culturally relevant context in which to try to the product. For instance, trying to get Hispanics to try a new instant coffee product will need to be positioned and â€œsoldâ€ in the context of how most Hispanics consume coffeeâ€“ for instance, mixing it with milk instead of water (resulting in some variation of â€œcafÃ© con lecheâ€). The context of the trial activation will have to be adjusted to cultural tendencies of the Hispanic market. This context will involve everything from the messaging on the trial materials, to whom, and when and where the trial is offered.
Building a Word of Mouth Campaign
Simultaneously, to flip the Hispanic vicious cycle into a fortuitous cycle, an effective word of mouth strategy needs to be developed and executed. Word of mouth marketing it neither new or unique to the Hispanic market. However, most marketers, particularly ad agencies, have a difficult time adjusting their marketing programs to drive real word of mouth activity. This is because effective WOM marketing starts with sparking conversations. Not simply driving awareness or even trial â€“ but actually getting people to talk about a brand, product or service. How do we do that in the Hispanic market?
Insights. It starts with identifying the key insights that will get Hispanics to talk about the product. This is where great planners and strategists dig deep to uncover strategic insights that contribute to the idea â€“ the sound, motivating, and relevant thought to be communicated. But thatâ€™s not enough â€“ the insights will drive the messaging, but what and who will generate that spark â€“ the one that starts that real, invaluable conversation and fortuitous cycle of Hispanic WOM activity?
Influencers. The â€œwhoâ€ that is critical to igniting conversations are Hispanic Influencers â€“ people who:
1) have high social influence and are effective communicators
2) enjoy new things and have a propensity to trial new products
3) have social networks 3-6 times larger than the overall Hispanic population
Research can help create a profile of Influencers that includes demographic, influencing, and personality type characteristics. These are the people to focus on to â€œseedâ€ conversations. So how do you reach them?
Generating the Spark. The best ways to spark conversations is not with traditional, broad reach media (which has an important role in providing â€œair coverâ€ when budgets allow), but with digital media, social media and experiential programs. Digital media allows a marketer to target consumers with the type of precision that is necessary to pinpoint and reach Hispanic Influencers. For instance, a media buy can be placed targeting 25-34 year old Spanish-dominant Hispanic moms, living in certain ZIP codes with social networks of more than 200 people. Social media tactics and programs allow Influencers, and then other consumers, to virally spread information at the click of a â€œPOST.â€ Experiential marketing provides the opportunity for one-to-one interaction with Influencers and closes the gap on technology usage.
While this Trial and Word of Mouth approach is hardly the norm in Hispanic marketing today, I see it becoming the future of our industry. The writing is on the wall as the U.S. Hispanic market continues to grow, with more companies competing for Hispanic consumer pocketbooks, combined with trends towards tighter advertising budgets, greater marketer emphasis on ROI, and increasing prominence of social media activity.
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