All posts by Jose Villa

About Jose Villa

I’m the founder and President of Sensis, a cross-cultural advertising agency with digital at its core. I launched Sensis as a Web development firm in 1998 and one of the first agencies focusing on the Hispanic digital market. Our agency has since grown into a unique full-service ad agency – that takes a digitally-infused cross-cultural approach to the general market. I am passionate about cross-cultural marketing and always trying to push the envelope of multicultural advertising. I write regularly for MediaPost, AdAge, HispanicAd.com, and here! I also speak at a lot of advertising conferences like SXSW, Hispanic Retail 360, Hispanicize, and AHAA.

Effective Hispanic Advertising that Drives Behavior Change

September 28, 2016

Posted by Jose Villa

Most marketers view their role as driving demand, either via upper funnel branding and awareness activities or lower funnel direct response, sales and retention activities. Advertising is generally viewed as one of the primary tools to drive consumer demand. But what is at the core of driving consumer demand? Changing consumer behavior. That behavior change could involve new product trial, increasing occasion, acquiring market share by driving preference change, or increasing retention. To quote Adam Ferrier from his influential book The Advertising Effect, “Advertising is really the business of behavior change.”

The growth and interest in behavioral economics, as popularized by books like Nudge and Thinking Fast and Slow has brought a great deal of attention to the irrational ways people behave and the art and science behind how to influence that behavior. Building upon Ferrier’s analysis of psychological and behavioral science research, there are nine action spurs, or triggers, that can be used in advertising to change consumer behavior. (See figure below.)

BehaviorChangeTriggers_Sensis

Many of these behavior change triggers are not new, and have been in use since the Mad Men era of advertising. They include using endorsements and modeling (follow) and emotion and evocation (feel) in ads to change consumer behavior and drive demand. Similarly, some have been used in Hispanic advertising, but without a deliberate focus on behavior change, or leveraging all nine triggers. This is a major missed opportunity.

The Hispanic consumer market is typically seen as an emerging market for many brands and industries. This is particularly the case for laggard industries like pharma, electronics, and financial services that have made limited investments and little inroads with Hispanics. Most Hispanics are unfamiliar with or do not use their products. Additionally, many brands target recent Hispanic immigrants who are essentially new consumers with no brand preference. This is because immigrants may not be able access trusted brands from their home countries in the U.S. or are looking to assimilate via new adoption of U.S. brands. This is commonly the case with beer.

For these laggard categories and those targeting recent immigrants, Hispanic marketing is primarily about generating significant behavior change, in the form of:

  • Introducing new categories and associated products (e.g. pharma, financial services)
  • Driving trial with new brands/products/services (e.g. beer, wireless, CPG)

For these Hispanic marketing efforts to be effective, it is critical that communications not only effectively change behavior, but also be culturally relevant. Cultural relevance is achieved by identifying Hispanic consumer insights and creating content and messages that relate to Hispanic consumer beliefs, customs, ways of thinking, behaving and/or working.

Therefore, the triggers used to effectively change Hispanic consumer behavior must be used in culturally relevant ways. As an example, if the “play” trigger is used to make a desired behavior more enjoyable by incorporating gamification or play principles, it must be done in a culturally relevant way. This means using game formats that are popular and well understood in relevant Hispanic home countries, such as loteria and “veo veo”, or leveraging multiplayer formats where Hispanic gamers over index. Marketers have a significant opportunity to grow in the Hispanic market by employing smarter marketing strategies that use culture to change Hispanic consumer behavior.

An edited version of this post originally ran on MediaPost Engage:Hispanic on September 23, 2016.

The Obsolete Hispanic Ad Agency

Posted by Jose Villa

A MediaPost op-ed by Luciana Gomez ignited a conversation within the Hispanic marketing industry regarding the relevance of Hispanic ad agencies. Gomez’s piece opined that Hispanic agencies are experiencing stunted growth for a number of reasons. They are underpaying talent, have low client budgets, they need to work within pre-existing “general market” campaign structures, have an over-emphasis on Spanish TV, and stale insights. These agencies only have control of three of these issues.

This article prompted a number of responses, including one from Lee Vann positing that Hispanic agencies aren’t fading, and that many are succeeding. It’s good for the industry to have these conversations and not stick its head in the sand.

I agree with Gomez’s premise that Hispanic agencies are fading. I wrote in December, the Hispanic ad agency business is at best mature with few prospects for growth. I wouldn’t, in good conscious, advise anyone to start a Hispanic ad agency in 2016. Contrary to Vann’s position, the only Hispanic agencies doing well are the top seven specialist Hispanic agencies I referred to in my article – many of which are being fed Hispanic work by their large general market sister / parent networks (example Casanova becoming Casanova/McCann). The large, independent Hispanic ad agency is a thing of the past.

While I agree with Gomez and disagree with Vann, I think everyone is missing the bigger picture of what’s going on within the broader Hispanic marketing industry. They are focusing on stagnating Hispanic ad agency business and missing the bigger, structural shift.

Hispanic marketing is moving out of the silos and Hispanic insights, market knowledge and strategies are being mainstreamed.

This is a seismic shift that is happening for two fundamental reasons:

  1. The Hispanic market has gotten too big and lucrative to be a niche opportunity.
  2. The Hispanic population is assimilating and creating a new mainstream, something that has happened numerous times in our past when there have been large migrations into this country.

This means that the specialized Hispanic ad agency business model that blossomed in the 1980s through early 2000s is no longer relevant to these new market conditions. It doesn’t represent the reality of the Hispanic experience in the U.S. in 2016. Marketers are realizing this – much faster than ad agencies – have started to embrace new cultural marketing models like “total market” during the last four years.

The question remains: What new business model will replace the obsolete Hispanic ad agency? I don’t know for sure, but I see a transition occurring within both the ad agency and marketing function of brands:

  • Hispanic advertising capabilities will be integrated into mainstream ad agency functions to create a new kind of general market agency
  • New models for culture marketing will emerge embracing cultural realities and cross over
  • An evolution of total market placing proper emphasis and focus on Hispanic consumers – understanding and leveraging how they are changing and influencing a new mainstream and placing more acculturated Hispanics into the proper perspective
  • More focus on culturally relevant content creation over Spanish-language targeted media buys

I believe new agency and marketing models are inevitable. The Hispanic ad agency and Hispanic marketing as we’ve known it have had a great run of more than 30 years.

An edited version of this post originally ran on MediaPost Engage:Hispanic on August 25, 2016.

Content [Marketing] Is King in Reaching Hispanic Millennials

July 28, 2016

Posted by Jose Villa

You know Hispanic Millennials – Hispanics aged approximately 21-37 – are a critical, coveted segment of the U.S. Hispanic market. They are comprised of the two most historically attractive consumer segments of 18-24 and 25-34 year olds. They represent more than 27% of the entire Hispanic population and are growing – mainly due to immigration. Compare that to Gen X and Baby Boomer Hispanics, who represent a combined 33% of the U.S. Hispanic population but are shrinking as they age. If you’re focused on the Hispanic market in 2016, you are essentially focused on Hispanic Millennials.

However, most marketing to Hispanic Millennials fails because it is focused on what I call the three pillars of irrelevance:

  • Traditional, in-language advertising – mostly on Spanish-language media
  • Paid, interruptive advertising
  • Episodic campaigns usually around major “seasons” or events (e.g. the World Cup)

This conventional approach to Hispanic Millennial marketing often focuses on in-language creative running on in-language media (think 30-second radio spots running on Spanish radio).

This approach is irrelevant to Hispanic Millennials because of their unique behavior. According to the latest wave of research from the Hispanic Millennial Project (HMP), Hispanic Millennials are consuming content on ad-free platforms like Netflix as much or more than they are via broadcast/cable TV. They are increasingly time-shifting their content consumption, via DVRs and on-demand platforms, skipping unwanted ads. A recent eMarketer report showed that nearly two in three Millennials block ads and a solid majority of Internet users age 18-34 block ads when viewing digital content. Language is also playing less of a role in the media Hispanic Millennials consume. According to the Hispanic Millennial Project, only 46% of Hispanic Millennials indicated any Spanish language streaming activity. Furthermore, the social media behavior of Hispanic Millennials shows us they are “always on.”

Hispanic Millennial marketers should take a page from the B2B marketing playbook. Much like Hispanic Millennials, B2B decision-makers are elusive targets that can’t be cost-effectively reached with broadcast media, and they don’t respond well to intermittent interruptive advertising. B2B marketing has become a highly specialized and effective field of advertising focused on targeted content marketing.

The best definition of content marketing is:

The creation and distribution of useful and valuable content that consumers choose that leads to demand for a product or service

This content must be so useful and/or valuable that consumers seek it out. They are not forced or deceived into consuming it. They genuinely want to consume the content – whether it’s listening to an audio clip, watching a video, answering a poll, taking a quiz or reading the latest list of the “Top (pick a number or topic).” The content must also directly and measurably lead consumers to consider purchasing a product or service. It must positively impact demand.

Effective Hispanic Millennial content marketing requires a shift in mindset from advertising to publishing. Brands and their agency partners need to embrace a digital studio model of creating high-volume, cost-efficient, digital multicultural content. This means establishing the capability to create content in more compressed cycles (think days versus months) at a fraction of the cost of broadcast quality video content (e.g. 30-second TV spots). In the past, creating and distributing your own Hispanic-focused content was cost prohibitive and risky. Digital technology and tools like HD video and content distribution services have changed the game. Additionally, there is now a digital ecosystem in place to support Hispanic millennial content marketing.

In addition to embracing a digital content studio model, consider these key principles to an effective Hispanic Millennial content marketing program:

  • Multi-platform approach – Moving beyond a website or Facebook page
  • Organic drives paid – the most effective ads bubble up from the best performing digital content
  • Foster co-creation – Focus on content co-creation vs. ownership

An edited version of this post ran on MediaPost Engage:Hispanic on July 28, 2016.

Cross-cultural Gen Z

June 24, 2016

Posted by Jose Villa

Move over Millennials – here comes Gen Z. Who are they? Definitions vary but most demographers define Gen Z – also referred to as Centennials, iGen, or Plurals – as consumers born between 1995 and 2010.

Gen Z is starting to get as much attention as Millennials, and rightfully so. Besides their sheer size – there are 83 million Americans under 20 who represent 25.9% of the U.S. population – they are the first generation born after the Internet age. They are also the last generation to be majority non-Hispanic white (52.9%). As I noted in a previous article, if the mixed-ethnicity Hispanic-White population of Gen Z is added to the multicultural total, Gen Z is actually the first minority-majority generation in American history.

The last point is critical, as it underpins one of the most important characteristics of Gen Z that most early studies have failed to properly analyze. How will their cultural diversity make them different? How will coming of age in a truly multicultural world affect their attitudes, beliefs and behaviors? This was the catalyst behind the upcoming research initiative, “We Are Gen Z” Report, a collaboration between my agency Sensis and ThinkNow Research.

GenZReport logoThe We Are Gen Z Report is the first national Gen Z study to take a cross-cultural view of Gen Z. We Are Gen Z takes a holistic approach to understanding the segment of Gen Z born between 1995 and 2005, presenting an in-depth analysis of the brands, influencers, behaviors and ideals that matter most to the patchwork of Hispanic, African-American, Non-Hispanic White and Asian Gen Zers.

Some initial findings from the We Are Gen Z Report provide an interesting glimpse into the cross-cultural under 20 population.

Family over Celebs

The most prominent role models for Gen Z are their parents, specifically moms. This is particularly the case among Hispanic (47%) and African-American (51%) Gen Z. This is in stark contrast to celebrities and social media influencers, who less than 17% of Gen Z consider role models.

The Brands I Choose Matter

Very few Gen Zers like brands their friends like. This is particularly the case for Hispanic and Asian (77%) Gen Z. Yet they are looking for brands that help them stand out – particularly among African-American (61%) and Asian (55%) Gen Z.

Culture Matters

Culture is a core indicator of identity for Gen Z. When asked to elaborate on what culture means to them, words like beautiful, complex, loud, creative, mixed and unique show up frequently. African American Gen Z have a strong sense of cultural pride (64%) following Hispanics (55%), Asians (47%), and then Whites (37%).

Yet culture is complicated. Interestingly, cross-cultural Gen Z are attracted to people who are of different ethnicities and races. This was particularly the case for Hispanics (70%), Non-Hispanic White (71%) and African-American (67%) Gen Z. Moreover, as one of the study participants noted:

I would describe my culture as part of who I am, but only part. I am more than my race

Our research indicates that a majority of Gen Z will define their cultural identity in fundamentally different ways from their predecessors. By embracing and balancing multiple cultures they are moving their cultural identity beyond simple definitions of race and ethnicity. How marketers and brands use culture to connect with this truly multicultural generation will require a fundamentally different thinking.

An edited version of this article originally ran on MediaPost Engage:Hispanic on June 23, 2016

Multicultural Millennial Content Marketing

June 12, 2016

Posted by Jose Villa

When most marketers think about Millennials, they often miss the fact that almost half (43 percent) of all Millennials living in the U.S. today are multicultural Millennials – Hispanic, Asian, African-American, or mixed-race Millennials. MillennialPopEthnicitySome put a heavy emphasis on Hispanic Millennials. Those same marketers forget that 23 percent of the Millennial population are African-American, Asian and mixed race. That is a large swath of the lucrative Millennial segment.

The next major mistake most brands make is to focus on paid media driven interruptive advertising in their efforts to reach multicultural Millennials. Marketers tend to focus on “tried and true” methods. When it comes to multicultural marketing, that conventional approach is to focus on in-language creative running on in-language media (think30-second Spanish spots running on Univision). Rarely do they give a tactic like content marketing consideration as a highly effective lead tactic to engaging multicultural Millennials.

Content Marketing Defined

While there are numerous definitions out there, content marketing is best defined as follows:

The creation and distribution of useful and valuable content that consumers choose that leads to demand for a product or service

This definition presupposes that content developed by marketers must be so useful and/or valuable that consumers would seek it out on their own volition. They are not forced or deceived into consuming it. They genuinely want to consume the content – whether it’s listening to an audio clip, watching a video, answering a poll, taking a quiz or reading the latest list of the “Top (pick a number or topic).”

The content must also directly and measurably lead those who consume it to consider purchasing a product or service. The content must positively impact consumer demand. For example, after reading an infographic, a user will be more likely to purchase the product mentioned in the infographic.

Why Content Marketing Is Critical to Reaching Multicultural Millennials

Content marketing is the foundation and catalyst of effective multicultural millennial marketing. The first reason is the media consumption behavior of multicultural Millennials. According to the latest wave of research from the Hispanic Millennial Project (HMP), multicultural Millennials are consuming content on ad-free platforms like Netflix as much or more than they are via broadcast/cable TV. They are increasingly time-shifting their content consumption, via DVRs and on-demand platforms, skipping unwanted ads. Furthermore, a recent eMarketer report showed that nearly two in three Millennials block ads – showing that a solid majority of Internet users ages 18-34 block ads when they view digital content.

These changes in Millennial media behavior underscore the increasing difficulty in “interrupting” them with paid advertising.

Moreover, multicultural Millennials are shifting their media consumption from traditional channels to digital and social platforms. As an example, one third of Hispanic Millennials are consuming news through YouTube.

Language is also playing less of a role in the media Asian and Hispanic Millennials consume. According to the Hispanic Millennial Project, only 42 percent of Asian Millennials indicated they streamed any non-English programming in the last 30 days. Only 46 percent of Hispanic Millennials indicated any Spanish language streaming activity. Culture is instead the real driver of multicultural Millennial media consumption, who indicate overwhelmingly it is a major factor in the music, movies and TV shows they consume:

MillennialMediaConsRoleofCulture

Social media provides a critical catalyst for content marketing, allowing content to be easily shared and distributed. The social media behavior of Hispanic, Asian, and African-American Millennials provides the connective tissue critical to effective content marketing:

HispMillennialsSocMed
AsianMillennialsSocMed
AfAmMillennialSocMed

A Blueprint for Effective Multicultural Millennial Content Marketing

So what does effective multicultural content marketing look like? First, it requires a shift in mindset from an advertiser to a publisher. Brands need to embrace a digital studio model of creating high-volume, cost-efficient, digital multicultural content. This means establishing the capability to create content in more compressed cycles (think days versus months) at a fraction of the cost of broadcast quality video content (e.g. 30-second TV spots). In the past, creating and distributing your own multicultural content was cost prohibitive and risky. Digital technology and tools like HD video and content distribution services have changed the game. Equally important, there is now a digital ecosystem in place to support multicultural content marketing.

As you consider beginning a multicultural millennial content marketing program, keep in mind some of the nuances of each of the three multicultural Millennial segments as it relates to the kind of content they consume, where they consume it and how. Synthesizing the findings of the Hispanic Millennial Project provides a nice playbook:

MultiMillennialContentTypeGenrePlat

Regardless of whether your target Asian, African-American, or Hispanic Millennials individually or collectively, multicultural millennial content marketing can be the engine of broader marketing programs. It can provide a steady stream of content that can be repurposed and leveraged across paid advertising, experiential marketing or other earned media initiatives.

An edited version of this article was originally published on O’Dwyers on June 8, 2016.