Multicultural marketing

Companies reach out to nation’s growing minority groups

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by Lisa Prezioso Linnell

To get ready for the Latino Truck Show in California, ordered hundreds of promotional items bearing the company’s logo. The squishy giveaways, shaped like small toy trucks, were intended not for the truckers but their children.

“Hispanic truckers tend to bring their families with them, and the toys will keep the kids occupied while we talk with mom and dad,” Tara Wise, the company’s marketing director, explained before the October event., a company-based in Chesterfield County, provides a Web site that links truckers looking for loads with companies that have freight to ship.

Wise knew what to take to the truck show because had been there the year before. Such events have helped the company conduct research in building a strategic and tactical marketing program aimed at Hispanics, who represent about 15 percent of the country’s more than 3.2 million truckers. already has bilingual service representatives available to work with Hispanics.

Now the company is considering a marketing campaign that could include television and radio commercials, billboards, brochures, Spanish-language Web sites and soccer game sponsorships. “We want to make sure our marketing pitches, tag lines and approaches are embraced,” Wise says. If successful, she predicts could see revenues climb five to 10 percent beyond next year’s projected increase of 30 percent. is among the growing number of companies trying to tap into the buying power of America’s minorities. According to 2005 Census Bureau data, 100 million residents — about a third of U.S. population — identified themselves as belonging to a minority group, primarily Hispanics, African-Americans and Asian-Americans. The National Organization for Diversity in Sales and Marketing expects the buying power of these groups to top $2.5 trillion by 2010.

The Hispanic community targeted by represents about 42.7 million residents with a buying power of more than $1 trillion. To enhance its effort, Wise is consulting with experts such as Dan Durazo, director of public relations and multicultural marketing at RightMinds, a Richmond strategic marketing company. Wise contacted Durazo after he made a presentation to members of the Richmond Chapter of the American Marketing Association. A third-generation Hispanic-American, Durazo joined RightMinds last year. He wanted to return to his East Coast roots after running a Los Angeles-based public relations firm for 25 years. “We’re looking for help from Dan in terms of lessons learned, things we need to take into consideration from a cultural standpoint,” Wise says.

East Coast companies, especially in Virginia and the Carolinas, are slowly acknowledging a need to market to Hispanics, Durazo says. He and his team at RightMinds have developed a “multicultural audit” to help clients navigate the maze of marketing options. The audit assesses a company’s current marketing plans, recommending opportunities to establish brand loyalty among a diverse consumer group representing immigrants and descendents from more than 20 countries. Durazo’s analysis specializes in fine tuning marketing plans to fit the buying patterns of first-, second- and third-generation Hispanic consumers, using key media outlets such as Telemundo to reach them.

Durazo explains the generational cycle of Hispanic buyers: first-generation immigrants need basic goods and services while second-generation Hispanics struggle to assimilate. Finally, college-educated, discriminating third-generation consumers seek quality, value and — on occasion — luxury. “Folks at the other end of the continuum, like myself, who are third-generation and are affluent, highly educated and own a house and a couple of cars, that’s where the sweet spot is,” says Durazo.

Just when marketers thought it was safe to stop there, another phase called “retro-acculturation” has emerged. “The pendulum’s come the other way, where they are teaching our fourth-generation kids to know their language and know their culture. With it, they’re saying, ‘It allows me to rediscover my roots,’” says Durazo.

The growing interest in minority markets has prompted the launch of a number of Hispanic radio stations and niche publications in Virginia. For example, Media General Inc., the Richmond-based parent company of Virginia Business, started Spanish language newspapers in Northern Virginia and Central Virginia in the recent years.

Tim Loughran, editor and general manager of CENTRO de Richmond, says that while Northern Virginia and Tidewater-area companies already recognize the buying power of Hispanic consumers, Richmond companies most often direct advertisements to Hispanics as prospective employees. “They haven’t quite been convinced that they’re worth advertising to as consumers,” says Loughran. “The next logical step after employment advertising and consumer advertising is business-to-business advertising to Hispanics.”

In the Hampton Roads area, Mix magazine began publication in September, targeting African-Americans and Asian-Americans as well as Hispanics. The free, glossy magazine, owned by Landmark Communications, has a circulation of about 35,000. Publisher Delores “Dee Dee” Gee says that research and focus groups determined that readers wanted a diversity of cultural content in one format. “Let’s celebrate what we have in common and share the stories that are not going to get told anywhere else,” says Gee.

The growing interest in multicultural marketing may lead some companies to consider targeting other emerging market groups, such as “green” consumers and the gay and lesbian community. It simply makes sense to take all markets into consideration, says Mauricio A. Velasquez, president and CEO of the Diversity Training Group, a Herndon-based business that provides training, translation and multicultural marketing services.

“Diversity marketing is understanding who you are marketing to, and who you are not marketing to,” he says.

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