A Latino Walmart?

In Houston, Walmart has just opened its first "Super Mercado de Walmart," which is targeted directly at Latino customers. Juan Tornoe, a Hispanic marketing consultant, explains how Walmart and other companies are effectively marketing towards this fast growing population.

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JENNIFER LUDDEN, host:

LUDDEN: Now on to a different story of Latino life in America. Have you ever heard this version of the Oscar Mayer Wiener song?

(Soundbite of Oscar Mayer Wiener song sung in Spanish)

LUDDEN: Oscar Mayer is not the only brand devoting more marketing dollars toward Latino consumers living in the U.S. Wal-Mart's taken a big step. It recently opened its first Super Mercado de Wal-Mart for Hispanics in Houston. There's another one planned in Phoenix. And here to tell us more about this growing trend is Juan Tornoe, a Hispanic marketing consultant and founder of the blog "Hispanic Trending." He joins us from member station KUT in Austin, Texas. Hi, Juan.

Mr. JUAN TORNOE (Marketing Consultant): Jennifer, a pleasure meeting you.

LUDDEN: We mentioned Oscar Mayer and Wal-Mart targeting Latinos. It's much more widespread than that though, right? Can you give us a sense of this marketing trend and how is it growing recently?

Mr. TORNOE: Oh, most certainly. It's widely known that since 2000 census most American business persons were made aware of the growth of the Latino community and ever since we've seen it increasing year after year. And not only in headcount, but also in buying power. So just by 2050 it'll be 33 percent of the population nationwide.

LUDDEN: Are we talking just big cities here or is it more widespread than that? Because I recently saw a Pew Hispanic Center map of the country and they pointed the counties with the fastest growing Hispanic populations and there were little red dots up there in Alaska, to my surprise.

Mr. TORNOE: Exactly. Exactly. It used to be that the major metropolitan areas were the ones that were attracting Latinos the most. But now it's U.S.-born Latinos going everywhere in the U.S., and also the immigrants are going everywhere. As you very well pointed out, from Alaska to Hawaii, we are everywhere and the fastest growing communities of Latinos are in nontraditional Latino markets.

LUDDEN: But I'd imagine that Wal-Mart already does a lot to target this community, you know, bilingual signs and certain products, there's certainly room for that in their huge inventory. You know, a 39,000 square foot store is a big vote of confidence in Latino purchasing power. Why do you think they did this?

Mr. TORNOE: They know from research and from experience that the Latino market is huge and they want to be - cater in a very specific manner. They know which products Latinos like and they saw also the competition. They saw the Bodegas and the other Latino supermarkets growing and they say, you know what? We want a piece of that.

LUDDEN: It does seem like you're hearing more and more Spanish language commercials, specifically. How effective are they in reaching a Latino audience considering that there is so much growth and second-generation Latinos as well who presumably are growing up in English?

Mr. TORNOE: Definitely, second, third generation Latinos, U.S.-born, they go through our public schools and they are very well acquainted with English. And maybe their choices of accessing media are very likely to be mostly in English. But the Spanish advertising will always have a place, even though it's going to be a smaller percentage of the overall Latino pie, in headcount it's going to continue growing.

LUDDEN: What about if a big national marketer wanted to kind of try and hit all audiences, just include Latinos in a general audience campaign, does that work?

Mr. TORNOE: It definitely does. It definitely does. Dr. Pepper has a TV ad exemplifying that their drink has different flavors and a guy opens a Dr. Pepper can and suddenly it begins to sing a pop song in English, which is related to Dr. Pepper. It's something that they came up with. He puts his hand over the can and he say, oh, my god, what happened?

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TORNOE: And then he opens it again and the can begins to sing in Spanish.

LUDDEN: I think we have some tape of that Dr. Pepper ad. Let's take a listen.

FLAVOR FLAV (VH1 Reality TV star, former Public Enemy hypeman): (singing) You know I'm flavor, flavorlicious(ph). Explore my flavor before you miss it.

(Soundbite of Dr. Pepper sung in Spanish)

Unidentified Man: You can discover something new in every sip.

Unidentified Man 2: (singing) You know I'm flavor, flavorlicious.

Mr. TORNOE: For the average American, hey, yeah, there's different flavors in Dr. Pepper. That's great. Whatever. But for a Latino it's, hey, that was in Spanish. Dr. Pepper gets it.

LUDDEN: When a company comes to you and wants to attract Latinos to their products, what's the most important thing you tell them that they should know about what's different about this population?

Mr. TORNOE: Well, first of all is, are they ready to cater to Latinos? Because one thing is attracting them to your store, to your website, but the other is a completely different thing to actually cater to them and turn them into repeat customers.

LUDDEN: So what's an example of a product that maybe Latinos would use in a different way than non-Hispanics?

Mr. TORNOE: You just put it in a silver platter, the Oscar Mayer thing.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: Apparently there's some campaign going on now. A chef on Hispanic television is soliciting recipes from Latinos who use hot dogs, I don't know, three meals a day or something. Tell me.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TORNOE: Yeah. I think it's a interesting move by Oscar Mayer to say, you know what, yeah, the influence of the American hot dog has - or the wiener has been so big within not only the Latino population, but all over Latin America that the bread they use, the seasoning they use makes it very, very unique to different parts of Latin America. So it definitely catch my attention that the fact that people are going to be submitting all these recipes for different ways to cook wieners.

LUDDEN: You still have your chance. A few days left.

(Soundbite of laughter)

Mr. TORNOE: Believe me, I won't win.

(Soundbite of laughter)

LUDDEN: Juan Tornoe writes the blog "Hispanic Trending" and founded the advertising and consulting firm Cultural Strategies. He joined us member station KUT in Austin. Thank you very much.

Mr. TORNOE: Thank you. I appreciate it.

LUDDEN: That's our program for today. I'm Jennifer Ludden and this is TELL ME MORE from NPR News. Let's talk more tomorrow.

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