U.S. Businesses Target Growing Latino Market

The buying power of the growing Latino population in the United States is attracting the attention of many businesses. Many companies have graduated from producing commercials in Spanish to designing products and advertising campaigns specifically to appeal to Latinos.

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MADELEINE BRAND, host:

This is DAY TO DAY. I'm Madeleine Brand.

In a few minutes, the orchestral rock sounds of the Toronto band Broken Social Scene.

But first, the Hispanic population in the US has the fastest-growing purchasing power of any group of Americans. Next year more than 40 million Latinos are expected to spend $700 billion. As NPR's Jennifer Ludden reports, this has more and more advertisers vying for their attention.

JENNIFER LUDDEN reporting:

This past spring, Miami-based Movida Communications linked up with Sprint to offer a new pay-as-you-go cell phone service. The mobile phones are sold at Wal-Mart stores in 40 states so far. And in a first of its kind, this big venture isn't even bothering with the Anglo market.

(Soundbite of phone ringing)

Unidentified Man #1: Hello.

Unidentified Man #2: Hey, it's me.

Unidentified Man #1: Uh-huh.

Unidentified Man #2: What's up, mano?

Unidentified Man #1: (Foreign language spoken)

Unidentified Man #2: Cool, (foreign language spoken).

LUDDEN: Movida's slogan is `the prepaid cell phone for the Latino lifestyle.' And the company's motto?

Mr. ENRIQUE GARCIA (Chair of Movida's Board): `Dial two for English.' Just a little humor there, by the way.

LUDDEN: Enrique Garcia is the chair of Movida's board. Last month the company began a free promotion for its text-messaging service.

Mr. GARCIA: With that product, every one of our users can get, for example, soccer scores from back home or can get the weather of any of the 21 Latin countries through their phone.

LUDDEN: The company will soon add updates to popular telenovelas, those steamy Spanish-language soaps. And Garcia says the cell phone service also offers more vital information for Hispanics.

Mr. GARCIA: For example, if you have an immigration problem in any particular city in the US, who you should go to or who you should talk to if you want to get your driver's license, how to do that. So it's all kinds of tidbits, all kinds of information useful for our target, which we believe will make the life of the Latinos in the US easier and more productive.

LUDDEN: Millions of Latinos may send money back to their home countries each month, but marketers say with multiple members of a family often working, there's plenty left to spend here and the potential is growing. Marketer Hector Orci says one reason is a high birth rate.

Mr. HECTOR ORCI (Marketer): There's also the fact that most Latinos are on the average younger than the general population. So they're barely starting to build a household and they're getting married and starting families. So that makes this market very much--very impactful beyond its size.

LUDDEN: Orci founded La Agencia de Orci in 1986 and has seen the marketing industry grow increasingly sophisticated. In one of his agency's latest campaigns, focus groups helped shape TV ads for Brawny Paper Towels.

(Soundbite of commercial)

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

LUDDEN: At one point, the ad shows a woman using a paper towel to wrap a sandwich, a practice Orci says some Latinos brought here from their home countries. The agency also tweaked Brawny's persona. Research showed Latino women found it offensive for a strange man to come in and take over household chores. So the ads portray him as simply a helping hand.

(Soundbite of commercial)

Unidentified Woman: (Foreign language spoken)

LUDDEN: Hector Orci says a lot of images common in mainstream media don't fly with Latinos.

Mr. ORCI: Relatively common when you're watching television in English to see someone going up to the mountain in their car, on their motorcycle or something and standing up there and saying, you know, `I am king of the world; this is all mine.' And when you show that imagery to a Latino audience, the question that the Latinas, particularly the women, has is, `What's wrong with that person? Why is she alone? How sad.'

LUDDEN: Latinos value family and friends over solitude, Orci says. So an ad targeted to them could show, say, a car parked at a big picnic.

Reaching this expanding Hispanic market is also becoming more complicated. There's not just that first generation with imperfect English, but also second and third generations. And veteran marketer Isabel Valdez says some ads are beginning to reflect this.

Mr. ISABEL VALDEZ (Marketer): The icons they show, the way people interact and all that is very Latino, but they're talking to each other in English. So they don't need to say, you know, oh, you are Hispanic and we like you, in a very awkward way. It's like, wow, we are part of it, but you have to know how to do that.

LUDDEN: Increasingly, Valdez says, mainstream marketers will find ways to embrace the Latino experience because they can't afford not to. Jennifer Ludden, NPR News.

BRAND: More coming up on DAY TO DAY from NPR News.

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