By Juan Tornoe
Don’t get me wrong by what I am about to share with you. I am Google’s #1 admirer and avid customer, using them for just about anything I do online, on a daily – or should I say minute by minute – basis. Bottom line, I am not in a crusade to discredit them in any way, shape or form. Still, there are certain minor details or nuances that seem to have passed undetected on their recent outreach efforts to sell Google as the ultimate tool to reach Latinos. I’m certain that using the web, and Google specifically, is a great way to reach out to a very interesting segment of the Hispanic market, but you must really understand the different segments of the Latino community before making any serious investments to connect with them; you must really know your customer.
Google’s insightful results come directly from interviewing 4,117 Hispanics who are anywhere within the English-Spanish language spectrum, and are US residents age 18+, INTERNET USERS, who in the next 6 months intend to purchase items within at least one of the following categories: Auto, Retail (like a pair of socks at The Gap), Tech, and CPG (I’m guessing a pack of Trident gum counts). A quite broad, although interesting range of people.
Now let’s take a look at the pool from were this individuals were taken from. There are several estimates out there that put the number of Latinos currently online at least at 60% of the entire US Hispanic population. What is not mentioned along with such headlines is that “being online” is defined as “accessing the internet at least once a month for information or entertainment.” At the same time, we have been informed that only 1/5 of online Hispanics are “power users”, defined as those who spend 24 hours a week – about 3.5 hours a day – on the web. According to this last definition only about 12% of Latinos are “online power users.” A much less exciting number than the previously mentioned 60%, don’t you think? It takes one spending three and a half hours a day online to be considered a power user? In that case, I am a Triple-Platinum Ultra Super Power User! But I digress…
So, all the great information included in the Google “Four Truths About US Hispanic Consumers” presentation is definitely useful and worthy of notice, BUT it does not apply to the almost 47 million Latinos living in the US today, nor to the approximately 30 million Hispanics who access the web at least once a month, but it does to the 6 million (give or take a hundred thousand or so) Latino Power Users. Hey, although Latino Power Users still represent the population of a small country, and more importantly the kind of customer most companies salivate over (or should be salivating over), there are 24 million “online Latinos” for whom these numbers might not fully reflect their current web usage.
The Pew Hispanic Center reported in 2010 that 47% of Spanish-dominant Latinos use the internet, compared to 74% of bilingual Latinos and 81% of English-dominant Latinos. By taking these numbers into consideration along with the information shared above and the wealth of data included in the Google presentation, it is likely that most of those Latino Power Users are either English-dominant or bilingual.
Curiously, the Google Insights report along with its case study videos actually reinforces this fact. The “Four Truths About US Hispanics Online” as well as “Connecting with Hispanic Moms Online” videos show English-dominant Latinos sharing how they are connected to the web on a constant basis visiting sites like TED, The Weather Channel, Newsweek, facebook & Gmail (using English language interfaces), The Colbert Report, Fandango, Sports Authority, Macy’s, Orbitz, searching for “best price for tvs” on Google… You get the picture.
Then, when you watch the case studies for Kraft and General Mills, you see takes of the same English-dominant Hispanics, actually navigating the web in English combined with others takes of the corporation’s staffers sharing their success stories and of their Spanish Language websites.
Yes, Kraft’s Comida y Familia and General Mills’ Que Rica Vida are Spanish-only websites that, independently of the great results they are certainly getting, I don’t believe are the first choice for obtaining this kind of information on the web for the “cream of the crop” Latino Online Power User that is being presented.
There is one thing that is being overseen here: Hispanic Marketing is NOT Spanish marketing! The Latino market is quite complex and diverse, with a wide range of levels of acculturation, assimilation, language preference, etc… When you are marketing to Latinos, it is quite risky, and inaccurate, to say that you are helping them navigate life in the US… What about those 2nd, 3rd, 4th+ generation Latinos that have only been exposed to this lifestyle since the moment they were born? They might just be listening to Grand Funk Railroad’s “We’re an American Band” on their iPads, as one of them is actually doing on one of these videos!
Yes, I am using and will continue to use the internet and Google specifically to reach a very profitable segment of the Latino Market, and recommend you do as well. Yes, I believe there is a great opportunity to reach out to Spanish-dominant Latinos using the web – as Kraft and General Mills have been doing – and will continue preaching just this. Still, you must be careful on how you build your case; the worst thing that can happen is having many advertisers jump into the “Reaching Latinos Online in Spanish” bandwagon, just to become disenchanted because their results don’t meet the high expectations that were set. It is much better to follow one of Tom Peter’s formulas for success: under promise and over deliver.