Tapping Into the Buying Power of Hispanic Customers

C-store executives charged with marketing to the Hispanic community may be chagrined to find that there is, when all is said and done, no Hispanic community.

Instead, there are many Hispanic communities.

According to Chicago-based Doyle Research Associates Inc., “Hispanics possess many cultural similarities like common language, Spaniard ancestry and common religion. On the other hand, there are many cultural, behavioral and attitudinal differences between Hispanics of different countries of origin, such as dialects and accents, food, music, lifestyle, values and dress. A trumpet in a Mariachi band plays well in Los Angeles, but not in Miami.”

The group’s research indicates, differences exist “even between Hispanics of similar countries of origin residing in different areas of the U.S.  Los Angeles Mexicans (generally newer arrivals) versus San Antonio Mexicans (generally third or fourth generation Americans) can be as different as Texans and Bostonians.”

Consider, for example, Latinos, Chicanos and Hispanics. The word Chicano, originally Mexicanos and once considered a derogatory descriptor for Mexican Americans, has become acceptable. Brazilians are considered Latinos, but not Hispanic. The word Hispanic originally referred to those from areas conquered by the Spaniards, and now includes those from Mexico, El Salvador, Guatemala, Panama and other areas south of the American border. Though the word Latino is not thought to be derogatory in general, many people who fit into that broad category would prefer to be referred to by their country of origin, such as “Nicaraguan” or “Guatemalan.”

“I’d say the key is to just understand your audience,” said Rod Martin, vice president of marketing for Corpus Christi, Texas-based Susser Holdings Corp.’s Stripes LLC, which caters to a large Mexican consumer base. “You’ve got to get outside of your building, get into your stores, get into your communities and really talk to the people who are in your stores every day. You can’t develop a relevant platform until you understand your audience, and the only way to understand them is to get out into the community.”

For example, Stripes’ stores have Spanish-language signage in some locations, but not others depending, again, on the local population.

Differences obviously extend to product selection, as well—especially snacks, candies and chips. “We’ve got a lot of folks of Mexican descent in south Texas, and in our stores there we carry some products that are traditionally found in Mexico,” Martin said.

Beyond sales, he added, “We also get feedback from them saying they appreciate our making an effort to recognize their heritage.”

Susser operates more than 520 convenience stores in Texas, New Mexico and Oklahoma under the Stripes and Town & Country banners. Restaurant service is available in more than 300 of its stores under the proprietary Laredo Taco Co., an authentic Mexican food offering, and Country Cookin’ brands.

Communication Key
This summer, nearly 2,000 7-Eleven stores across the country began distributing the quarterly Spanish magazine Constru-Guía al Día. According to the Dallas chain, 244,250 copies are being made available at 1,954 7-Eleven locations in the chain’s top nine U.S. Hispanic markets. Coupled with an existing collaboration with The Home Depot, the arrangement puts Constru-Guía al Día into the hands of more than 400,000 Hispanic males across the country.

With content in Spanish and a focus on jobsite safety, the magazine offers the latest building techniques and new products and services. 7-Eleven agreed to distribute the magazine upon realizing congruencies between convenience store consumers and the magazine’s readership.

Data from the 2000-2008 Bureau of Labor Statistics from the U.S. Dept. of Labor shows that over the next 15 years Hispanics within the construction workforce will grow from the 2010 projection of 35.4% to a 2025 projection of 63.2%.

“We identified numerous similarities between Hispanic male consumers at The Home Depot and those who shopped our 7-Eleven stores,” said Irene Sibaja, senior director of Hispanic marketing for 7-Eleven. “We conducted a coupon redemption test with Constru-Guía al Día magazine last summer.

It was a success; the redemption percentage was even higher than we had hoped, giving us confidence that Hispanic consumers will take advantage of compelling offers.”

Retail Relevance
7-Eleven proved the perfect outlet for the magazine, said Kevin Kilpatrick, the publisher of Constru-Guía al día, because “the Hispanic male community uses convenience stores like the office kitchen. About 50% of our readers are in a convenience store more than nine times a week, so these guys are in there morning, noon and night throughout the week, jumping in the truck, going for lunch,” he said.

In fact, Kilpatrick noted, “the Hispanic male in construction over indexes in purchases of just about everything they carry—from soft drinks to beer to snacks and sweets.”

According to Simmons research, 39% of Hispanic males over the age 25 have an occupation in construction or building maintenance. Approximately 61% of Hispanic male construction workers shopped at a convenience store in the past four weeks, while 37% of this same segment have shopped at a 7-Eleven in the past four weeks. Other key findings include:

• Hispanic male construction workers that shop at 7-Eleven are 60% more likely to drink regular/domestic beer than Hispanic males in general. 

• Hispanic male construction workers that shop at 7-Eleven are 38% more likely to have consumed five or more energy drinks in the last 30 days than Hispanic males in general. In addition, this same segment is 165% more likely to drink five or more energy drinks in the last 30 days than all U.S. males.

Hispanic male construction workers that shop at 7-Eleven are 14% more likely to have a cell phone than Hispanic males in general.

“The markets we’re in are very diverse,” said Stripes’ Martin. “We’ve got markets that are highly Hispanic and not highly Hispanic.”

How then to approach marketing? “First off, we try not to speak to them as one group. The second thing we try not to do is just take a general marketing campaign and translate it into Spanish,” Martin said. “We don’t believe that’s the way to do things. We try to target our messages around a single core position, but we try and translate it on its own merits.”

In other words, Stripes puts out two completely different campaigns that run side by side. “If you are English-dominant one would be relevant to you, and if you are Spanish-dominant the other would be relevant. Because so much of our audience is bilingual, they stand side by side as separate campaigns, but they really back up the same idea,” Martin said.

Stripes employs the Dallas-based Firehouse ad agency, which is highly experienced in Hispanic marketing. It also uses input from its field operations network as a litmus test to account for the different geographies and region

al differences within its audience.

The relationship with Firehouse began with a lot of qualitative research in all of Stripes’ markets to gain a thorough understanding of the differences in those markets in how consumers were using the stores. “We wanted to know how they utilize Stripes in their everyday routines, and the role that Stripes plays in those routines,” Martin said. “What we ended up doing was really putting a fine point on our communications strategy that really hit that commonality. We focused on what was common among those groups, not what made them different.”

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