Marketing to “Those People”

Over the years, I’ve fielded exploratory calls from a number of self-proclaimed “white guys” in places like Des Moines, Charlotte or Cheyenne, who ask me to help them market to Hispanics. Maybe their boss has said, “Look into that.” Chances are they haven’t thought through the ramifications of their request; commonly, they’ve had little or no interaction with Latinos.

“I don’t know how to speak Spanish. Can you help me?” one asks.

“I’ve been told it’s a good idea, but I don’t know any of those people,” another might admit.

Those who are honest enough to accept the doubts bouncing around in their heads will acknowledge: “They look different, they act different and I don’t know what to do.”

Sometimes it’s a deal breaker. You see, the words “those people” often tumble out of the mouths of those whose bias and racism blind them to the world, suggesting underlying attitudes that would make it impossible to deal honestly with the subculture they seek to engage as customers. But many times it’s the inkling of a challenge to be tackled, a shortcoming born out of inexperience (or perhaps one or more bad experiences) that might be overcome with education and the formulation of new experiences. And I’ve learned that the desire to do business with any of our country’s consumer subcultures may be the first step in a learning process from which we all benefit.

Don’t ignore that desire.

The doors of the world open to those who are willing to expand their horizons by trying something new. Just be careful to think through your motives, to ponder what might happen – both if you fail, and if you should happen to succeed! Explore, ask, research, investigate, probe, test, implement, retest and re-evaluate. Think and feel. Plan, calculate, justify.

Be audacious enough to open yourself to new horizons, but also open yourself to the possibility that the vista from that new mountaintop may not be to your liking. Seek out success in bold new ventures, but know that the unexpected and unfamiliar are feared for a reason. And sometimes those fears – despite all our striving to the contrary – overwhelm us and, in the words of the Scottish poet Robert Burns, we find that “the best laid schemes of mice and men oft go awry.”

In short, I cannot guarantee that your plunge into the waters of Hispanic marketing will lead to profits and personal reward. I can tell you that the mere act of starting out, of diving into those waters, can be invigorating in and of itself. I can share many successes that have brought the joy and satisfaction of a job well done. I can testify that the journey is worthwhile.

Sadly, organizations that get the urge to try Hispanic marketing often kill that impulse before taking the simplest of first steps — “I don’t know what to do, so maybe I just won’t do anything, rather than to risk doing it wrong.” That’s the quickest way to drive your company into insolvency.

But daring to innovate and redefine – daring to risk and fail – with a relevant and respectful mindset may just be the key to your organization’s marketing success in 2018!


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