News Column

Changing the Structure of U.S. Hispanic Marketing

December 2006, HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine

Opinion from Jacob Beniflah

There is a crisis in Hispanic marketing in this country, and no one seems to be talking about it. In trying to deal with the matter, there is one person, one book that we can turn to, for guidance: Thomas Kuhn's seminal 1962 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, which undoubtedly has changed, if not revolutionized, the way we think about science.

Scientists inevitably stumble upon anomalies, and if their paradigm repeatedly fails to explain these anomalies, a crisis ensues and alternative theories or approaches develop. Eventually a competing theory proves relatively successful in explaining the anomaly and it replaces the old paradigm – Kuhn's scientific revolution, or a paradigm shift.

For more than 30 years, Hispanic marketing has been on a path of significant progress. There is now an established trade association; almost a dozen Hispanic agencies are part of global communication firms, and more than $3 billion in corporate money was spent last year toward the marketing of products and services to the Hispanic population in this country.

Much of the progress, I contend, has been due to what I call the Hispanic Marketing Paradigm, a framework created by marketers and companies in the United States that have helped conceptualize Hispanic marketing. Picture a pyramid with 10 levels. The bottom eight levels are quantitative and the top two are qualitative. The quantitative part of the paradigm has been largely shaped by the Census over the years, painting the Hispanic segment as a young, lucrative, relatively concentrated, and fastest-growing ethnic population in the United States. The upper portion of the pyramid has supported the strong-held beliefs that Spanish language is the one, best way in targeting Hispanics effectively and efficiently in this country; that Hispanic marketing requires a separate effort and separate funding.

I began by saying that Hispanic marketing is in a crisis. It's in a state of crisis because the qualitative tier in the Hispanic Marketing Paradigm no longer solves all of the problems and challenges that marketers are facing. The Hispanic segment varies significantly across levels of acculturation, creating some noticeable in-group variances. As a result, the media landscape has begun to change, with new publications and television networks, like Sí TV, aimed at the English-speaking and bilingual Hispanic consumer. FOX and ABC, today, the third and fourth most-watched television networks, are in front of Univision's sister Spanish-language station, TeleFutura. Future growth will come from the acculturating segments within the Hispanic population, not just from the recent arrivals, who tend to be Spanish-language dominant, and who have characterized the paradigm for so long.

So, was Kuhn right all along? Will there be an inevitable paradigm shift that will change Hispanic marketing forever? Most definitely. The demographic composition of the Hispanic segment is already changing and the media landscape has begun to change with it ever so slowly.

But rather than making the initial paradigm obsolete, marketers will have a complementary model to work with, having more tools and more options to target Hispanics within the country. So, it is safe to say, Hispanic marketing will survive "la revolución científica" and will be characterized by an evolution that many of us have awaited for years.

Jacob Beniflah is founder and CEO of San Francisco-based marketing firm Integrados.

Source: HISPANIC BUSINESS Magazine and, Copyright (c) 2006 All Rights Reserved.

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