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Kai Ryssdal:The Census Bureau said today it’s got 573,000 people on its payroll. When their work is done, and this year’s census is in the books, it’s expected to show that the Latino population in the United States has topped 50 million. That’s a market worth as much as a trillion dollars. Businesses, obviously, want a piece of it. But getting there is way more complicated that just translating your ads from English to Spanish. So, some of America’s biggest brands are collaborating to try to win over the Hispanic consumer.
Marketplace’s Jeff Tyler reports.
Jeff Tyler: The Latinum Network includes about 30 companies — brands like Clorox, H&R Block, Subway and McDonald’s.
Mike Klein is co-founder of Latinum.
Mike Klein: What we’re most interested in is understanding this consumer and how they are similar and different from consumers in the rest of the economy.
The network combs through Hispanic demographic data. Then, it shares best practices with its members, like the NBA. Earlier in the season, the New York Knicks put the data into practice.
Sound of announcer at a New York Knicks game
Across the country, teams staged “Noche Latina,” or “Latin Night,” to honor Hispanic fans. Their numbers have grown 10 percent in the last year. An ad for the NBA shows just how devoted some of those fans are.
That’s the sound of two Hispanic guys who screamed so much during the game that they lost their voices. To give Hispanic fans their own voice, the NBA developed a second brand, called ene-be-a.
Saskia Sorrosa: Essentially, what ene-be-a is, is how our Hispanic fans already refer to our league, la ene-be-a. We basically took it and made it official.
That’s Saskia Sorrosa, senior director of U.S.-Hispanic marketing for the NBA. She says research shows Hispanics like to be acknowledged, but don’t like to be identified solely by language.
Sorrosa: When we were deciding how to rebrand our league — did we want to call it “NBA en espanol”? Did we want to call it “NBA Latino”? And that was calling them out, or singling them out a little too much. But ene-be-a was almost like a wink.
Some of the distinctions are subtle. Others challenge conventional assumptions.
Mike Klein with Latinum says Hispanic families do tend to be bigger, with more kids.
Klein: But it’s also true that half of all Hispanic households in the U.S. are childless.
Cultural traditions are not uniform either. In the past, Hispanic mothers tended to cook meals from scratch. Klein says that’s changing.
Klein: More and more Hispanic women are beginning to work, and there may be dual-income households. And so, like the non-Hispanic consumer, Hispanics are beginning now to spend more on frozen foods.
How does this research play out in the real world? In Chicago, 7-Eleven is putting Latinum’s data to the test. The convenience store chain has a pilot program aimed at blue-collar Hispanic consumers. That means new bilingual signs over the coffee bar and different products.
Irene Sibaja is senior director of Hispanic marketing for 7-Eleven.
Irene Sibaja: So here we are in the snack section. And there’s a whole bunch of snacks that we can bring in here, like chili-covered tamarind, dried shrimp.
But she says the network’s research shows Hispanic customers don’t want all the Mexican products bunched together in an ethnic section.
Sibaja: That sends a message that says, “Here, this three-foot section is for you. And the rest of the store is for everyone else.”
Kunal Nakodkar knows what it’s like to be homesick for food. The owner of this 7-Eleven franchise emigrated from India to Chicago.
Kunal Nakodkar: We had to travel about 20 miles to an Indian neighborhood to get all our Indian food.
His experiences help him appreciate the needs of his immigrant customers. Even before the pilot program started, he would stock refried beans and hot sauce.
Nakodkar: So that way they don’t have to travel as I did.
His efforts have paid off. Nakodkar says his Hispanic customers have been fiercely loyal, and they increase his business by bringing their friends.
I’m Jeff Tyler for Marketplace.