In 1977, U.S.-based Braniff Airways inadvertently told their Spanish-speaking customers to “Fly Naked” in their new marketing campaign. To be fair, in most of Latin America, “Vuela en Cuero” translates to mean “Fly in Leather,” a tagline that Braniff intended to use while promoting its luxurious leather interior. In Mexico, local slang gave the phrase a completely different meaning – “Fly Naked.” This simple gaffe ultimately cost the company a bunch of useless billboards, its dignity and possibly some rogue, naked fliers. (There aren’t any statistics on that last one, though.)
Flash forward to 2014 and marketers across the country are chasing the metaphorical goldmine that is the elusive Hispanic market. And who can blame them? Latino purchasing power has risen to a staggering $1.2 trillion annually, a figure that is only expected to grow in the coming years.
Some companies are afraid of marketing to the Hispanic audience. (PadillaCRT’s Nicole Fischer wrote an awesome Buzz Bin post about this.) But that’s not always the case. Other companies like poor, misguided Braniff (RIP) are launching multi-million dollar campaigns, and many are falling short. But unlike Braniff’s embarrassing introduction to Research 101, it’s not the tagline that’s getting lost in translation, it’s the entire concept.
The problem stems from many companies refusing to take the time to really understand the people they’re targeting. In a series of articles written for Forbes, Glenn Llopis does an excellent job of explaining how the popularity of the “total market strategy” has only alienated Latinos from everything from candy bars to presidential candidates.
In theory, total market strategy is useful because companies only have to create one overarching marketing campaign to communicate with all segments of their brand’s market. They develop one concept, then they package, market and profit.
So why has total market strategy crashed and burned?
It has a little something to do with the history of immigration and assimilation in the United States.
Often, people draw a connection between the First Great Wave of immigrants (1880-1930) and what many are calling the Second Great Wave (1965-present). They try to explain immigration today with what they know about the past. While it’s tempting to think that history repeats itself, the reality is that immigrants from the two waves are quite different.
First, immigrants are coming from different geographic locations. Immigrants of the First Great Wave were mainly coming from Europe, the UK and Russia. As one might expect, the majority of immigrants from the emerging Second Wave come from Central America, South America and the Caribbean. In fact, Latinos make up 50 percent of the immigrants entering the U.S. since 1965 and 17 percent of the U.S. population as of January 2014.
For some, their relative proximity to their home country allows them to visit home more frequently. In addition, unlike immigrants of the past, technology like social media enables Latinos to continuously communicate with friends and family back home. Instead of quickly assimilating to mainstream “American Culture,” Latinos can be American while still retaining a cultural identity.
The immense popularity of Spanglish (no, not the movie) among Latino youth is a great example of how Latinos both remember their roots and embrace American culture. It represents the distinct mix of two cultures that colors the Latino experience in the U.S.
It’s no wonder that total market strategy, a concept that bases its success on the belief that all people are the same, would fail to work on a group of people that values their differences and their heritage so much. Because of this, total market strategy comes off as dated and at times even a little offensive.
Latinos want to see themselves accurately represented in all types of media, advertising included. And, as Llopis explains, they can tell when the attempt is insincere. When they see marketing that employs total market strategy, it says that the company cares more about saving money than getting to know its customers.
How can companies get to know their Latino audience?
- Hire employees who are wholly multicultural and understand the complexities that result from translating marketing campaigns across various cultures.
- Work with consumers, clients and small businesses in the community that is being targeted.
- Actively work to understand what specific groups want for their communities and learn how your business can help fill those needs.
When in doubt, treat your customers like you treat your friends. Your target audience will likely appreciate it when you show that you’re genuinely interested in getting to know who they are and what they want. A little bit of research can be the difference between a successful marketing campaign and a plane full of naked fliers.
The views and opinions expressed in this post are of the individual writer and not necessarily of PadillaCRT as a whole.