SBJ/September 10-16, 2012/Opinion

Inclusion holds power for connecting with Hispanic consumers

Since perceptive marketers first recognized that money could be made selling specifically to Hispanics, there have been lessons for marketing to Hispanic people. Rightfully, conversations covered preferred languages, generational segmentation, acculturation, diversity within a diverse audience, appropriate designations and more. All are essential considerations.

Yet ironically, an extraordinary number of those desiring to harness Hispanic spending power either overlook or ignore a simple, powerful truth of human nature: People are more comfortable and prefer doing business with people who resemble themselves. People naturally seek to see themselves included.

Inclusivity is both a barometer of and a solution to the challenge of capturing Hispanic buying power. To begin, inclusivity considers demographic changes and proportionality. The U.S. Hispanic population of 50.5 million (considered by many to be an undercount) has annual purchasing power approaching $1 trillion. Professors Donna Maria Blancero and Robert G. DelCampo note in their article “Hispanics in the Workplace,” (Employment Relations Today, Summer 2005) that “Hispanics make up 10.3 percent of the workforce [and] although Hispanics are growing in number and in representation in the workforce, they remain underrepresented in the higher ranks. Approximately 4.5 percent of managers and 3.8 percent of professionals are Hispanic. Hispanics fill less than 1.7 percent of corporate board seats and less than 1 percent of executive positions.” And Hispanic women, who frequently make the decisions on expenditures for their families (which are generally larger than white families), held less than 10 percent of corporate seats. Puny percentages all.

Achieving inclusivity is synonymous with methodical organizational change, and that is especially the case for sports properties that historically have been slow to formally adopt social change. With the ultra-high public profiles of sports properties and layers of personnel within the athletic, administrative and business functions, effecting change is complicated. Regardless, the team, league or event — from top to bottom — needs to reflect the faces of the communities it serves.

The most important, fundamental aspect of multicultural outreach is marketing within culture. For proof, one need look no further than the NBA in the 1990s to see how the game’s cultural transformation from white-bread jump shots to in-your-face urban jams propelled a league to stratospheric success. Hispanic employees and fans bring invigorating new culture to an organization. Communication and invitations to participate within these new cultural norms give an organization qualities that are attractive and comforting to potential new guests.

Teams seeking Hispanic fans can take action by reflecting the community they wish to serve.
Photo by: JORDAN MEGENHARDT / ARIZONA DIAMONDBACKS
Principles of inclusion


We humans can be illogical creatures. Though innovation can be a powerful force for good, we have tendencies to avoid change. Fortunately, resistance to change can be vanquished by something of greater power: C-level determination. Thus comes the first principle of an inclusive organization:

Inclusivity must be driven from the top until it becomes the marrow of the organization’s bones.

Managers and supervisors can, and must, share in the work, but the directive must come from above. Savvy C-level executives recognize this and tether inclusive business practices to promotions and pay.

Practice inclusion.

An organization can require inclusion from its partners. A property or a league office going it alone, without the support of the other, breeds confusion and even ill will. More positively, it need not start from scratch; it can build off of what has already been accomplished. And it can buy inclusively. An organization must know whether it is purchasing from Hispanic or minority-owned businesses. It should consider starting a second-tier supplier program.

Communicate this inclusion to the world of would-be Hispanic consumers.

Start with the media. An organization must be inclusive in its relationships with media. Does it use Spanish-language media? Does it speak to its Hispanic media contacts as often as other media? Access does not have to be special. Hispanic media should be included in an organization’s planning and media events even when Hispanics are not the target; invite Hispanic media to all media events. An organization must learn how its efforts are perceived.

Practice self-assessment.

Does the organization demonstrate C-level commitment? Existing relationships with partners and the community can be used, and improved, to better learn how efforts at inclusion are viewed. Sponsors can be another resource. They are sophisticated in analyzing and approaching Hispanic customers and can offer advice about how to better target Hispanic customers in a manner that was mutually beneficial.

Seek counsel.

Practicing inclusion means being dedicated to learning as an organization. An organization should identify and speak to business and community resources regularly about organizational culture, business practices and inclusivity. Demonstrate accessibility to local Hispanic leaders. Make sure interested parties have day-to-day and C-level contacts in the organization.

From the perspectives of bottom-line performance, long-term viability and business ethics, inclusion holds great power. Companies that carefully track results testify that market size, sales, profitability and organizational competency all rise. An inclusive organization can honestly and earnestly communicate its story to Hispanics, making the organization’s messages inherently more potent and effective and its product more appealing and appreciated.

Tom Córdova (tacordova@earthlink.net), a former board member of The Institute for the Study of Social Change at the University of California, Berkeley, now heads Córdova Marketing Group, a marketing consultancy specializing in multicultural and general market strategies, organizational development, and sports sales. Michael Minkus (michael@covacova.com) is counsel and vice president of operations at Córdova Marketing Group.


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