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Corporate Leaders in the Hispanic Marketplace

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There was a time, when "All American" meant someone with blonde hair and blue eyes but as the population in the United States has become increasingly diverse, what was once viewed as minority has become the majority.

Nowhere has that the definition of "American" been redefined as with the population explosion of Hispanics in the United States.

According to the 2010 U.S. Census Report, one in six Americans identifies themselves as Hispanic, making this the fastest growing ethnic group in the country.

But if you're business is interested in the bottom line and connecting with as Target's Senior Vice President of Marketing, Rick Gomez refers to as "the new mainstream", how do you do so?

It's certainly a question that is on every executives' lips nowadays. Hispanics make up 1.2 trillion dollars in the marketplace annually.

"Today, AT&T has about 12% of the mobility customer base that is Hispanic and about 11% of the home solution customer base is Hispanic. It's a big business for the company," says Roberto Garcia, Executive Director over Hispanic Marketing for AT&T.

And in an economy where Hispanics make up such a significant portion of the market, it would be quite frankly, foolish for corporations not to take a serious look at this now, if they haven't already.

"Those of us who watch cultural and population shifts have been seeing this for awhile," Tim Van Hoof, Assistant Marketing Vice President at State Farm says, "This is becoming just part of America, right? The term general market doesn't exist in our marketing efforts anymore; we call it cross-cultural marketing."

Thus presents one of many challenges. It's not as simple as translating traditional advertisment into Spanish but rather, the question is, how do you communicate your message to an audience in an authentic way that not only connects but cuts through the miriads of other distractions that Hispanic consumers are being bombarded with every day?

"It's not a perfect science; we're constantly learning and refining," Van Hoof admits, "I think as everyone looks at the numbers and the purchasing power continue to grow, there is the temptation to step out and try to be something you're not."

But taking that risk and stepping outside the box pays off.

"In 2005, AT&T started a program called The H.I.T. Program -- Hispanic Intensive Traffic stores," Garcia says, "When you compare stores in New York City or in Miami, that were flagged as H.I.T., they usually deliver about 20% more gross new acquisitions than the non-Hispanic stores. Today, we have over 700 Hispanic Intensive Traffic stores nationwide."

Putting your money where your mouth is has been another important component in connecting with the marketplace. Starting from the inside out by hiring "team members who speak Spanish," Target's Gomez says is square one.

Companies that understand hiring Hispanics connecting heart-to-heart in an authentic way, can mean the difference between succeeding in the marketplace and tanking.

"Whether it's Working Mother magazine, Latino Style or Hispanic Business magazine, State Farm year in and year out has been ranked as one of the top places for Hispanics to work," Van Hoof says.

"The [Nestlé] team is staffed with a culturally diverse group of people from the U.S. as well as a number of Latin American countries with Spanish language skills being a prerequisite," Edie Burge, Corporate & Brand Affairs at Nestlé adds.

And it is a good thing savvy corporations are putting this initiative in the forefront today. 1 in 4 kids under the age of 17 are Hispanic. And every 30 seconds, a Hispanic teen turns 18.

If corporations do not become part of the conversations now, what will they do when the population mushrooms to over 138 million by 2050?

How does a population explosion reshape the culture as a whole, its values, its likes, dislikes, the definition of beauty, a country's tastes in music and entertainment as a whole? And what are companies doing right now to appeal to this highly lucrative group.

Becoming pioneers in bridging the gap between the first generation Hispanics and the new second, third and fourth generation Hispanics who are connected to their communities but described by AT&T's Roberto Garcia as "English-dominant?" is pertinent.

Corporations have had to get creative about advertising.

"This year at Target, we launched a Pinterest board with Univision personality and Latin style expert Rodner Figueroa," Gomez says, "His board features curated looks that you can only find at Target."

"People are distracted by their mobile devices. So whether it's advertising on Univision, Telemundo, Azteca America or MundoFox or connecting them with popular mainstream Latinos like Gloria Estefan, Daddy Yankee, Mana or this year with William Levy, we do it."

Stepping beyond traditional advertisement is equally as important. "At AT&T, we've found the best way to keep your customers is to create loyalty," Garcia says, "and to have loyalty you have to give to the community and the community has to be aware of that."

This means doing community outreach programs such as what Nestlé has done forming "a long-term partnersip with Reading is Fundamental (RIF), the nation's largest literacy organization. Over 25,000 students in 20 states benefit annually from the partnership."

"State Farm partners with National Council of La Raza, specifically the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute." Van Hoof says, "And we do things for the Hispainc market around education because our CEO, Ed Rust is so passionate about education."

Taking a foothold in the Hispanic marketplace now is an opportunity for corporations to take the burro by its horns and a major stake in today's new mainstream now, before it's too late. What efforts is your company making to serve this community?

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