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Hispanics’ Digital Dexterity Defies Stereotypes

Insights for targeting Hispanic consumers



Marla Skiko
EVP–Director of Digital Innovation
SMG Multicultural

Marla Skiko heads the interactive division of SMG Multicultural, a division of Starcom MediaVest Group that articulates strategies for marketing to multicultural consumers. In her role, Skiko develops digital strategies on behalf of clients such as Allstate, Burger King, Kraft, Procter & Gamble and Wal-Mart. She shared insights and best practices for targeting Hispanic consumers with eMarketer’s Tobi Elkin.

eMarketer: When targeting Hispanics, are your clients focusing more on traditional segmentation models or on psychographic/behavioral segmentations?

Marla Skiko: We partnered with Telemundo in 2010 on the Latino Heritage Identity Initiative and found 12 separate identities in our qualitative research. There’s a lot of talk about acculturation and Spanish- and English-language dominance when it comes to this market but targeting goes way beyond language preference.

Hispanics in this country have a duality. They’re trying to meld their American life with traditions and culture from their country of origin. It makes for an interesting dynamic of someone living in and balancing two worlds. Within that, we really wanted to uncover how Hispanic consumers think about themselves.

eMarketer: What are the general trends in Hispanics’ engagement with social media?

“Social media is huge for these consumers.”

Skiko: Social media is huge for these consumers. With Latinas, when you create something that’s relevant, it becomes a part of their life, it’s what they’re interested in. With social media, marketers can continue to refresh the dialogue and have a conversation. It’s hugely compelling for this audience.

eMarketer: How do you explain Hispanics’ higher engagement with social media?

Skiko: Culturally, they’re very family-based. The families are larger, so if you have a get-together, it’s already going to be much bigger than it is for non-Hispanic families. They’re more chatty, touchy-feely and warm. It’s a very conversational and warm culture. There’s a lot of interaction. You see it in the shopping. You don’t go to the store by yourself. You go with your entire family.

eMarketer: Why are Hispanics pacing so far ahead in mobile?

Skiko: It’s partly a trendsetter and a status thing—wanting to have the coolest, hottest technology the minute it comes out. This goes for both sexes and it definitely skews a bit younger. And partly it’s because mobile is more cost-effective and practical for their lives. They’re going to Skype back home, email or instant message. They’re huge users of instant messaging.

It makes no sense to have a landline when you have a large family with everybody wanting to be able to talk. When you first come to this country you might move around a lot. It doesn’t make much sense to be tied down. You’d much rather be mobile.

eMarketer: Sometimes people don’t think of Hispanic consumers as being early adopters of technology.

“There is so much research that shows Hispanics pacing ahead in technology usage and adoption across the board, especially when it comes to mobile.”

Skiko: It’s a huge myth. There is so much research that shows Hispanics pacing ahead in technology usage and adoption across the board, especially when it comes to mobile. Just because the average income is lower, the perception could be that Hispanics aren’t buying large screen televisions or computers. That’s just not the case.

eMarketer: Are there any other generalizations or stereotypes that are made about this population?

Skiko: The worst one ever is people who still ask, “Are Hispanics really online?” It just kills me. There is the perception that perhaps the income is lower so they’re not getting online or because you speak Spanish you can’t navigate the web because so much of it is in English. It couldn’t be further from the truth.

eMarketer: How do you explain Hispanics’ higher responsiveness to digital media—display ads, promotions and offers?

Skiko: Engagement rates are higher but the gap has closed a bit as there are more Hispanics online and it’s not so new. They’re looking more like the overall population. Unfortunately, not enough advertisers are really digging deep and spending the time to understand the Hispanic consumer, bring them relevant content and reach out to them with messages that resonate. And when they take the time to do all three of those things, it’s a homerun.

A longer version of this interview is available to eMarketer Total Access clients only. If you’d like to learn more about becoming a Total Access client, click here.

Check out today’s other article, “Millennials Are More Comfortable with M-Commerce.”

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