Brand Advertising should be different but equal

In the 20+ years of Hispanic Marketing career, I’ve seen many Hispanic agencies, and sometimes-even clients, argue in favor of a different brand positioning for the Hispanic audience, one that totally differs from that of the General Market. It is a tough battle to win.  The arguments are that Hispanics watch TV in English and in Spanish, so the more consistent the brand, the better, god forbid the customer may get confused.  To rebuke that, however, the argument has been made that when Hispanics watch TV in both languages, and see that a brand is positioned uniquely for them, they’ll appreciate the “extra” effort taken by the brand as it demonstrates it is truly creating communications that are geared for Hispanics exclusively.  While I can see both sides the validity of both arguments, I’ll have to say that 90% of the time, a consistent brand positioning is the right way to go about it.  90% of the time.

First of all, most of the reasons for a unique or different brand positioning are more about justifying our existence as Hispanic advertising agencies, than about sound business decisions.  Of course, as an Agency, it makes a lot of business sense to push for a unique brand positioning; it represents countless billable hours of research to arrive at the right positioning, followed by the development of the communications strategy as well as the creative to go along with it and, finally to create the strategies and make the buys to broadcast it- this, of course, refers to the days when agencies actually made money from the media; which is hardly the case today.

Clearly, I’m not suggesting that the appropriate course of action is to always take the General Market spot and slap a Spanish Voice Over on it; no research or culturally relevant messaging needed. That’s not at all what I’m saying.  Whether to adopt, adapt or create a unique spot is the subject of a totally different blog.  Suffice it to say, sometimes the budget alone will dictate that. 

Now, getting back on subject, should a brand change it’s positioning for the Hispanic Market? Again, 90% of the time my suggestion is “hell, no!” The best example that I’ve worked on is Coors Light.  They have, for years positioned themselves as the cold beer.  While it is easy to argue that Hispanics are smart enough to know that if you put a Bud Light, a Miller Lite and a Coors Light in the same refrigerator, they will all come out at exactly the same temperature.  Actually, you can make the argument that the General Market would know that, too. J! But this is advertising, and the all-so necessary suspension of logic in advertising has been particularly valuable for the folks at Coors.  So much so that their Hispanic agency, Bromley, has done a great job running with the general market positioning and have been consistent with it for so many years with it that Hispanic sales and brand recognition continue to grow, year after year.  I can think of many other brands that I’ve worked for, in fact, 90% of them, where this is the best thing to do.  The brand is the brand is the brand; it must remain consistent across all communications, multi-cultural included.

But then, again, there’s always the exception to the rule.  Many years ago, while working at Bromely, coincidentally the same agency that handles Coors Light today, one of our clients was Folgers coffee.  Who doesn’t remember the line “The best part of waking up is Folgers in your cup”? Folgers IS (or was) the morning coffee. This was good enough for Hispanic consumers ad in those days, no other coffee brand was advertising to them. But then, one day, a competitor decided to go after consumers, as their research showed that Hispanics were avid coffee drinkers.  What they discovered, however, was something that our agency had communicated to the client for years.  Hispanics drink coffee in the morning, at mid-day, in the afternoon, and in the evening.  We consistently pushed for spots that reflected this behavior, but the client insisted on their morning positioning, as they knew that General Market consumers used coffee mostly as a jolt to get them going in the morning, and thus their positioning.

It took one, simple, low-budget, vignette driven TV spot- with a cute jingle -no doubt- from Maxwell House to steal a huge chunk of Folgers market share.  Just like that.  They showed Hispanics in relevant situations at different times of day drinking coffee. The client was shocked, they did not know what hit them.  But what is an agency to do? Say, “we told you so?”

To conclude, nothing is sacred when it comes to marketing to Hispanics, or to anyone, for that matter. But the next time your agency tells you that your positioning does not work for the Hispanic consumer, they better have a good argument to sustain it, and, as a client, you better have an open mind, for there is always the exception to the rule.

I hope you enjoy reading this.  I’m Lalo Wakefield and I’m a Freelance Hispanic Creative Director and strategist, digital or traditional.  Thanks for reading.

Lalo Wakefield