Why And How Top 40 Should Cultivate Its Latino Audience
Reprinted from Billboard Top 40 newsletter with permission
Referring to them as a sleeping giant that has awoken, a CNN article summarizing the results of the recent presidential election noted that for the first time Hispanics made up 10% of all voters—a new high.
But that’s just the beginning. According to the U.S. Census Bureau, as of July 2012 the estimated Hispanic population of the United States was 52 million people (16.7% of the country). By 2050 that number is projected to balloon to 132.8 million, or 30% of the total U.S. population. However, that growth won’t come from immigrants. It will be driven by the approximately 6.5 million Hispanic households in the United States that, as of 2011, had children under the age of 18.
And that’s why top 40 radio should pay attention.
According to the Scarborough USA database, on average across the country, Hispanic listeners already comprise 20% of mainstream top 40’s audience and 33% of rhythmic top 40. With Hispanic population growth coming from American-born Latinos, those numbers are likely to increase because second-, third- and fourth-generation Hispanics tend to be English-dominant even if Spanish is what the older generations speak at home.
Now add in the fact that, according to Crystal Clear Communications president Crystal Brown-Tatun, American Hispanics represent $1 trillion in spending power, and it makes sense to explore how to increase the level of engagement stations have with Latinos beyond traditional marketing. “If I were placing my bets, I would be building relationships with native-born Hispanics,” says Chris Carbone, an analyst with the Insights & Research Group at Innovaro. “We’ve hit the tipping point where native-born Latinos outnumber foreign-born, and we are going to continue in that direction.”
For more evidence of how important this market segment is, look at the world of TV. There are several cable networks in development that plan to offer English- only programming that targets Latinos. One example is ABC and Univision’s joint venture called Fusion. “The launch of Fusion will be a major milestone in Univision’s 50-year history of service to the Hispanic community,” Univision Networks president Cesar Conde says. “We’re delighted to partner with ABC News in this exciting new network that will extend Univision’s unequaled coverage of Hispanic issues and lifestyle to English dominant audiences for the first time.”
UNDERSTANDING THE AUDIENCE
In the spring 2011 Innovaro completed a report titled “The New Hispanic Americans” that profiled native-born Hispanic-Americans. The report refers to them as “the bridge generation” because they frequently straddle two worlds: life in America and the tradition of their families’ home country. Standing on that bridge creates a number of major contradictions. According to the report, native-born Latinos tend to be highly satisfied with their lives and optimistic about the future while at the same time tend to have higher rates of poverty, teen parenthood and dropping out of school than the overall U.S. population.
Further complicating the picture is that, as a group, Latinos are far from homogenous. At the time of the report, two-thirds of Hispanic-Americans are Mexican while 13% come from Central and South America, 9% from Puerto Rico and 4% from Cuba; the remaining 8% originate from other Spanish-speaking countries.
That is an important distinction for any station that wants to increase its Latino listening audience. “We’re not all one thing,” says Giovanni Rodriguez, co-founder/CEO of SocialxDesign and co-author of the e-book “Latinosphere: Marketing With Latinos in the Age of Digital. “There’s a big difference between a younger Puerto Rican from New York City and an older Cuban from Miami.”
That means stations who want to embrace Hispanic listeners in their local market need to understand the issues that matter to the people who live there. But, Rodriguez says, there are also issues that affect all Latinos regardless of where they come from. For example, he points to immigration reform, which all Hispanics are likely to favor, even those who aren’t immigrants. “Even for Puerto Ricans who can just jump on a plane, it matters. It’s a matter of kinship.”
BUILDING A RELATIONSHIP
Because Latinos are a complex group, Rodriguez says the best way for a station to increase its level of engagement is to think like an anthropologist. Learn about where Hispanics in your market are spending their time. “Understand where they are, and then you can start to listen and understand what they care about.” That includes listening in via social media channels. “Because [Latinos] are exceptionally well-represented, you could actually learn about social engagement overall at the same time.”
Once you have an understanding of the topics they are discussing and how they feel, “then there is an opportunity to engage,” Rodriguez says. Carbone agrees. He suggests that initially it would be beneficial to reach out on a very grass-roots level. “Pick the 10 biggest Hispanic groups in your market and reach out to them. If you put 10 submarkets together, that’s a serious outreach to a good chunk of the Hispanic population in your market.”
Then, once you have an understanding of who they are and what they are talking about, Rodriguez says, “You can start to think about what to do for them.” That action could take any number of forms, including off-air options from special events to hosting tours of the station. “Let them come to the facilities and talk to executives behind the scenes. Radio stations are a cool place to visit.”
Brown-Tatun says that having finding ways to be involved—like sponsoring a soccer tournament or having a presence at schools—can have a major impact. “Being around the people and the culture really matters. If you want their loyalty you have to have a presence in the community.”
Outreach plans should also include a significant social media presence. An Ad Age Insights article titled “The Cultural Connection: How Hispanic Identity Influences Millennials,” reported that about half of millennial Latinos say technology makes it easier to connect to their culture and heritage, while two-thirds said it allows them to stay connected to the latest events in their country of origin.
Brown-Tatun says the impact of social media can be huge because Latinos have a high tendency to share their preferences through social media and are more likely to be influenced by recommendations. “You can see that within other categories like food and beverage, clothing and other goods. There is a lot of loyalty to word-of-mouth suggestions from friends and family.”
Carbone suggests setting up a separate Twitter handle or Facebook account so the station can send dedicated messages to its Hispanic listeners. But he also stresses that being physically present is equally, if not more, important. “It’s about real life where people are laughing with their friends and eating the food they love. It shows that you are willing to invest actual face time, and for a culture that is socially driven that says a lot. That’s how you catch them at a time when they are open to some sort of interaction and to learn more about your brand.”