When President Obama popped into Puerto Rico to hustle votes, he made sure to name drop "arroz con gandules."
He didn't use the more widely known arroz con frijoles linked to Cuban or Mexican cuisine. Instead he mentioned the pigeon pea and rice dish more popular among Puerto Ricans.
The president was following a new rule of marketing to Hispanics that dominated a recent panel discussion at the local American Marketing Association chapter.
Despite the hype about Hispanics being the fastest-growing chunk of the U.S. population, these 50 million folks hail from nations with different cultures that defy one-size-fits-all tactics.
"It's not about advertising in Spanish anymore, but knowing each Hispanic community's lifestyle and being relevant to it," said Tony Suarez, a former Coca-Cola and McDonald's executive.
It's getting trickier. Multigeneration Hispanic households are often not only a mix of English and Spanish speakers. Their U.S.-born offspring — the driving force behind the projected growth of the U.S. Hispanic market — are developing their own bicultural identities and communities, said Felipe Korzenny, director of Hispanic marketing at Florida State and author of Hispanic Marketing: Connecting with the New Latino Consumer.
The new rules can be a simple as a baseball team marketing season tickets to Dominican, Cuban or Venezuelan immigrants rather than Bolivians, Brazilians or Argentines whose homelands have no baseball heritage.
Or digging deeper. Procter & Gamble, for instance, dug into why Mexican-Americans overwhelmingly preferred Huggies over Pampers diapers. It turned out that Pampers sold in Mexico had not been upgraded for decades.
"We asked American moms about Pampers, and they recalled the warm cuddly images from our packaging and ads," said Alexis Cardona, a former Pampers brand manager. "But all Mexican-Americans said was they didn't keep their baby dry. They wouldn't buy Pampers in the U.S. because of their experience with them in Mexico."
P&G's market share needles jumped in both places once Pampers were re-engineered in the Mexican market.
The same thing happened when Cardona worked to reformulate Crest toothpaste in Mexico, which didn't share the dental-care tradition of the United States. P&G spiced up what had been a bland Midwest flavor and added bubbling agents to make it feel more like the toothpaste was working.
Now chief marketing officer at Transitions Optical, the Pinellas Park maker of eyeglass coatings, Cardona is using similar efforts to tune Transition's pitch to Asians and Hispanics.
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Ragz, a Tampa men's and women's clubwear boutique, has reopened at International Plaza after vanishing for a month.
Stocked with premium denim priced from $100 to $600, Ragz had to leave space rented monthly that is now leased long term to A/X Armani Exchange. Ragz moved across the concourse.
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With pro shoplifters hitting more stores, the makers of Sensormatic antitheft equipment redid their oldest tools.
Thieves who for years used foil-lined "booster bags" to silence antishoplifting alarms take note: Sensormatic owner ADT added a silent alarm that alerts store detectives when a foil-lined bag or coat enters a store.
Triggered by radio beams gauging metal density, the sensor can differentiate a foil bag from, say, a baby stroller.
Thanks to multiple surveillance cameras and digital images kept in a secure Internet cloud, old Hollywood tricks like smashing the recorder or spray painting a lens don't work anymore.
"We grab them before they're done spraying," said Lee Pernice, retail market director for ADT, a division of Boca Raton-based Tyco International.
Mark Albright can be reached at email@example.com or (727) 893-8252.