Border Patrol

  |  November 29, 2010   |  Comments

A new book looks at where Latinos go...for content, community, and commerce.

latino-linkAt a time when immigration has dominated conversation about Latino growth in the U.S., a new book urges businesses to look at trends in the larger, virtual Latinosphere. In "Latino Link," Chicago-based marketing consultant Joe Kutchera takes a close look at recent patterns in Latino digital life and makes a number of well-reasoned recommendations for businesses. Along the way, he explains why content is still king, why Spain and Mexico may be bigger virtually than physically, and how Google and Facebook offer two approaches - but no final answers - to building a global presence on the social Web. I caught up with Joe on e-mail last week, between stops on his first national book tour.

Giovanni Rodriguez: How did you get into Latino marketing?

Joe Kutchera: First of all, thanks for interviewing me here on ClickZ.

If your readers have the opportunity to open up my book, Latino Link, and read the dedication, they will see what inspired me to write the book and combine my career in digital marketing with Spanish-language media. "This book is dedicated to my parents who met in Spanish class, honeymooned in Mexico, and had me nine months later. I've loved learning to speak Spanish ever since."

After working for a number of Time Warner divisions including Warner Bros., This Old House, and CNNMoney, I had the opportunity to start the digital ad sales and marketing team for Expansion in Mexico City, just after Time Warner had purchased the company. After that, I started the Spanish-language ad network for ContextWeb in New York. So, it was during my last two positions that I worked in Latino marketing.

GR: Tell me about Spanish lessons. Any tips for non-Latinos?

JK: Learning to speak another language means learning how to think and look at the world in a different way. I've always loved learning to speak Spanish, traveling to Latin American and Spain, and learning about their respective cultures. Not only is that because of my parents, as mentioned above, but also because I loved how different Latin America is from the Midwest, where I grew up. I strongly recommend working abroad to learn or perfect a foreign language. I learned so much while working in Mexico. And that's what lead me into Hispanic marketing.

For marketers, I recommend taking a look at the work of the organizational sociologist, Geert Hofstede. He analyzed four dimensions of cultural differences in the workplace. One of those includes individualism versus collectivism. The U.S. is highly individualistic, therefore many of our advertising messages reflect that value. In contrast, Mexico and Latin America fall on the other side of the spectrum. Their collectivistic orientation means that marketers ought to incorporate groups of people into advertising images and promote product benefits for families and groups versus individuals. When crafting a campaign for U.S. Hispanics, a collectivistic message can oftentimes prove more effective.

GR: I love how your book shows that Latinos will cross virtual borders to get what they need. Who owns all the great content online today?

JK: As the saying goes, "content is king." And content from one's country of origin can act as a gigantic magnet, attracting consumers back to Mexico virtually. The major newspapers in Latin America (e.g., El Universal, El Tiempo, Clarin, etc.) see anywhere from 10 to 40 percent of their visitors from the U.S. They own a good chunk of the quality content in Spanish online today. Or, if you love a soccer team from Mexico, the best place to find the latest news about them may be from Medio Tiempo in Mexico City, for example. But, because both the Hispanic and Latin American audiences tend to be younger, many of them blog or use Twitter, so you can find a lot of content on the social networks.

In addition, many Latin Americans look to the U.S. for the latest technology and fashion trends for example. Therefore, they visit U.S. sites to get that information.

GR: I also love what you say about Latinos crossing physical borders to shop in the U.S. What can brands learn from this?

JK: Brands can expand their businesses virtually online and serve the Mexicans who spend on average $20 billion to $40 billion annually in the U.S. Mexico represents only one of the many countries whose citizens rationalize trips to the U.S. for shopping.

Compare the price of a laptop in Mexico versus the U.S. and what do you find? The laptop in the U.S. typically costs half as much. Why? Higher taxes and prices in Mexico. It's no accident that Carlos Slim, one of the top 3 richest men in the world, lives in Mexico. He owns about 7 percent of the GDP of Mexico and many of his businesses have become monopolies. As a result, many middle and upper class Mexicans shop in the U.S. not only to save money but also to buy aspirational products that are not available in Mexico.

GR: From where you sit, what companies really understand the new realities of Latino marketing? What can everyone learn from them?

JK: All of the companies that provided case studies for my book!

Seriously though, take a look at what these companies have done: Best Buy, American Family Insurance, H&R Block, Continental Airlines, Kraft, plus the Spanish-language media companies - Telemundo, Univision, ImpreMedia, and Hoy/Tribune.

GR: In the final sections of your book, you look at two models for distribution on the Web: Facebook and Google. What are the relative merits of each, and what will come next?

JK: This issue boils down to the following: do you want one global ".com" site like Facebook where users customize their online experience with their relationships and personal interests? Or does your company want to manage one country-specific website for each country you do business in? There are pluses and minuses for each. My book outlines the technical recommendations. But underneath it all, it boils down to the Web becoming more collectivistic and global and less country-oriented.

GR: What comes next for Joe Kutchera?

JK: I've started working with Insitum, an innovation, design, and market research consultancy with offices in Chicago, Mexico City, Bogota, and Sao Paulo. We help companies develop new products for both the Hispanic and Latin American marketplaces.

In addition, some companies have asked me to give workshops based upon my research in the book. That will continue to grow in the months ahead.

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Giovanni  Rodriguez

Giovanni Rodriguez is an author, consultant, and public speaker on organizational leadership and digital/social communications. The views expressed in this blog are entirely his own.

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