Aspiring Celebrities: Latino Bloggers and the Art of Storytelling

Last week, while flying back from NYC, I was reading an interesting article in the Sunday magazine of The New York Times. According to new scientific research, if you are trying to persuade someone, “marshaling data and making rational arguments won’t work. Whether you’re changing your own mind or someone else’s, the key is emotional, persuasive storytelling.”

For those of us working in marketing, that might not be new. But it’s always refreshing to see scientific data emphasizing the importance of storytelling when it comes to persuasion. And this brings me to today’s topic: the importance of bloggers for both storytelling and storybuilding.

Storytelling and Familiarity

Brands usually have different business challenges when it comes to Latinos. A brand (and sometimes the category itself) might be performing differently in terms of awareness or purchase consideration. Familiarity (positive associations, favorability, what makes the brand unique) is a critical territory to win with Hispanics.

Improving familiarity – bridging the emotional gap – makes consumers feel closer to the brand. To build this emotional link, credibility is important, but trust is definitely critical.

In addition to that, historically there has been a huge gap when it comes to Latino content online. Both from a language and from a relevance standpoint, Latinos were demanding more content. This was the perfect storm that accelerated the birth and evolution of many Latino bloggers.

From sharing advice on how to raise bicultural kids, to giving a modern twist to traditional Latino food recipes, tips on job hunting, or simply allowing peer-to-peer interaction, bloggers started playing a very important role. Not simply providing content but becoming a trusted source.

When I was working for the California Milk Processor Board, we built a program with bloggers that was successful in terms of engaging consumers around the new emotional territory for milk: positivity.

Aspiring Celebrities

Are bloggers journalists or simply people making a living out of their passions? Very often I hear references that bloggers will become the new journalists. For me journalism is not only a profession in itself but, most of the time, journalists are part of a larger entity (a newspaper, a news channel, etc.). People expect objectivity from journalists; they expect them to express their opinion based on facts and information. Of course, a personal perspective and storytelling are always welcome.

Bloggers, on the other hand, tend to work for their own media. They are closer to the consumer experience, providing a more human perspective. They need to support their thoughts with facts too, but it’s their “personal” perspective that people are looking for when they interact with them.

My take is that consumers expect from bloggers a more down-to-earth experience similar to theirs but with a halo of public fascination and influence.

That’s why I call bloggers “aspiring celebrities.” They don’t have the clout of Jennifer Lopez, for example, but people relate to them in a emotional manner, they trust them, and look for their perspective (and sometimes advice). At the end of the day, their story impacts consumers.

The Price of Blogging

Is there such a thing as free love? Or a free lunch? There has been a lot of controversy in the Latino marketing space in regards to paid vs. free blogging.

This shouldn’t be either/or, but both. Earned media seems like heaven. We all dream about having consumers talking (hopefully positively) about our brands, and getting loads of free (aka earned) media as a consequence of our brand reputation or consumers’ passions. But, in most of the cases, for consumers our brands or products are not at the top of their list. They are busy living their lives. We need to push to be considered. In order to succeed, brands needs to leverage all sorts of media (paid, earned, and owned).

Sometimes paying bloggers to help a brand tell its story is seen as detrimental to that brand’s credibility. However, as I mentioned above, people don’t see bloggers as journalists but as “aspiring celebrities.” People get the marketing game. They know that Sofía Vergara supports Pepsi not simply because she loves the brand. They know the brand takes care of her financially. The same logic applies to bloggers. It’s important to note that the Association of Hispanic Ad Agencies (AHAA) supports paid blogger outreach as a genuine way of promoting a brand online. Brands like Verizon, General Mills, State Farm, and GM have been using paid Latino blogger outreach.

Here’s my personal take on how and where to use earned vs. paid blogging outreach.


Marketing With People, Not to Consumers

As I discussed in one of my previous columns, we’re not simply marketing to Latinos. We’re marketing with people. Consumers play an important role in the communication process (they are not passive anymore). And Latino bloggers play an important role as well.

  • Bloggers are influencing Latinos: 69 percent of Hispanic women have tried a product/brand because they saw a recommendation on an online community forum.
  • Bloggers are an important part of your digital strategy, not simply PR. Brands need to build a blogger relations program that taps into both paid and earned efforts.
  • A blogger relations program needs to be aligned with the content calendar planning of your overall social media strategy.

I will be discussing more on the blogger practices in future columns. Stay tuned.

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