Sunday, May 22, 2011

Customer Loyalty and Groupon: Different Results in Latin America?

Some of you have commented on my lack of recent posts. Yes, it's been busy--one "excuse" is that I'm in school. Below is a paper I wrote for my Topics in International Marketing class, which relates to LatAm marketing and customer loyalty.

One of the fastest-growing online marketing tactics over the last three years is often termed “social couponing” or “group sales” sites. The leader of this trend, not just here in the U.S. but globally, is Groupon.

Like other social couponing sites, Groupon operates by attracting customer subscriptions and site traffic, where consumers have access to deals from local merchants. When a minimum number of consumers subscribes to the offer, the deal becomes active, giving them access to deep discounts on products and services. Groupon takes a 50 percent cut of the advertised price.

Not even three years old and claiming 40 million subscribers, this Chicago-based company declined a $6 billion acquisition offer from Google last December (Quinton, 2011). It has expanded into many markets—Canada, Europe, Australia, Asia and Latin America—by acquiring similar deal providers. Nearly a year ago, the company acquired ClanDescuento, which provided offers in Chile, Peru, Argentina, Colombia and Mexico. Groupon researches the local markets in which it operates to identify successful businesses, after which sales personnel approach those businesses and offer a partnership (neXtupResearch/Global Silicon Valley Partners, 2011). The mom-and-pop businesses thrive across Latin America, and local operations can be key to forging relationships with those businesses (Guimarães & Neves, 2010).

In an August 2010 press release, Groupon President and COO Rob Solomon explained, “We are especially interested in catering to the unique cultures and interests of each market and that’s why they are managed by local teams in different markets.” (WiredLatinos, 2010) Groupon currently operates in several Latin American markets: Mexico, Brazil, Argentina, Chile, Colombia and Peru. Last year several other group sales sites launched in Latin America, including,, and in Mexico, in Panama, Colombia and Argentina, and in Colombia (WiredLatinos, 2010). Sites targeting Latino consumers within the U.S. include Papá and

When the founders of some of the above-named group sales sites operating in Latin America speak about the opportunities they cite that, between Mexico, Argentina, Brazil, Colombia, Chile, Peru, Uruguay, Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic, there are 166 million online users—an average penetration of 37 percent—and advertisers are not missing out on this market but are instead investing heavily. The figure for general online advertising in 2009 was $880 million (WiredLatinos, 2010). No figures were available to show online couponing growth specifically in Latin America.

There are several significant barriers in Latin American markets, such as online access, credit card use and general economics. Groupon is approaching the credit payment obstacle head-on, by partnering with trusted local business to offer payment alternatives. Executives from Groupon and other sites see online couponing as a new culture their consumers are learning. Internet penetration and ecommerce are still in early growth stage throughout most of Latin America, and the online buying culture we have developed in the U.S. is just emerging there (WiredLatinos, 2010). At OferCity, teams intend to educate small business operators in Mexico that social ecommerce is effective and that it represents an investment and a real opportunity, versus an expense.

Despite the cultural and other barriers present, the appeal of discounts on luxury and other products and services appears to have a universal appeal, as shown by the onslaught of Groupon and similar group sales sites and further illustrated with Groupon’s recent $15 billion valuation (Quinton, 2011). The appeal also exists initially for small business owners, who appreciate the zero upfront investment required for their partnership with Groupon.

The not-so-mentioned phenomenon is the actual experience from the small business perspective. In the U.S., small business owners warn each other about the related threats that can cost them their business. Most significant are the cases of businesses that, through Groupon offers that weren’t smartly capped, have overpromised and underdelivered, or the unfortunate trend of investing in one-time customers who are price-sensitive deal hunters and often prove high maintenance. These circumstances have often resulted in net loss, not profit. There is also the concern of a brand losing perceived quality by undercutting its prices.

Savvy small business owners are indeed wary of these threats, as found in a Rice University study in September 2010. Researchers interviewed 150 merchants who had partners with Groupon on deals. Of those, 32 percent said that the outcome was not profitable (some even suffering losses) and 40 percent said that they would not run another promotion with Groupon (neXtupResearch/Global Silicon Valley Partners, 2011).

I sought to learn whether Latin American consumers would behave differently than subscribers here, or if they would also shop the best deals no matter the advertiser. U.S. Latino consumers are known to index as more brand-loyal than consumers from market at large; therefore the Groupon experience in Argentina and elsewhere in Latin America might have more positive results for both consumer and merchant.

A 2003 Cultural Access Group study showed that the most unacculturated U.S. Latinos—typically those who have been in the country the least amount of time—behave with the greatest brand loyalty. This same group also demonstrated greater brand affinity in product categories that have prestige or high price points, or those they see as more serious or important; think automotive, electronics or OTC medications versus laundry detergent or sour cream (Ashton & Valdovinos, 2005, pp. 21-22). A Global Insight study also found Hispanic consumers to be very loyal buyers. In that study and from 1998 to 2000, Latinos ranked number one in brand loyalty among ethnic and cultural groups. In the automotive category for example, U.S. Latinos proved to be twice as likely to buy the same brand of vehicle for their next purchase as the average consumer, and they displayed the second-highest percentage of dealer loyalty (Cartagena, 2005). From these studies and for the purpose of this research we could surmise that Latin American consumers are a generally brand-loyal group in their homelands.

Though they index higher on brand loyalty than the average consumer, Latinos are also known value shoppers who desire to find quality while remaining a price-conscious consumer group. Both in the U.S. and throughout Latin America, the matriarch is the traditional decision maker for everyday purchases. In an online survey of Spanish-speaking female consumers in the U.S., conducted by Todobebé in April 2010, coupons and other offers from retailers were by far the most important motivators; online advertising and information were also deemed valuable (Tornoe, 2010). However, couponing to U.S. Latinos has not traditionally brought impressive results; marketers maintain that printing coupons in-language isn’t the whole story. Those advertisers many times promote brands/products that are irrelevant, do not offer price reductions that impress Hispanic consumers, require multiple-item purchases for discount or limit to a quick-turn expiration (Grant, 2006). By localizing operations in the markets Groupon serves, it can bypass some of the mistakes made in the U.S. by less-savvy marketers. Results from a study conducted by direct media company ADVO (since acquired by Vallasis) show that 74 percent of Spanish-dominant Hispanics say they use coupons and would use them more frequently if they received more (Lipton, 2007).

Latinos in their homelands, much like those who have recently arrived to the U.S., are relatively new to direct marketing practices and therefore more receptive to all forms of direct marketing, including direct mail and, in the case of online consumers, email marketing. In the ADVO study of U.S. Latinos, 40 percent reported receiving just 10 pieces of direct mail a year, and 39 percent said they want to receive more (Lipton, 2007). It’s not just talk; this group brings higher response rates than the general market, no matter the medium (Cartagena, 2005). This would bring me to conclude that offers such as those of Groupon would be of interest to consumers in Latin America who otherwise enjoy deals though may not be accustomed to receiving coupons.

Unfortunately, my plan to discover the outcome as it relates to customer loyalty was thwarted by a lack of available research and other documentation specific to current consumer behaviors in Latin America. I will instead offer a hypothesis based on the information I have culled from the research I was able to access.

I learned that some would believe that the type of consumer that subscribes to Groupon is simply not a brand shopper. For example, blogger Barry Hurd considers the Groupon business model parallel to that of Walmart—neither acts in favor of the brands they market, but instead they both drive local shoppers to find the best deals. People shop at Walmart not for the brands, but for the value (Hurd, 2011). These are Groupon shoppers. So whether in the U.S. or in Latin America or elsewhere, merchants not competing on an “Everyday Low Price” model need to differentiate themselves otherwise—and command a price that reflects their unique value proposition. If we agree with Hurd’s concept, brands that align themselves with Groupon are eventually going to be seen as the types of brands you would find on Walmart’s shelves. Because of the inherently viral sharing of coupons, Groupon may go further than simply demoting a brand’s uniqueness, even putting that brand out of business. Hurd wrote, “The ratio of consumer savings versus business profit can kill small business.” Simply put, small businesses by their nature aren’t equipped to deal with the scale viral coupons can achieve and the spikes in traffic they bring.

To be clear, this doesn’t signify that consumers won’t keep going after Groupon-type deals worldwide. There will always be bargain shoppers, eager to boast their big savings and indulge in services which they may not otherwise. In Latin America, which is about 18 months behind the U.S. in social couponing, the Groupon customer base will likely experience a slower pattern of adoption based on online usage, economics and other barriers, yet I project the region will see explosive growth similar to what we have witnessed stateside. Why? Consumers see it as a win-win.

However, this research is not focused on the customer perspective but whether that Latin American Groupon customer responds with loyalty. Groupon as it operates today doesn’t encourage the repeat business mom-and-pop shops require for sustainable success. Groupon customers base their decisions of where to shop and what to buy on the offer of the day, but authentic loyalty cannot be bought. That loyalty is earned through memorable customer experiences, at retail and with the product, and high perceived value.

For this topic to be aptly studied, primary research needs to be conducted and made accessible. For the purpose of this paper, I would like to advance my hypothesis that shoppers in Latin America, as here in the U.S., can be divided into two classes—the brand-loyal and the deal-hunter. Consumers who are brand-loyal and contribute to that sustainability small business requires are not likely to convert into Groupon customers, nor are deal-hunters likely to settle on a brand at full price while alternatives exist.


Ashton, J. R., & Valdovinos, M. (2005). "A Snapshot of the U.S. Hispanic Market". In E. d. Valle, Hispanic Marketing & Public Relations: Understanding and Targeting America's Largest Minority. Boca Raton: Poyeen Publishing.

B.J. Thurlby, P. W. (2010, August 10). Trade Mission Notes: Promote Washington Cherries Abroad. Retrieved April 3, 2011, from Governor Chris Gregoire:

Cartagena, C. (2005). Latino Boom! Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business in the U.S. Hispanic Market. New York: Ballantine Books.

Grant, J. (2006, July). "Don’t Make These Mistakes When Targeting U.S. Hispanics". Retrieved April 30, 2011, from

Guimarães, P., & Neves, B. (2010, October). "Locking up loyalty: Winning over Latin America’s mom-and-pops". Retrieved May 1, 2011, from Consumer & Shopper Insights:

Hurd, B. (2011, February 21). Groupon Becoming a Digital Walmart. Retrieved March 20, 2011, from Thoughts on the Digital Divide:

Kumar, D. S., Guruvayurappan, N., & Banerjee, M. (2010, January 20). Ethnic Consumers Consulting. Indian Institute of Management/Richard Ivey School of Business, The University of Western Ontario .

Lascu, D.-N. (2008). International Marketing. Mason, OH: Atomic Dog, a part of Cengage Learning.

Lipton, S. (2007, March 1). "Coupon Redención". Retrieved April 30, 2011, from

neXtupResearch/Global Silicon Valley Partners. (2011, February 1). Retrieved March 20, 2011, from

Quinton, B. (2011, january 20). "Up and Down with the Social Coupon Folk". Retrieved March 20, 2011, from The Big Fat Marketing Blog:

Tornoe, J. G. (2010, July 15). "Using Online Ads to Get Hispanic Shoppers In-Store". Retrieved May 1, 2011, from Hispanic Trending: Latino Marketing and Advertising Consulting and Trends:

Wilhelm, S. (2011, March 7). Mexican truck pact could boost fruit imports from Washington. Puget Sound Business Journal .

WiredLatinos. (2010, August 25 2010). "Groupon-like sites flood Mexico and Latin America". Retrieved March 24, 2011, from

Monday, December 6, 2010

Local Shop Makes Good

The Puget Sound Business Journal this week features the annual University of Washington Minority Business Awards recipients, and the local branch of PromoShop took the top honor, the William D. Bradford Minority Business of the Year Award. PromoShop is a promotional advertising firm (think branded pens, T-shirts).

Their story is pretty cool. For about two decades, The Compleat Company was doing just fine with fantastic clients whose names we all know. But they wanted to grow--and they wanted to somehow accomplish that during a bad economy.

Crazy! But they did it. They pursued nationally known Promoshop and President & CEO Guillermo Kahan. Turns out they had a shared culture, philosophy--but now as a "PromoShop," the Seattle team would have a greater national reach. With the merger, and the introduction of their hugely popular EcoPromos line (which is exactly what it sounds like), the Seattle shop saw $25 million in operating revenue in 2009.

Remember 2009, when we coined the defeated phrase, "flat is the new black"? That's exactly when these Seattle promotional guys gave their success its biggest boost.

Last month I visited the Promoshop site in Georgetown and met with co-VP Glenn Leimbacher. I got to see the fruits of their labors--not just pens and Ts but brands fashioned in fantastic shapes, even from unique molds, with spot-on logos plus any range of colors. On Glenn's desk were these amazing (and reasonably priced) custom-frosted cookies with photo-sharp logos. Fun! This is not your father's "specialty advertising" business, I thought.

What struck me most, however, was the operations they're running at PromoShop. I was invited to the "Grand Tour" and they have an amazing world going on in there, behind the scenes! Not just great warehousing space like you would expect, but several different stations where they have their own embroidery, silkscreening and other equipment set up and running, onsite. Impressive. Of course they can source products and materials worldwide as needed, but I saw this as beneficial for quality control and turnaround.

Even more impressive is that their employees appeared to enjoy their jobs and each other. They all smiled at Glenn--not the "you're my boss so I guess I better smile" look, but genuine smiles and light banter throughout the tour.

This is definitely the kind of business I want to support, whether through client orders or simply writing this blog post (for which, I shouldn't need to add, I am not being compensated).

If you ever need to step it up with fun stuff that makes a statement--whether for a trade show, teambuilding event, annual meeting, or even a family reunion--consider visiting their site and you will see it all for yourself.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Marketing 101: The Difference Between PR and Advertising

Sometimes people forget that marketing to Latinos can have all the same components (and successes and frustrations!) as marketing to a more general population. No matter your target, the marketing mix can and should include various tactics, including public relations and advertising. However, there are many significant differences between these tactics. For the non-marketer, I would like to review at a very high level public relations and advertising, and their advantages and disadvantages.  

Advertising and public relations. They both belong in a cohesive marketing plan. They both require significant strategy and coordination. They both require consumer insights and market expertise. They will produce different results that can help give your brand exposure and credibility.

One big myth about the difference between public relations and advertising is that PR is "free." Marketers are spending time working on a compelling angle, talking to media contacts, pitching stories, following up and scheduling interviews, etc. All this takes time--and time equals money. But the media is free, so many companies view it as if it were free advertising. But it's not. It's not free, and it's certainly not advertising.

That bring us to the next significant difference between PR and advertising: CONTROL. In advertising, you pay media for a particular space/time/position and the content you supply is what your audience sees. No surprises, assuming all goes according to plan.

In public relations, marketers aren't buying media, so the control isn't there. The brand's end result could be no exposure, limited exposure, New York Times front-cover exposure, or even negative exposure. Marketers, and the companies and organizations we represent, are at the mercy of the media on this one. We build connections and work on media relations so that when the time comes, we understand what our contacts need and they in turn are willing to showcase our client. The payoff, of course, is that editorial exposure is seen as more reliable, truthful, objective--more newsy--than advertising.

This brings me to my latest foray into PR. Earlier this week I was interviewed by the Puget Sound Business Journal for a story on Mariners' Pitcher Felix Hernandez and his recently announced American League Cy Young Award. How might this award impact Felix' marketability? I was asked. Here are some things I shared with the reporter:
  • Felix Hernandez can now be considered a local sports hero. As Fredy Montero is currently serving as Super Supplements' Latino spokesman in local Hispanic media, perhaps there is a simliar path Felix could take now that he's garnered more attention and value. (I did not specifically recommend Felix represent fast food or vitamins.)
  • Remember Edgar Martinez in those The Home Depot TV spots of years past? Edgar didn't have a big command of the English language but won over audiences, Latino and non-Latino. Felix also represents that-guy-next-door that audiences could trust as a spokesperson. Because he has such strong ties with Venezuela, he would be especially effective in Latino-specific marketing.
  • We didn't discuss how much Felix could earn from commercial ventures, although the range quoted and attributed to me don't seem out of bounds.
At this time I'd like to add that Felix Hernandez could be a great cross-over property for marketing to both the local Latino population as well as the general market here in the Puget Sound region.

Smart companies have long strategized their marketing to include more multicultural cues and references. This way, a more cost-effective campaign may be implemented that can still meet both audience's needs. For example, if your company is targeting Spanish-dominant Latinos as well as the general public, a TV spot can be developed to leverage similar imagery for both but with English and Spanish voiceovers or superimposed text to best communicate the salient points. This only really works if you have everyone in the room at the outset of the project and in agreement on the ad's objectives.

Sometimes companies are simply too big to get everyone together that way, and that's OK. Many times it's these same companies who have the resources to produce original Hispanic creative directed at their Latino target, which in a nutshell is the ideal way to handle Hispanic marketing.

The sad truth is that, oftentimes, Hispanic marketing efforts are left for last, really a whoops-we-forgot-about-a-big-percentage-of-our-target effort instead of embarking on a well-planned and measurable program.

The work we do at Conexión Marketing is either very local or national. National accounts have always been our mainstay, but we're here to say that with more than 400,000 Latinos permanently residing in King, Snohomish and Pierce Counties, it's time to take for local companies that next step! Whether through advertising, public relations, social media, direct marketing, another tactic or a full mix, companies need to take note now that this market is being sorely missed.

The good news? There's still time to be the top-of-mind brand in your category among the fastest-growing cultural demographic!

In just a few weeks, a topline of the Census data will be announced. Things might change when people realize what it means that the U.S. Latino population is the fastest-growing--even right here in Seattle, Washington.

Read the full Puget Sound Business Journal article here (full access may require subscription).

FOLLOW-UP: To the credit of the Puget Sound Business Journal, the online version of the article was revised to properly attribute comments. Kudos to Aislyn Greene and the PSBJ for the considerate follow-up!

Friday, October 15, 2010

Washington State Media Values 600,000+ Population

Wow. It’s very telling that Washington state television has reached the level of sophistication of California media when it comes to sharing civic issues specifically with its Spanish-dominant Latino population!

I recently read that a California gubernatorial debate was broadcast in both English and Spanish. Not surprising.

Well, Washington is right up there with California, reminding all that 1) government issues are relevant to Washington state Latinos and that 2) Latinos are relevant to our state’s government!
This is all thanks to the presence of Vme in much of Washington and its partnerships with KCTS 9, which hosts the local affiliate in partnership with Washington State University. Vme is the national Spanish-language network that produces public programming that is educational as well as fit for the whole family. We are lucky here to have access to that national resource which also features important local programming.

KCTS 9 aired their Ask the Governor program last Monday with Governor Christine Gregoire—live, and complete with calls and emails from concerned citizens. This was another significant opportunity for Washington voters and residents to learn about the pressing issues we face—and just in time for our upcoming elections.

But there’s a twist.

The local Vme affiliate again collaborated on this important project. Not only is the entire program dubbed in Spanish for airing on local V-Me, but Tony Gomez and team worked to create additional integration between the two airings with questions in Spanish from Latinos.

So, while most of the questions for Governor Gregoire were in English, there were a couple in Spanish. The key is this: These particular questions weren’t included just for the Spanish-language program, but aired on the original English-language program with English dubbing or subtitles. On the Spanish program, Vme will be stripping that layer and Latino viewers will hear from people in their own community. Not only does this enrich the program by collecting more diverse viewpoints, but it shows that 1) Washington state does indeed have a great Latino constituency, and 2) that demographic is actively invited to join the process of getting informed about important issues that will affect them, too.

I witnessed a piece of this process, when professional interpreters were brought in to produce the voiceovers for Enrique Cerna (the show’s host), Governor Gregoire, and questions from the public. It was a great opportunity to see the kind of devotion KCTS 9 and Vme have to make important, local content accessible to the Latinos of our state.
Tony Gomez, who practically runs Vme single-handedly, hails from California and has for years been pushing for better communication and involvement with Washington State Latinos—something that is becoming more and more critical as our state’s Hispanic population has topped 600,000.

“We want to ensure access to information that affects the lives of our viewers,” explains Community Outreach Coordinator Tony Gomez. “We also hope to create more engagement between language communities. Dropping the Spanish questions into the English broadcast allows everyone to be part of the same conversation. In this way, the program is more than a one-way dub of English content, passively received by Spanish speakers. It gets us closer to a two-way conversation and reminds everyone of our diversity.”

Pregúntele a la Gobernadora will be aired in Spanish on Vme at 7pm this evening. Vme can be viewed over the air (with a digital tuner) on 9.2 in the Seattle area/Western Washington and on 47.2 in Yakima and Central Washington. (Cable channels are Comcast 119 in Western Washington, and Charter 297 in Yakima/Central WA.) For more information about Vme in Washington, visit their site or KCTS 9 Vme on Facebook.

The Spanish-language program is also available now via the KCTS 9 site.

Local affiliates of both Vme and KUNS (Univisión) will air Spanish versions
of the U.S. Senate Debates. The Vme broadcast will air next Friday, 10/22 at 7 pm.
It’s rumored that KUNS will try a simultaneous broadcast of this Sunday’s debate.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Hispanic Heritage May Be This Month, But Hispanic Culture is 24/7

Hispanic Heritage Month, September 15 - October 15. It's invented here in the U.S., much like the term "Hispanic" itself. It is based on Fiestas Patrias, or the many countries' independence days celebrated by Latin Americans everywhere. There is no "Hispanic Heritage Month" in Latin America or Spain.

So while it may be a little forced, it's a way we can devote a month to the incredible history, culture and people of these regions. It's a clear target for corporations to get "involved." But of course, that wheel keeps turning whether we're celebrating it or not.

Earlier this month, I retweeted a message about Nordstrom and its involvement in Hispanic Heritage Month this year with a special Roberto Rodriguez-designed top, the proceeds of which will benefit the Hermanitas program (part of MANA, the largest pan-Latina organization in the U.S.). Nordstrom quickly followed me on Twitter after that retweet. While this major retailer is not a client, there's something they may not realize I know about them.

Nordstrom has backed the passions, aspirations and achievements of Latinos for years, and in many significant ways.

While Nordstrom has done some national print advertising, its connection is deeper than simply attracting the Latino consumer to shop at their stores. And while it does it pretty quietly 11 months out of the year, it makes a big difference. Here are some ways Nordstrom has done it right--ways that every corporation should be noting:

When I last spoke with a Corporate Communications contact there, Nordstrom was making annual donations of $1,000 to $65,000 each to more than 20 Latino organizations nationally--eight of which were focused on education.


Their Supplier Diversity Program, created in 1989, ensures access to the economic opportunities within Nordstrom for minority- and women-owned businesses. I have figures back from 2005, when Nordstrom expenditures with minority and women-owned businesses reached $635 million, bringing total expenditures to $6.4 billion since the program was launched.

Also, prior to building or relocating a new store, Nordstrom sponsors and promotes a Project Preview, which is designed to introduce Nordstrom to minority- and women-owned subcontractors and suppliers in local communities. This presents a great opportunity for local companies to learn about Nordstrom business practices, bidding procedures and to become familiar with the requirements of the project.

Each year, Nordstrom hosts the Latina Empowerment Summit at its downtown Seattle store. This is a day wherein local Latinas are invited to hear from nationally known speakers as well as a panel of regional role models. This year's Summit--the 10th annual event--is this coming Saturday. Attendees will hear from keynote speaker Consuelo Kickbusch, a retired Lieutenant Colonel in the U.S. Army, founder and president of Educational Achievement Services, Inc., and an accomplished author. It's an event that inspires and connects attendees to the Latinidad they share. (I've attended this event, too, and its an amazing warmth that's created in that room!) This year's invitations feature the work of local artist Blanca Santander.

So as you may have noticed, it's about more than just Hispanic Heritage Month, and it's about more than advertising. It's about creating a real connection--a connection that truly matters--to communities and to consumers.

Of course, as a native Seattleite I'm partial to Nordstrom, which got its start as a Seattle shoe store in 1901. But I think this is one company that can proudly serve as a model of diversity. Oh, and here's more information on its Hispanic Heritage Month promotion this year.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

What's Appropriate? Understanding Cultural Cues

It's amazing what people *think* is appropriate.

We all have our ideas about what is, and isn't appropriate, and they're usually based on context. When a guy would ask my then college-aged sister to dance, her response would be "that's not appropriate." That usually had them backing away, confused. Why is that not appropriate? (And how do you respond to that, anyway?) As it turns out, she just liked dancing by herself.

Knowing that our individual sense of what's appropriate, relevant--and that behavior or those words which send the same message we're intending to send--can vary within a culture, just imagine the mistakes that are made when working cross-culturally.

I'll never forget about a beautiful gift of flowers my Japanese friend received. Her all-American boyfriend surprised her with an impressive bouquet of fresh mums. She was less than pleased, and that was confusing to me because it was a lovely, considerate gesture. (If only all guys were so inclined, I thought!)

Turns out, chrysanthemums are funeral flowers in her native Japan--an important piece of knowledge for anyone courting someone from Japan, I'd say!

And speaking of Asian cultures, I just read a novel, Hotel on the Corner of Bitter and Sweet (a surprising view into the wartime treatment of Seattle's Japantown residents, a subject that just wasn't taught when I was a kid growing up here). Samantha, a Caucasian engaged to Marty, a Chinese American, is trying to win over his father. She goes to Uwajimaya to buy ingredients for traditional Chinese dishes like choy sum and black-bean crab, to which the father smiles approvingly. Then she announces the green tea ice cream she purchased for dessert. Pregnant pause.

Green tea ice cream is not Chinese, but Japanese, but based on her earlier victories the father tries to let it go.

If you are marketing to a specific group and truly understand what makes that demographic tick, you can capture their hearts--much like Samantha captured her future father-in-law's heart by preparing traditional Chinese dishes that he remembers growing up with. Then, even if there's a slip, consumers may maintain loyalty based on your history of "victories."

Of course the contrary is true as well: Companies can easily push away their consumers by not doing their homework and learning about what truly captures the hearts and minds of their target demographic.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Levi’s: The Sisterhood of the Traveling Pants for TV…Kind Of

This blog post was written by Paul Sangalang who is an intern at Conexión Marketing. He has received a B.A. in Business Administration from Washington State University in International Business and in December he will receive a second degree in the Spanish language.

Levi jeans, in conjunction with the Discovery Channel, will follow the journey of 5 young U.S. Hispanics on their journey from Alaska to Argentina by way of the Pan-American Highway. The 10-week show will be broadcast in Spanish and is accompanied by a bilingual website. The three men and two women who were chosen to partake in this “trip of a lifetime” will have 10 stops along the way where they will work on projects related to music, style or design; all while wearing the latest from Levi’s Work Wear collection.

This TV series will represent Levi’s principal effort to-date at attracting the Hispanic market to the brand. If you read about Hispanic marketing here or elsewhere, you know that research has found the Hispanic segment to be generally young and a prominent user of social media. Levi’s is harnessing this vital piece of information by kick-starting their Levi’s-branded website with frequent updates from the 5 stars. These status updates can then be shared on other social media networks such as Twitter and Facebook to increase awareness and foster a base of followers for the show. This is all in conjunction with their “Go Forth” campaign, chosen specifically as the “pioneering” aspect was found to connect with the Hispanic market.

While the show will air in Spanish, Levi’s target market is the young bilingual Latino. This is one of the main reasons why the website following the show will be in both English and Spanish. Marketers have consistently found the task of successfully reaching this segment to be one of the most challenging and Levi’s hopes to have found an innovative way to reach out to them.

Levi Strauss & Co. is one of the United States’ great business pioneers, being founded in San Francisco, California in the 19th century. While the goal of the show is to target the Hispanic market, I feel that the general U.S. public can relate to the story. The United States was founded by explorers and pioneers willing to travel through uncharted land. This modern-day version, albeit with charted maps, illustrates a similar journey of new experiences and learning about one’s self.

I think it’s important that we, from time-to-time, go out and explore new frontiers and have new experiences…but if you can’t do that, at least you can zip up a new pair of Levi’s and follow these 5 Latinos on their personal journey through North and South America.