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September 17, 2018

Marketers say CT businesses ignoring growing Hispanic population

HBJ Photo | Bill Morgan Maria Lino, principal at The Latino Way Marketing and Advertising Agency, spearheaded the Hartford Yard Goats' outreach efforts to the Latino community.
Image | Contributed The Hartford Yard Goats played several games as “Los Chivos de Hartford” this season in a nod to the Latino community.
Wilson Camelo, Founder, Camelo Communications

When Wilson Camelo pitched his marketing agency to a tourist attraction in Waterbury, the marketing manager there wasn't interested.

Camelo highlighted his firm's expertise in marketing to the Latino community, but Hispanics weren't a priority demographic, he was told. The company was looking to attract families within 30 miles of Waterbury.

“I said, 'well, you realize that Hispanics have bigger families than everybody else, right?' ” Camelo said to the marketing manager, who was unaware. “And by 30 miles, you're talking about Waterbury, New Britain, Hartford, Bridgeport; in all of those cities, over 40 percent (of residents) are Hispanic.”

Camelo never did get the tourist attraction's business, but the attitude displayed there was all too familiar, he said. And it remains confusing.

Despite growing in numbers — Hispanics make up just over 15 percent of the state's population, or about 540,000 residents — businesses have been slow to put resources behind marketing to the Latino community, Camelo said.

But as some notable businesses have picked up their outreach efforts, Camelo and other marketing and advertising executives specializing in the Hispanic market are trying to spread the word to companies in Greater Hartford that now is the time to appeal to the growing community.

Failing to do so, Camelo said, is leaving money on the table. And with Latinos on track to become an increasingly larger proportion of the population, companies that don't start soon could be left behind.

The demographic trends were clear in 2016 to Mike Abramson, who is now general manager of the Hartford Yard Goats, downtown Hartford's Double-A professional baseball team.

That's when he enlisted the help of Hartford-based The Latino Way Marketing & Advertising Agency to help with the team's outreach to the Hispanic community.

“I think the (team's) interest is obvious,” Abramson said of the Yard Goats' focus on Latino customers. “It's just the population, and as everybody knows in our country, the Latino population continues to grow in numbers and percentage of overall population in the country.”

Baseball fans watching a Yard Goats home game at Dunkin' Donuts Park may notice the retired jersey of the late Pittsburgh Pirates right fielder Roberto Clemente, a Puerto Rican, next to that of Jackie Robinson. The team also recently held its second annual Roberto Clemente Day at the stadium.

The Yard Goats are also a main sponsor of Hartford's Puerto Rican Day Parade, broadcast all their games on the radio in Spanish, and market the team's Spanish-language alter-ego, Los Chivos de Hartford (Hartford Yard Goats in Spanish).

But marketing to Latinos is about much more than just translating English ads into Spanish, said Maria Lino, principal of The Latino Way, who spearheaded the Yard Goats' outreach campaign.

“Many companies and clients come (to us) in need of understanding the Latino market, but from a cultural perspective,” Lino said. “It's not just translation, it's a real understanding of how the communities are living, working, and seeing.”

That's why at Puerto Rican festivals across the state this summer West Hartford-based Juniper Homecare, a client of Lino's, hosted dance competitions. While people watched and participated in the revelry, they also signed up for email notifications from and information about Juniper, Lino said.

“It was a great way to connect the celebration of dancing that is part of our culture with the goal of my client, which was recruiting new members,” Lino said.

Understanding the culture of prospective customers in the Hispanic community is key, Camelo said. Without proper insight into certain nuances, advertisements can literally get lost in translation.

He remembers a TV ad he saw for a local cable or satellite company that originally aired in English, and was translated into Spanish. The crux of the late-summer spot was now that the kids are going back to school, you can watch your soap operas during the day in peace.

“Very sound, and logical message, but when it was translated to Spanish for the Hispanic market, it didn't work,” Camelo said. “There are no soaps that air on Spanish media during the daytime. Our soaps are during prime time.”

Those knowledge gaps are part of the reason Camelo is hosting a Hispanic Marketing forum at the Hartford Club Sept. 20, to discuss how brands should take into account culture, and how culture impacts purchasing decisions when marketing to Latinos.

Like Lino, Camelo says companies looking to appeal to Hispanics need to show an interest in their culture by doing things like staking out a presence at events, and engaging them on social media — a Pew Research Center study this year found Hispanics are more prolific users of Facebook and YouTube than African-Americans or whites.

“We need to spend a little bit more time letting them know who we are; letting them get to know us, to trust us,” Camelo said.

And there are some glaring gaps just waiting to be exploited. Banking is one area, Camelo said. Lino points to health care and insurance as areas with large growth potential among Hispanics.

Both say it's important not to jump in without looking. But at the same time, some Greater Hartford businesses have been in a state of inertia when it comes to Hispanic outreach, because they fear getting it wrong. But the right moves can pay off.

Taking advice from The Latino Way, Abramson said the Yard Goats' Spanish radio ads focus on specific players, rather than the team in general. Those ads have been getting a decent response, he said.

“As a population, they want to get to know the people they're coming to see. … They want to know about the players,” Abramson said.

Businesses in the region have long put off starting or dedicating more resources to their Latino community outreach, Lino said. But that's starting to change, largely out of necessity.

“(Clients) say ... we need to do something, because the numbers” reflect this is the fastest-growing population in the state, Lino said.

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