12:01am

Tue October 11, 2011
2 Languages, Many Voices: Latinos In The U.S.

The Subtleties Of Marketing Beer To Latinos

Originally published on Fri January 6, 2012 7:05 pm

Any industry looking for major growth in the U.S. market can't ignore Latinos, who make up 16 percent of the U.S. population. As the Latino population grows, beer marketers are trying more nuanced ways of influencing this key segment.

"They love beer," says Jim Sabia, chief marketing officer for Crown Imports, which distributes Mexican beers including Corona and Modelo. "Hispanics are 19 percent more likely to purchase beer than the rest of U.S. consumers." On top of that, Hispanics will make up a large portion of the legal drinking-age population in the future.

Mexican brands would seem to have a leg up with the Latino market. But Bud Light is the No. 1 beer of choice. Corona is No. 2. For the most part, the way all of the brands have tried to reach Latinos is through Spanish TV and radio, sponsorships of Major League Soccer events and concerts.

Juan Tornoe — whose favorite Mexican beer is Pacifico — is a marketing consultant based in Austin, Texas. Originally from Guatemala, he has watched the beer industry court Latinos for years, with mixed success. He points to a Corona campaign from 2008 called "Nuestro orgullo. Nuestra cerveza," or "Our pride. Our beer." Tornoe says it backfired.

"It makes sense for Mexicans, which is the largest percentage of Latinos living in the U.S., but if you're Puerto Rican or Salvadoran or Colombian, you're like, 'That's not my beer,' " he says.

Tornoe says it's important for advertisers to be aware of certain general cultural characteristics. "But don't overdo it. You don't have to make the culture the center of the show or be the spotlight of your ad," he says.

To reach bicultural Latinos, Tornoe tells his clients, treat them like you would the general U.S. market but give them subtle touchstones they might appreciate. He says Bud Light got it right with the 2007 Super Bowl commercials featuring comedian Carlos Mencia.

In one ad, Mencia teaches a class of nonnative English speakers from all over the world how to ask for a Bud Light. Tornoe says the commercials work because they're funny and because Latinos relate to Mencia "as a fellow Hispanic and relate to the experience of learning English." Also, they aired during the Super Bowl.

"It basically tells you, 'You understand that I am not glued to Spanish-language TV all the time and I am not glued to soccer but that I actually enjoy watching the Super Bowl,' " Tornoe says.

The Latino population in the U.S. is so diverse, Sabia says, that it's broken into groups, and not necessarily by nationality. "We segment them by their attitudes as well as demographics," Sabia says. The segment names include "life indulgers" for Corona drinkers and "proud traditionalists" for Victoria.

Generational differences have influenced commercials for the Mexican beer Tecate, which is imported by Heineken. Felix Palau, vice president for Tecate's multicultural marketing, says until recently, the company's ads targeted only first-generation Mexicans, whom he calls the "newcomers."

"A consumer that has to work three jobs, who sends most of his earnings home to his family in Mexico — he's had a tough life," Palau says.

But he says many second- and third-generation Latinos would not relate to those ads. So now, instead of showing Latinos working at a restaurant, for example, the ads show them eating there. Palau says these ads show "a much more joyful, celebratory slice of life."

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Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

This is MORNING EDITION from NPR News. I'm Renee Montagne.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

And I'm Steve Inskeep.

Now we continue our series, Two Languages, Many Voices, about Latinos who are 16 percent of the U.S. population and growing. That's a statistic retailers are paying close attention to. NPR's Elizabeth Blair has a case study of how companies sell one product to the Hispanic market - beer.

ELIZABETH BLAIR, BYLINE: First, why beer?

JIM SABIA: So they love beer. I mean, Hispanic consumers love beer.

BLAIR: Jim Sabia is chief marketing officer for Crown Imports which distributes Mexican beers, including Corona.

SABIA: Hispanics are 19 percent more likely to purchase beer than the rest of the U.S. consumers.

BLAIR: And in years to come, Hispanics will make up a large portion of the legal drinking age population. With Latinos, Mexican brands would seem to have a leg up. But Bud Light is number one among Latinos. Corona is number two.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #1: (Foreign language spoken)

BLAIR: For the most part, the way all of the brands have tried to reach Latinos is through Spanish TV and radio.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #2 : (Foreign language spoken)

BLAIR: Sponsorships of Major League Soccer events and concerts.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #3: (Foreign language spoken)

JUAN TORNOE: Among Mexicans, I'm definitely a Pacifico guy. That is very good.

BLAIR: Juan Tornoe is also a marketing consultant based in Austin. He's originally from Guatemala.

TORNOE: It was funny because Corona a couple of years ago came out with a campaign called (foreign language spoken) - our pride.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

TORNOE: It's our beer, our pride. And yeah, it kind of makes sense for the Mexican, who is the largest percentage of Latinos living in the U.S. But if you're a Puerto Rican or Salvadoran or a Columbian, you're like, that's not my beer.

BLAIR: Juan Tornoe says it's important for advertisers to be aware of certain general, cultural characteristics.

TORNOE: But don't overdo it. You don't have to make the culture be at the center of the show or be the spotlight of your ad.

BLAIR: To reach bicultural Latinos, Tornoe believes it's best to treat them like you would the general U.S. market, but give them subtle touchstones they might appreciate. He thinks Bud Light got it right with the 2007 Super Bowl commercials featuring comedian Carlos Mencia. In the ad, Mencia teaches a class of non-native English speakers from all over the world how to ask for a Bud Light.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV COMMERCIAL)

CARLOS MENCIA: OK, class, if you're in the south you say, Hey, feller, give me a Bud Light.

GROUP: Hey, feller, give me a Bud Light.

BLAIR: Tornoe thinks they work because they're funny and because Latinos relate to Mencia as a fellow Hispanic and relate to the experience of learning English.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV COMMERCIAL)

MENCIA: If somebody asks you for a Bud Light, you say?

GROUP: No speak English.

BLAIR: Also, it aired during the Super Bowl.

TORNOE: It basically tells you, oh yeah, you understand that I am not glued to Spanish language TV all the time and I am not glued to soccer, but I actually enjoy watching the Super Bowl.

(SOUNDBITE OF TV COMMERCIAL)

MENCIA: Bud Light.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Bud Light.

MENCIA: Bud Light.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN #4: Bud Light.

BLAIR: The Latino population in the U.S. is so diverse, says Jim Sabia of Crown Imports, they've broken it into groups - and not necessarily by nationality.

SABIA: We segment them by their attitudes as well as, you know, demographics.

BLAIR: These segments have names. Corona drinkers are life indulgers. For Victoria, they're proud traditionalists. The Modelo consumer is a creature of habit.

Commercials for the Mexican beer Tecate, imported by Heineken, tailor their advertising to different generations of Latinos. Felix Palau, vice president for multi-cultural marketing for Tecate, says until recently, their ads only targeted first generation Mexicans, who he calls the newcomers.

FELIX PALAU: A consumer that normally has to work three jobs, that sends most of his earnings home back to his family in Mexico; so a guy that really has a very tough life.

BLAIR: But he says many second and third generation Latinos wouldn't relate to those ads. So now, instead of showing them working at a restaurant, for example, they show them eating there.

Elizabeth Blair, NPR News. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.