County researchers working to define typical Latin consumer
By Suzy Valentine
With predictions that Hispanic buying power could reach $1 trillion by 2008, Miami-Dade County professionals are working to define the typical Latin consumer.
Latinos account for $686 billion of US purchases, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth.
In the past 25 years, the number of Hispanics in the US has more than quadrupled from 10 million to 45 million - 1.4 million of whom live in Miami-Dade County, 2 million across South Florida.
Experts say generalizations can't be made.
"It isn't a given that advertisers should use Spanish to target Hispanic consumers," said Elena del Valle, president of the Hispanic Marketing & Communication Association in Miami. "Businesses need to ask who they're targeting and why. It depends on whether the target is first- or second-generation or a new arrival.
"English may be the more appropriate medium in certain circumstances. There isn't a single market."
The association is a partner in the Multicultural Branding conference in New York, scheduled for Tuesday through April 28. It has launched a Hispanic marketing weblog, www.hispanicmpr.com, this month. A book edited by Ms. del Valle and tying together the theories of 19 academics is to be launched in September.
The association has been involved in two conferences in the county this year, and Ms. del Valle said Madison Avenue is looking to Brickell Avenue for lessons about the character of Hispanic consumers.
Meanwhile, Zubi Advertising of Coral Gables announced last week that it would finance a $10,000 scholarship for research at the Center for the Study of Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University in Tallahassee.
"Some people misunderstand the term 'Hispanic.' They think it's a race," said center director Felipe Korzenny, whose book "Hispanic Marketing - A Cultural Perspective" is to be released in July. "Hispanics can be white, black or Asian.
"What does unite the demographic," said Mr. Korzenny, "is 400 years of Spanish heritage and a strong Roman Catholic tradition."
Interest in the Hispanic market, said Ms. del Valle, has derived in part from the latest Census figures. "I think people sat up and took notice of the figures in 2000. There wasn't the interest or investigation into what drove Hispanic taste before that," she said.
"Also, though there's been an economic downturn since 9/11, the Hispanic sector seems to have been resistant to it."
Comparisons have been made with a Central American neighbor.
"The US has the second-largest Hispanic market after Mexico," said Mr. Korzenny, "but its gross domestic product is larger than that country's. The US Hispanic market is approaching the 10th-largest economy in the world, just that sector.
"The Hispanic population in Miami-Dade is influencing non-Hispanic tastes," said Mr. Korzenny, "which creates two-way traffic. As the county's Hispanic population has doubled, resentment from other sectors has dwindled. Everyone has a friend, neighbor or relative who's Hispanic."
An advertising professional explained some of the sector's distinctive character.
"We know that Hispanics consume more media than the general population," said Michelle Zubizarreta, chief administrative officer for Zubi Advertising. "Our families are larger and the birth rate's faster than it is in the non-Hispanic sector."
The US Hispanic market is the largest minority in America, with 13.6% of the US population. The US Department of Labor expects Hispanics to comprise 14.7% of the US workforce by 2012, a jump from the current 12.4%.