Having just come back from my first Hispanicize, I was blown away by some of the facts and figures shared at the Latin American marketing conference. At 56 million, the Hispanic population in the US is not only the biggest minority in US but also the one with the largest purchasing power. It's projected to be the world's ninth largest economy by 2015.
While some brands have targeted Hispanic consumers in the past, it took the results of the 2010 US census and then the 2012 re-election of Barack Obama for many brands to sit up and take notice of the market's influence. While this has prompted some brands to shift from multicultural teams to a total market approach, Hispancize showed that there is still a ready appetite for targeted cultural marketing.
Hispanic consumers boost US car sales
With the US still a major figure in the global automotive industry in both production and consumption, auto makers are among brands specifically targeting the Hispanic market. And with good reason - in the US, this group accounts for 20% of new vehicle sales.
Here, I turn the spotlight on Ford and Toyota - companies which both recognise the importance of connecting with the Hispanic market, although with slightly different approaches.
The Ford Motor Company is one of America's most iconic brands and one which sees the importance of marketing directly to the Hispanic population.
Facebook: Ford en Espanol
Ford en Español is the auto giant's Facebook presence targeting its US Hispanic audience. A hefty 82% of its 88,000 fans are from the USA, with Puerto Rico (8%), Mexico (4.6%), Argentina (0.8%) and Venezuela (0.4%) rounding out the top 5.
The brand posts every few days with a mix of campaigns from Ford brands, Ford community programs and pure engagement content.
The use of Spanish and English is mixed and obviously depends on the campaign. Considering that the preference for Spanish or English can vary in the Hispanic population, this is an intelligent approach.
With the current campaign promoting the 50th anniversary of the Ford Mustang, the imagery and microsites are completely built in English but the accompanying text is usually in both Spanish and English.
Last year's campaign promoting Ford's 100th anniversary saw a Spanish-only version rolled out on the page which included imagery and a Facebook app where fans could upload photos.
Ford also runs specific community campaigns targeting the Hispanic market to encourage voting and other interactions. The Ford Mujer Legendaria campaign is a good example of this.
The non campaign-based content is predominantly in Spanish and draws on topical events - the approaching World Cup and Alfonso Cuarón's Oscar win are prime examples. There's a healthy sprinkling of stock imagery to liven things up.
Ford owners are especially loyal customers and are proud to display their affinity for their individual car and the brand. Fans often post images of their cars to the Ford en Español wall and the auto-maker encourages this sense of community by reposting fan submissions and encouraging discussion and further submissions.
As well as celebrating the brand's heritage, the page also sees a lot of queries from people looking to solve a problem with their car. Interestingly, this often comes from the Spanish-speaking countries outside the US targeted by the page.
Ford has a standard response to these enquiries - contact details for the nearest office - but response times vary hugely from a couple of hours to a couple of days. With top brands averaging a response time of 5.1 hours, it may be worth Ford looking to deliver a more consistent approach.
Ford's Spanish language Twitter account has a following of 5,785 and has a similar focus to Ford's Facebook presence - it's not so much about selling cars as it is about generating goodwill in the Hispanic community. The main difference, however, is that the majority of posts are in Spanish.
Tweets are delivered roughly 3-4 times a day and @FordEspanol does a great job at listening - promptly responding to comments about the brand - and that's no bad goal for a Twitter account.
The social media team also tweet a lot of images, and the account will probably see some benefit from the new Twitter profile layout which gives more emphasis to imagery.
- Ford en Español (@FordEspanol) March 16, 2014
The safety-conscious car company's Hispanic-targeted Facebook presence is on point. It's a slick, tightly controlled operation.
Facebook: Toyota Latino
It sees a significantly bigger fanbase compared with Ford - over 112,000 people like the page. 64.6% of its fans are from US, with Mexico (5.4%), Puerto Rico (4.6%), India (2.1%) and the Dominican Republic (1.6%) rounding out the top 5.
The content is mostly in Spanish, and like the Ford Facebook page, the car-maker relies heavily on campaign and promotional imagery.
However, the approach differs as Toyota appears to use its Facebook page as more of sales channel and an opportunity to promote the brand.
Toyota fans do submit images like their Ford counterparts, but don't receive the same level of feedback. However, this does enable Toyota to ensure its page maintains a consistent level of high quality visual content and if the channel is aimed at boosting sales, then it succeeds at the job.
Twitter - @ToyotaLatino
With 5,728 followers, the @ToyotaLatino Twitter account is a little smaller than Ford's.
What's immediately noticeable, in comparison to the Facebook page, is the amount of candid imagery the company posts. Toyota sponsors a lot of events and regularly posts camera phone snaps from them. The slick marketing imagery is still there, but there are also plenty of shots of the brand's booths - including at Hispanicize 14.
While the posts are mostly in Spanish, the amount of event-related content and retweeting gives the account a bit more English content.
Compared to the Facebook page @ToyotaLatino seems much more willing to interact with people on the platform and it creates a more personal touch and a contrast to the brand imagery.
- Toyota Latino (@ToyotaLatino) April 1, 2014
It's clear that, as well as needing to succeed in targeting their Hispanic audience in two languages, car manufacturers also need to differentiate their goals for their social media platforms. Promoting cool car brands, dedicated fan communities, sales and customer service channels - all have a part to play for these leading automotive brands.
Many telcos and utilities companies separate out their customer service to a dedicated Twitter account with a faster response time. This allows more opportunity for creativity and deeper engagement on the non-service channels - surely a faster and more economical route to success and one which will see car buyers coming back for more.