Thursday, February 7, 2008

Reference Groups and Nissan / Acento

As I was watching live coverage of Super Tuesday on CNN, one of their talking heads made the comment that Hillary was doing particularly well with Hispanic voters. As quick as this person made the comment, another talking head jumped in and said that her success in places like Florida or New York doesn’t necessarily mean that Hillary will find the same success with Hispanics in places like Arizona or California. Why? Obviously, Hispanic is a broad label and each of these states have distinctly different Hispanic populations.

In today’s reading we take a look at defining and describing a market based upon cultural and social identity.

The “Hispanic” label was created by the US Census Bureau in an attempt to quantify all people in the US that traced their origins back to Spanish speaking countries. Over the years, other labels have emerged like “Latino”. However, “Hispanic” is the most widely accepted label by the Hispanic community.

But, while Hispanic may be the most accepted label, we know there are many different populations within the label. Heck, even the talking head on CNN new that.

Anyhow, the book makes the point that marketers shouldn’t just rely on a Hispanic’s country of origin. Instead, marketers should find a person’s reference group – community in the US, town or area of origin, country of origin, US associates, the people that person looks up to – and work to understand their self identification.

To illustrate the point above, I loved the example of life insurance sales. Life insurance is not typically something a Hispanic person would be exposed to back in their home country. Instead, a Hispanic person’s reference group may be made up of his/her Anglo co-workers that buy life insurance for their families. Therefore, the Hispanic person’s reference group may actually be Anglo as opposed to those of Hispanic origins. In this fashion, an advertisement featuring a Hispanic person buying life insurance for his family may not resonate where an ad featuring an Anglo person my capture the reference group the Hispanic person is familiar with. Additionally, while the Anglo ad may play better, the comfort of actually dealing with a Hispanic insurance agent may work best as Hispanics may want to buy from an individual within their “belongingness” groups.

Lastly, I wanted to briefly review the Nissan and Acento case study. Nissan dealers in California and Arizona enlisted the help of Acento to help them better market to, penetrate and serve the Hispanic market.

As part of the research and discovery process, Acento found that Hispanics want a personal experience when purchasing a vehicle. Hispanics are largely unfamiliar with the purchasing process at dealerships and tend not to even enter dealerships unless they know someone there or go with a friend or family. Once there, Hispanics value a personal connection with the sales person and greatly prefer the interaction to be in Spanish. Hispanics want to feel at home in a dealership and when the time comes to make decisions, Hispanics look to others – family, friends – to help provide input.

As for Hispanics’ perception of the Nissan brand, Acento found that Nissan was less appealing that both Honda and Toyota. In fact, the Nissan brand largely did not come into play with Hispanics. Instead, Hispanics purchased Nissan for cost benefits like cash-backs, rebates and other offers.

What this case study shows and what Acento did was actually listen to the market. Advertisements humanized dealerships and featured a Hispanic, Spanish speaking Nissan mechanic inviting people to come by. Once at the dealership, Hispanics were made to feel at home. Employees were educated about the market and hiring focused on bringing in bilingual staff to serve the needs of the Hispanic market. Furthermore, Nissan placed vehicles and Spanish speakers at community events so that the market could be introduced to and learn about the brand from Hispanic experts.

To Acento’s credit, the campaign was very successful. Year after year there were significant sales increases (87% in year two alone) and by the fourth year Nissan had the highest Hispanic penetration of all brands in Los Angeles.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

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