Monday, April 7, 2008

The Absolut Vodka Mexico Ad Fiasco

I thought I'd give pause and write about a rather timely issue - the Absolut Vodka fiasco.

This ad has created a bit of a controversy here in the States. The ad taps into nationalist sentiment in Mexico and the idea that the southwestern US was stolen from Mexico. Unfortunately, racists like Lou Dobbs have taken issue with the ad and used it to their advantage to fan the flames of the immigration issue here in America.

This LA Times article explains the ad was created by the the Teran\TBWA agency. The article goes on the quote Manny Gonzalez, vice president and managing director of Hill Holliday Hispanic/abece, a Miami-based ad agency specializing in the Latino market, as saying "I think the Absolut ad campaign is terrific. For Mexican eyes only, that is".

Unfortunately, I think Mr. Gonzalez is a tad bit wrong. First, a potentially controversial ad is never going to be seen by only one set of eyes. Secondly, as brilliant as the ad may be (colorful, engaging, invokes nationalism and better times, etc.), it's not a terrific ad campaign because of the outcome - the negative publicity and controversy in the US market.

Ultimately, I think Absolut might wish they didn't go this direction. Hindsight is always 20/20 but someone at Teran\TBWA or Absolut should have seen this whole fiasco coming.

Hispanics and Wal-Mart

As I was reading Terry Soto's book today, I took notice of a 2005 OmniTel retail study where Hispanics listed Wal-Mart as their favorite store by an overwhelming large margin - 36% favored Wal-Mart, 5% favored local stores, 4% favored Target, 4% favored Sears and 4% favored JCPenny's.

Beyond the numbers above, two other tables provided a pretty good look at Wal-Mart's relationship with the Hispanic market.

First, what stores do Hispanic shop often? Again, Wal-Mart, the national discount chain, was at the top of the list.

Secondly, it was also interesting to look at a breakdown of factors that were considered important when shopping.

Obviously, there's a whole discussion that can take place about the breakdown of this data from the perspective of acculturation.

However, what immediately came to my mind was, "How is Wal-Mart having so much success with the Hispanic market?" In answering this question, I came across this document from Wal-Mart - Wal-Mart’s Diversity Commitment Translates into Support for Hispanic Communities.

Of interest, Wal-Mart apparently does make a real effort to reach the Hispanic market. Granted, Wal-Mart was late to the game compared to the like of Sears and Target. Sears began aggressively targeting the Hispanic market back in 1993 and Target began back in 1999. But, Wal-Mart has instituted several ideas aimed at reaching Hispanics.

* When a Hispanic consumer goes to Wal-Mart, that consumer is amongst family and friends thanks to Wal-Mart's hiring efforts. Wal-Mart has more than 165,000 Hispanic associates. More than 23 percent of Wal-Mart’s managers and officials are minorities and even two members of Wal-Mart's Board of Directors are Hispanic.

* Similar to Sear's Nuestra Gente and Target's own Hispanic magazine, Wal-Mart launched its own quarterly Hispanic magainze, Viviendo, and distributes it at over 1,300 stores. Viviendo features profiles of Latino leaders and celebrities and highlights Wal-Mart's line of products and services aimed at the Hispanic market.

* Wal-Mart employes a “Store of the Community” concept, which offers Hispanic consumers locally relevant store designs, merchandise and services. For instance, Wal-Mart features Pollo Campero restaurants at several stores. Additionally, with "one low price to send money to Latin America", Wal-Mart targets Hispanic with financial services like its MoneyGram wire transfer.

* Wal-Mart is active in the Hispanic community with programs that range from its supplier diversity program to donating to World Vision to aid in economic recovery after the flooding of the Tabasco-Chiapas region of Mexico in November 2007.

* Furthermore, with a large percentage of the US Hispanic market immigrating from Mexico, Wal-Mart's 697 Wal-Mart de Mexico stores and restaurants in Mexico expose immigrants to its brand before they arrive in America.