Lists and Prospecting: The Overlooked Hispanic Market

The nation’s 35.3 million Hispanics make up 13% of the U.S. population. Yet, “for some strange reason, most catalogers don’t pursue the Hispanic market,” says Rick Blume, vice president of multicultural and database marketing for Farmingdale, NY-based list firm 21st Century Marketing.

Some catalogers may believe that they’d need to translate their catalogs into Spanish. (According to several sources, fewer than 30% of Hispanics speak English as a primary language in the home.) Others believe that Hispanics generally don’t have credit cards. (According to Strategy Research Corp., more than 50% of Hispanics have credit cards.) And some catalogers believe that Hispanics simply aren’t mail-order responsive.

But list professionals counter that the last argument is part of a Catch-22: Few lists of Hispanic catalog buyers are available because few marketers mail to Hispanics. In other words, Hispanics don’t respond to catalogs because they don’t receive catalogs.

But those who deal with the Hispanic market feel there’s no getting around the size and scope of the market. “With the Hispanic market, you have to look at the sheer numbers,” points out Maurice Herrera, vice president of retail sales for New York-based list firm Hugo Dunhill and chairman of Directo, the Hispanic marketing arm of the Direct Marketing Association. “It’s a huge population that’s soon to be the biggest minority in the U.S.”

Open to possibilities

Because of the relative scarcity of catalog lists with a Hispanic select, if you’re considering prospecting to the Hispanic market, you should be open to all manner of lists, Blume says. “Whether its direct mail, solo offers, print generated, it doesn’t matter,” he explains, “because Hispanics don’t receive many Hispanic-oriented offers. So when they receive one, they open it and are responsive.”

Indeed, there are ample choices of lists featuring both Spanish-speaking and English-speaking Hispanics. “If a cataloger wanted a list recommendation from us for a Spanish-language catalog mailing,” Blume says, “we would offer Spanish-language-generated mail order buyer and continuity club lists to test first, as well as specific demographic and lifestyle interest selections from our Hispanos Americanos Database.”

Other list firms have databases of Hispanics as well. DMI Lifefiles, from Greenwich, CT-based Direct Media, includes 10 million Hispanics; the Familias Hispanica Mail Order Buyers file from 21st Century Marketing has 4.3 million names; and Princeton, NJ-based American List Counsel’s Hispanic Mail Order Buyer file consists of roughly 2 million Hispanics, to name just a few.

Working with database provider Equient, list firm D-J Associates put together a proprietary database of 5.4 million Hispanics earlier this year. Although it is not based on transactional data, “we’re on the verge of being able to select names, run models, and do everything we’ve historically been able to do on the population as a whole,” says Mark Eubanks, vice president of marketing support services for Ridgefield, CT-based D-J.

To build its house file, Coral Gables, FL-based Hispanic magazine, an English-language monthly for Hispanic consumers and small-business owners, has rented lists from other magazines and compiled files of business owners from Dun & Bradstreet. The magazine selects Hispanic surnames in regions such as Texas, California, New York, and southern Florida, which have large Hispanic populations, says circulation director Luis Garcia.

A wide-open market

Catalogers that seriously target Hispanics could benefit from the first-into-the-market advantage, seeing as few other are taking pains to do so. Gifts and housewares cataloger Lillian Vernon Corp. had tested lists of English-speaking households with Hispanic surnames several years ago, “but the results fell below break-even,” says spokesperson David Hochberg, though he doesn’t specify why.

But although the Rye, NY-based cataloger stopped its Hispanic prospecting program, “it’s a market certainly of interest to us and something we’ll look into in the future,” Hochberg says. In fact, Lillian Vernon is in discussion with “a few agencies” that specialize in marketing to Hispanics, he says, “but nothing has been decided yet.”

San Francisco-based The Sharper Image has gone further than most other marketers in targeting Hispanics. The cataloger/retailer of high-tech gift and gadgets launched a Spanish-language section on its U.S. Website two years ago and has run Spanish-language radio commercials in Hispanic areas. But the company has no intentions of mailing specifically to Hispanic names.

“We’ll only collect Hispanics along with the rest of our customer database,” says Sharper Image spokesperson Katherine Borgfeldt, “but we won’t rent any lists of Hispanics. It’s not in any of our immediate plans.”
Additional research by Mark Del Franco

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