Some companies shouldn’t engage with Hispanic Heritage Month. Here’s why.

Some organizations have work to do first.

Hispanic Heritage Month (Sept. 15-Oct. 15) brings a special spotlight to the vibrant, diverse contributions of this growing demographic to the United States.

But if it’s the only time your brand is paying attention to the Hispanic market, you’re “making a very big mistake,” warns Natalie Boden, CEO and founder of Miami-based Boden Agency, with repercussions both for your bottom line and your reputation.

“If you are a company and you’re looking at celebrating a journey just this month, you’re asking yourself the wrong strategic question. And it’s better that you just don’t do anything (for Hispanic Heritage Month),” Boden said bluntly. In fact, she noted that often it’s the brands that are most involved with the Hispanic community all year round that tend to be quieter during their heritage month, instead choosing to quietly watch what others are doing during this hyper-saturated month and draw inspiration for their year-round efforts.

Boden points to a successful campaign launch focused on Hispanic Heritage that was timed to March — Women’s History Month — to break through the noise in a new way.

Likewise, this is not the time to get started with Hispanic marketing if you’ve never made a concerted effort to court this segment before. There’s a lot of work to do before you get to that point. Boden likened it to baking a cake: if you try to rush it, you’re going to wind up with a gooey mess. But if you take the proper time to research, learn and let your cake bake, you get something delicious.

“If you don’t have enough time to ask the right questions and get the right partners to help you answer them, you can get burned. Why run that risk?” Boden said.

If you’re reading this on its publication date and have no plans for Hispanic Heritage Month, start your research, your thinking, your learning — but don’t plan to launch from mid-September to mid-October. Instead, start planning to incorporate those ideas year-round.

A cultural juggernaut

We won’t belabor the statistics here about how many millions of Americans identify as Hispanic, or how quickly this group is growing. At this point, you’re leaving money on the table if you’re ignoring this market — and losing out on a growing cultural cache, too.

Boden, who is originally from Honduras, points to the dominance of Bad Bunny, a Puerto Rican singer so influential, Rolling Stone asked him to help pen their Future of Music feature, and Argentine soccer megastar Lionel Messi, who is currently transforming the American sporting landscape.

The influence of these stars — and many, many more who are making an impact in the United States in arenas including food, acting, politics, literature and beyond —means that smartly appealing to the Hispanic audience via these influencers is effective in reaching white, Black, Asian and other audiences as well.

“If you invest in them and find them early enough, you can be on the cusp of these breakthrough voices for your brand,” Boden said. “Don’t wait for them. Don’t wait for other brands to grab on to them.”

Consistent investment

But when seeking to grow in the Hispanic community, you’ve got to get much more granular than “the Hispanic community,” Boden advised.

“No brand will go on to say, ‘we are now going to target women,’” Boden said. “You ask the question, what challenges are they going through? What niche? Are we looking at? What kind of product? Does our service or product benefit women, et cetera. You have to go niche and I’ll say the same thing for Hispanics.”

Boden worked with Pepsico on its Juntos Crecemos (Together, We Grow) campaign. This $50 million community investment did not target “Hispanics.” It spoke to Hispanic small business owners in three categories: restaurants, bodegas and carnicerías, working to understand the day-to-day struggles these entrepreneurs face as they build their businesses and communities. They didn’t try to reach every Hispanic person with the program — just like no smart marketer would ever seek to target all women.

“You always have to look at the challenge that the segment is facing as well before you start doing any sort of marketing towards it, because the growth of these segments socially and economically is the growth of the US, the growth of your brand. We can’t look at it as, how are we just going to sell more? We have to say how are we going to invest in them? The sale will follow.”

If you haven’t worked to invest in this community in a real, holistic, respectful way, use Hispanic Heritage Month as a time to research and organize. Because you can’t afford to miss out on this vibrant, growing market.

“At the end of the day, the Hispanic story and the Hispanic audience is an American story is an American audience,” Boden said. “I would say that the most important thing is to make sure you’re asking the right questions and investing the right amount of time. The sales will absolutely come. We’ve seen it over and over again.”

Allison Carter is executive editor of PR Daily. Follow her on Twitter or LinkedIn.

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