Straight Talk: Ray Lugo: Hispanic-Marketing Expert, Consultant
As director of new market development at Columbia House for five years, Ray Lugo was central in establishing Club Musica Latina as the single largest Hispanic continuity club in the United States with over a million members. Prior to Columbia House, he worked at LCG/Bienestar, an agency specializing in Hispanic marketing, where he consulted with clients such as Pfizer, Berlitz and Goya.
In 2002, Lugo founded Positiva, a dual-purpose Hispanic marketing consultancy that offers corporate marketing advice and produces educational videos to assist Hispanic immigrants.
"I saw somewhat of a need-gap for consultants with hands-on experience in Hispanic marketing, particularly with large budgets and large mailings," Lugo asserts, commenting on why he started his own firm. "There's also a vast amount of information that desperately needs to be put forth to corporate America."
A presenter at the Direct Marketing Association's first-ever Insert Day last year, Lugo paused recently to chat with me about the ever-changing face of Hispanic marketing.
PB: Based on your experience in developing Club Musica Latina, what were some initial challenges in winning Hispanic-Americans' trust?
RL: At the time I began to work on Club Musica Latina, we had just begun to touch on bilingual mailings. The initial mailings were all in English. Before our launch, there was such a demand for this concept, for someone to deliver Latin music across the United States to Hispanics.
We wanted to convey the feeling that someone at headquarters was creating something especially for the Hispanic consumer, and the idea that the customer experience was designed by Hispanics for Hispanics. We made sure the offers were easy to understand, explicit and very to-the-point. And we made great strides to secure product that spoke to Hispanics. Our biggest goal was to make Club Musica Latina the total Hispanic experience with every cultural nuance.
PB: What are some key copywriting techniques that have proved effective with Hispanic consumers?
RL: The Spanish that you use for your copy should be what I describe as 'universal Spanish.' That's the Spanish that's not easily detected as coming from one area of the Hispanic world. If you are sending a direct mail package to a Cuban-American in Florida, and the package uses subtle words, phrases and descriptive terms that are known to be Mexican, for instance, that consumer may react negatively. The extent to which these nuances play a role in Hispanic marketing are not to be dismissed. You do not want to present yourself as favoring one Hispanic segment [over] another.
PB: From your vantage point, what is one thing marketers are doing wrong when selling to Hispanics?
RL: The one thing I see as tremendously discouraging is marketers simply translating their general market advertisements and efforts into Spanish. When you translate literal English copy into Spanish, it often becomes flat, vacuous and loses its punch.
I think Hispanics will be far more assimilated in the next 20 years, and be bilingual, but the strength of the culture and language is not going to go away, as perhaps it did with previous immigrant groups. I think a lot of marketers say: 'Well, you know, eventually Hispanics will be more English-dominant, and we may not have to work as hard.' That's not necessarily going to be the case.
PB: In direct response, which medium do you find to be the most cost-effective when marketing to Hispanics?
RL: When it comes to cost-effectiveness, direct mail is huge. The average Hispanic does not receive as many direct mail offers as the general market. As I mentioned, a lot of the marketers mailing to the Hispanic community have not necessarily gone the extra mile and crafted Hispanic-centered mail pieces. So that's an opportunity for marketers right now.
PB: What's the last piece of direct mail you responded to?
RL: I recently responded to an AT&T mailing and transferred over [my phone service] because I thought the piece was wonderful. They had a long-distance program to Latin America. The copy was clear, precise, friendly and warm. I guess AT&T knew that I needed to call my relatives in Latin America. The piece really spoke to me.