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    Monday, July 09, 2007

    The Latino branding iron is hot

    Poorly catechized folks going to poorly truthful churches. Catholic folk-style religion can not compete with the lure of customer satisfaction.

    And there's no one that understands customer satisfaction better than American Marketing. Well, at least on the initial temptation side.

    Companies are always excellent on drawing you in with noisy generated hopes of excitement and fulfillment. Yet, struggle as they might, fail to deliver the product or service as promised.

    From exciting Volkswagons that never make it to old-car status because of expensive quality problems (you won't find a 10 year old on the road.. they just disappear to car hell) to exciting Latino Style potatoes saturated with oil and a little spice, which are sure to plump up the husband-hopefuls right out of their exciting bikinis.

    If they knew better, they would turn off the TV and never be exposed to "drivers wanted" coolness. And if they could see a few years down the waistline, they'd avoid the grease chips in favor of a few hot peppers and salsa on their lettuce and tomatoes.

    Same for the lure of charismatics and prosperity and loud praise band feel-good churches. If the customers knew better, they would stick to what works from the hand of Jesus vs. what is initially attractive from the mind of marketing.

    Because when we're talking about modified churchs attractive to the ego, the failure to deliver is long lasting. Eternally long lasting.

    And like Volkswagons, one might unfortunately just disappear.


    The implications of the Latino religious shift are many. Just as the evangelical movements have done very well drawing Latinos, you as a brand manager must also create an experience and a home for them. Allow them to embrace and customize your brand, to be part of it. By doing this you will start building a foundation for a dialogue so that your Hispanic customers will become charismatic brand ambassadors for you. If you recognize what these trends in Latino spiritual life mean now, your marketing results might be of biblical proportions.

    At the very core of why Hispanic Americans are evolving in faith is a single notion: choice. Choice is at the foundation of why Latinos and immigrants of all types come to this country. They want options in employment, which will in turn determine their prosperity. Why would they not want the same variety of choices in the brands they purchase?

    The Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Forum on Religion & Public Life collaborated on a major study entitled Changing Faiths: Latinos and the Transformation of American Religion. The report revealed some familiar truths—Latinos are avery religious demographic group—as well as some dramatic new findings. Foremost among those: Latinos are also a demographic group that's abandoning the Catholic Church in significant numbers. Frequently, they defect in order to join other, often Pentecostal or other revivalist, denominations.

    No doubt, the reasons for this religious and sociological shift present ample food for thought for the Catholic hierarchy. But Latino Americans' abandonment of traditional Catholic services also serves—or, ought to serve—as a serious wake-up call for leading brands and those who market them. After all, if Latinos (whose buying power is expected to reach $1.2 trillion by 2011) are willing to reassess what organized religion they subscribe to, would they be unwilling to apply the same kind of scrutiny to the brands they buy?

    The most common reason given for evangelical conversion is Latinos' expressed desire to be closer to their maker, something they equate with the church experience itself. One-third of the evangelical converts describe the "lack of excitement" as a deciding factor. Translation: They think Catholic masses are boring. Such a consensus should be of interest to retailers who are currently wondering if they should change any aspects of their in-store experience in high-density Hispanic markets.

    Meanwhile, many of the Hispanics who elect to remain with the Catholic Church are redefining their parishes—giving them a Latino makeover, if you will, by amalgamating traditional tenets with belief in the supernatural, such as miraculous healings. This kind of spiritual customization also evinces a surprising willingness on the part of Latinos to alter tradition. Pity the marketer still locked in the mindset that all Hispanics do is follow it.

    Besides the in-store (or, should I say, in-church) experience advantage of the evangelical movement, another strong point of attraction for Latinos is that movement's stance regarding economic and social mobility. Simply put, the Catholic Church has failed, in part, through its traditional stressing of acceptance of one's economic and social status. Evangelical churches—which often preach a "prosperity gospel" of financial progress and well-being for the faithful—are winning out over resignation. The marketers who are still following presumptions that Latinos are gentle supplicants in a hapless herd are risking their brands; messages of empowerment are what they should be working on.


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