Fast Company: Latina Marketing Maven Ignores Stereotypes, Turns Profit

by Racialicious Special Correspondent Latoya Peterson

Fast Company recently profiled Alicia Morga, founder and CEO of online-marketing firm Consorte Media.

The opening paragraphs of the article reveal exactly what is wrong with the advertising industry:

Every marketer, pollster, and advertiser knows this much about Hispanics living in the United States: They are deeply family oriented, and their families are big. So when Alicia Morga, founder and CEO of the Hispanic-focused online-marketing firm Consorte Media, first started working with ad agencies on home-financing campaigns, she was told to use cheery images of happy, home-owning families. Problem: “The pictures of the big, brown family turned out to be the lowest-performing creative among Hispanics,” Morga says with a laugh. “By far.” What worked instead were simple shots of well-kept homes with white fences and lush lawns. “It’s aspirational,” she explains. Who knew?

Anyone who bothered to think outside the caja would know–and Morga does. In less than two years, she and Consorte Media have changed the thinking on how to find Hispanic Web surfers in the United States and convert them into customers, replacing the stereotypes that often typify minority-targeted marketing with insights gleaned from rigorous data collection and analysis. And she has built a business that’s already profitable, scored big-name clients including Best Buy and Monster.com, and completed two rounds of venture funding worth $10 million. Her secret: “Data works. There’s too much of the anecdotal in this marketplace.”

I am not sure why marketers want to overolook things that are fairly obvious. Perhaps it is the need for quantifiable, packaged data. I used to work for a market research aggregator and some of the reports that came across my desk for loading were sketchy, at best. Much of the research targeting specific ethnic/racial/gender/age demographics were heavily biased, used to essentially justify pre-existing stereotypes.

A coworker and I occassionally amused ourselves by opening some of the reports and laughing about what the researchers said our demographic wanted. Apparently, according to an older report targeting the African-American market, I am supposed to be single, very religious, overweight, and respond well to food images and church choirs. I guess that’s what the deal was with this Nivea ad.

As a gamer, I was socially awkward and probably spent a lot of time alone. (I was also a guy. Girl gamers had a very small segment near the end explaining how we need pink to relate to video games and we prefer games that were more feminine with a focus on relationships, cooking, or shopping. No I’m not kidding.)

I am not saying all market research is bad – on the contrary, there were some very well researched and thorough reports out there that did crazy things like actually poll the market. Or observe trends. Or conduct focus groups. Still, there were a great many companies who seemed like they couldn’t bother to even do that basic amount of research.

So, I can’t say I was surprised to see the language barrier brought up in the article as another key stumbling block:

The language barrier is obstacle enough for many marketers–the most infamous example is a Spanish-language version of the “Got Milk?” campaign, in which the mangled-in-translation tagline ended up meaning something akin to “lactation.” But Morga emphasizes that the demo “is not monolithic”: One-third of U.S. Hispanics are English-dominant, one-third speak primarily Spanish, and one-third are fully bilingual. And Forrester Media analyst Tamara Barber adds that “it’s not just about language. It’s about culture.” U.S. Hispanics are incredibly diverse, hailing from more than two dozen countries–and that jumble of mores, traditions, and cultural quirks renders generalizations problematic.

What? Latin@s speak English?

¿Desde cuándo?

And Hispanics/Latin@s in the US are diverse? (Meaning everyone isn’t Mexican?)

I think I just heard the sound of heads exploding on Madison Avenue.

[Image taken from the Fast Company website]