Industry Research

Going Beyond El Gringo

Posted on February 1, 2010 by LCT Staff - Also by this author

With Hispanic populations growing steadily throughout the U.S., operators need to learn how to earn their business and capture their attention by marketing directly to them.

About the Market Size

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, the Hispanic population is growing three times as fast as all other ethnic groups combined. In fact, the growth rate of Hispanics in 2006 was 24.3% compared to 6.1% of all other ethnicities combined. In July 2000, the census counted 35.6 million Hispanics living in the U.S. By July 2006, that number had climbed to 44.6 million.

These numbers represent documented legal residents of the U.S. and don’t account for what could be double that size when factoring in illegal residents. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2050 the total U.S. population will be about one-quarter Hispanic. Looking back to the 1970 census, the total Hispanic population in the U.S. at that time was a mere 4.7%. The states with the highest percentage of Hispanic residents include California, Texas, Florida, New York, and Illinois. Clearly the fast-growing Hispanic population provides ample opportunity to capture a unique market and can expose operators to the rich traditions of Latino culture.

Reaching Out

LCT asked Wendy Armijo of A & L Marketing and Advertising, a firm specializing in marketing to Hispanics, for suggestions on reaching the Hispanic market. A & R is based in Bakersfield, Calif., the 57th largest city in the country and where one third of the population is Hispanic. The firm provides television and radio production, printing, billboards, and jingle creations aimed at reaching Latinos on a national level.

There are many avenues to connect with Latinos through various media that focus specifically on delivering news and entertainment to a Spanish speaking audience, Armijo says. This includes expanding cable networks on television and major publishing companies, such as Belo and Tribune which print daily newspapers in Spanish for the communities they serve. Likewise, there are Spanish community-based magazines and radio stations. As with all populations, those who don’t read a daily newspaper or magazine may watch television or listen to the radio. The more mediums used to advertise, the better the chances of making a lasting impression.

Setting A Marketing Budget

Armijo says many companies have cut their advertising budgets in hard economic times when instead businesses should be reaching out for new customers and doing more advertising and marketing than ever. Armijo says it is important to understand the importance of modifying marketing strategies and going “where the money is.”

“But now, many big businesses are cutting about 50% of their Latino marketing budgets, yet [Latinos] are still buying houses and cars,” Armijo says.

Armijo bases much of her strategies on past experiences and community “reality.” “Latinos are not your typical stock market person, with money tied up in various ways,” she explains. “But the money is out there, depending on the service you provide.”

Since the Hispanic population is growing at a rate three times faster than all other ethnicities combined, it only makes sense to invest a significant amount of advertising dollars toward this market if your service area includes a high percentage of Latinos, she says.

“SE Habla Espanol” — The Marketing Mistake

Many companies who desire to serve the Latino market add a simple statement of “Se habla espanol” or “Yes, we speak Spanish.” If you have one single employee who may or may not be scheduled at any time, this isn’t really a good marketing strategy. In fact, it is one that can quickly backfire if you are not prepared to speak Spanish at all times during the open hours of your business. If you lure a prospective Spanish speaker in through this statement and cannot assist them at the time of their visit, then it is a misrepresentation of your service that can lead to questions about what else you might distort.

Adding that same phrase to commercials that air primarily on mainstream radio and television may sound good, but you probably are not going to reach your target. Armijo points out that if you were living in a foreign country and could find a TV or radio station that broadcast in English, you would probably be tuned in to it as opposed to mainstream media in that country.

Loyal Customers — Rich Traditions

Hispanics tend to be very loyal customers if served well. In addition to service for weddings, a young girl’s 15th birthday presents the first opportunity to provide limousine service. This celebration carries religious significance for Spanish-speaking Catholics with a religious ceremony in which the young lady affirms her faith. The religious ceremony is a “coming of age” celebration. These celebrations are similar to that of a wedding, including gowns, tuxedos for the boys in her “court,” and rental halls to party the night away.

A typical “quinceanera” can cost $5,000 to $25,000. The family is usually assisted with financial expenses by “padrinos” or godparents. Hispanics tend to pay cash for services rather than use credit, but the celebration of both a quinceanera or a wedding is a time that no expense is spared and the post ceremony receptions tend to be elaborate with live music and catered food. Because Hispanics tend to have larger families, according the U.S. Census Bureau household statistics, there may be many opportunities to provide repeat business within the same family. Add to the fact that several padrinos may stop in to pay their portion of the limousine charter, and you have the opportunity to earn the business of these families as well.

Working With Churches

Almost all churches that perform weddings and quinceaneras have a facilities coordinator that may be solely responsible for booking the date and time of various events at the church or also may work as a coordinator of events being held at the church.

These contacts can be invaluable because they know when these events will happen and in most cases know the family through church. They can recommend your service to people seeking to use the building for such ceremonies.

In preparation of working with a church, you should learn the protocols of various services and be prepared to help the church coordinator and observe and follow the rules of the church at all times. Developing a relationship of trust, familiarity, and professionalism with the coordinator can go a long way for earning the referral business.


• Membership in the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce

• Sponsorship of Latino concerts

• Develop relationships with Latino show promoters

• Participate in quinceanera expos

Joining the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce can help keep you informed of upcoming Latino concerts, shows, and events. Despite having a focus on Hispanic marketing, the primary language spoken within chamber events is English, and there are members of all ethnic groups reaching out to the market.

Joining the Hispanic Chamber offers the opportunity to connect with promoters who may produce concerts featuring Latino artists that you may not be aware of. You may be able to trade a limousine ride in exchange for sponsorship and signage at the show. This ride can be for the artist or maybe a local Spanish radio station can do an on-air giveaway of tickets to the show and a limousine, offering you even greater market exposure.

Similar to bridal shows, many communities have quinceanera shows or expos as they are known where families come to learn the latest trends in quinceaneras. The expos have a fashion show of tuxedos and dresses. There are also caterers, photographers, and other vendors that regularly participate in quinceaneras. You must have someone that speaks fluent Spanish at your booth who can translate for you if needed.


• Do not advertise statements such as “Se habla espanol” unless you always have Spanish-speaking personnel on duty.

• Do not knowingly send an English-speaking chauffeur on a trip where you know the passengers only speak Spanish.

• They selected your company because you said you spoke Spanish.


• Bilingual section on Web site

• Billboards

• Event sponsorships

• Hispanic Chamber membership

• Volunteer work

• Spanish print newspaper

• Spanish radio

• Spanish television

• Community based Spanish magazines

• Bilingual messages on hold

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