By Mark Seavy
With a growing base of bilingual speakers and millennial consumers, licensing in the Hispanic market is requiring a two-pronged strategy.
Licensors, licensees and retailers are increasingly delivering products that reflect Hispanic heritage, while also playing to the latest styles sought by an increasingly American-born population. The percentage of U.S. Latinos (pegged at 59 million) born in the U.S. has grown to 65.6%, up from 59.9% in 2000, according to the Pew Research Center. And of the 75 million U.S. millennials, 25% are Latino, according to Simmons Research. And while the number of U.S.Latinos proficient in English has risen to 35 million in 2015 from 19 million in 2000, the number speaking Spanish at home also has grown to 37 million from 25 million, the Pew Research Center said.
The growing number of bilingual speakers prompted JC Penney to reintroduce bilingual signage and mix Latin music with other popular tunes in its more than 180 Hispanic-designated stores, defined as doing business in areas that have twice the national average of Latinos. Penney also launched marketing campaigns in Spanish and English. The goal was to continue to attract the older Latino consumers while also appealing to younger customers, given that the median age of Hispanics in the U.S. is 28.
Sometimes, brands from the same company are treated differently, reflecting their unique strategies. For example, in the U.S. 65% of Modelo beer is consumed by Hispanics, 35% by others. That’s the exact opposite ratio seen for Corona, says Joester Loria Group’s Debra Joester, who represents both brands for licensing. (Both Mexican brands are owned by Anheuser Busch InBev.) That consumption pattern is reflected in licensed merchandise distribution strategies. Corona merchandise largely goes through mass retailers, while Modelo products are primarily sold in targeted specialty chains, says Joester. Sales of Modelo merchandise are particularly strong in the U.S. Southwest and West Coast, both regions with large Hispanic populations, says Joester.
Meanwhile, Macy’s continues to sell its directly-licensed Thalia Sodi brand in apparel, jewelry and shoes; it mines the popularity of Mexican singer and telenovella star Thalia. In preparing for the Thalia line, Macy’s executives met with developers of malls geared to Hispanic Americans to get an idea of trends among Hispanic shoppers and scanned 20,000 bodies of potential customers to analyze their physiques.
“You need a brand with a natural affinity to the Hispanic market that can create some energy and boost overall sales,” says David San Juan of Vidorra Group, which represents Carlos Santana and has worked with the Nanaritos, a collection of more than 60 characters created by Puerto Rico-based designer Marion Carro. “If you try to do something that doesn’t have that connection, it is a slippery slope because you are trying to be something that you are not.”.
Rooms To Go, the furniture retailer whose more than 200 stores are heavily concentrated in the southeastern and southwestern U.S. – both areas with heavy Latino populations – has an ongoing DTR with actress Sofia Vergara, the well-known star of the TV series “Modern Family,” who launched a line of living room, bedroom and dining room sets in 2013.
Vergara also licenses a fragrance line, which is produced by licensee Mesa and distributed by Parlux. It is sold through many drugstore chains such as CVS and Walgreen’s that have a broad selection of beauty products, a category that is over-indexed by Latina consumers, says Nancy Overfield of Latin World Entertainment, which handles licensing for Vergara.
And the National Basketball Association (NBA) has long had its “Noches Ene-Be-A” Hispanic marketing platform and annually celebrates Noche Latina in March to reach out to their Hispanic fan base, including recasting the uniforms of teams such “Los Lakers,” “El Heat” and “Nueva York,” among others for certain games, and also making them available for consumer purchase.
“Many companies think that bright colors, stripes, and a desert can target the Hispanic market, but really these are the stereotypes that Latinos hate,” says Uno Branding’s Luis Fitch, whose company develops brand strategies and packaging targeting the Hispanic market. “The last thing Latinos want is to have a put a mirror to their faces. They want to be shown a window to the future” with new brands and styles in electronics, beauty, food and other categories.
Yet that future doesn’t come without trial and error, and pushing the distribution envelope. For example, Univision broadly licensed Televisa’s widely-syndicated “El Chavo del Ocho” Mexican sitcom for toys, party and home goods, bedding and other categories. “We went out too quickly” in mass distribution and “didn’t truly understand the core community and it didn’t take off like we hoped for,” says Univision’s Rick Alessandri. Univision, which handles licensing. Univision has since “retooled” the El Chavo brand, deploying it with licensees in food categories largely in Hispanic grocery stores, says Alessandri.
Other efforts include:
- Univision, having trademarked the phrase “Mi Casa Su Casa” for home goods, is launching it as a lifestyle brand with product designer Thomas Fuchs in spring 2018, says Alessandri. The brand will be applied to tabletop (ceramic dinnerware), bedding (comforters, throws pillows, blankets), bath (towels, shower curtains) and area rugs. The products will feature colors and designs aimed to appeal both to the Hispanic consumer and the broader market, given the wide understanding of the “Mi Casa Su Casa” phrase, says Alessandri. “The appeal is the brand’s ability to cross into the general market, but doing it in a way that is true to the Hispanic consumer,” says Alessandri. Univision will start shooting commercials for the brand in December and plans to use its TV and radio stations to help promote it in markets with large Hispanic populations, such as New York, Los Angeles, Miami, Dallas and Houston. “We will take a very targeted approach out of the gate and test and learn with a more regional approach” than Univision used with El Chavo, Alessandri says
- New Era developed a line of collegiate caps featuring designs from Hispanic artists under an agreement with Learfield Licensing Partners as part of Hispanic Heritage Month in October, each based in cities with sizeable Latino populations. Retailers Lids, Fanatics and campus book stores carried the special headwear for U. of California at Berkley, U. of New Mexico, U. of Houston, U. of Texas at El Paso, U. of Texas at San Antonio and U. of California at Long Beach. Each of the artists is Mexican-American with roots in the communities surrounding the schools.
- Perry Ellis International’s Cubavera menswear brand launched a “Wear Your Heritage” web series that features Latino celebrities such as telenovela star Erik Elias, baseball player Jose Berrios and actor William Valdez telling the stories of their upbringing and cultural background. Cubavera, launched by Perry Ellis in 2000, recently signed a licensing agreement with Wolf Co. S.A. De C.V. for menswear. At the same time, Perry Ellis ‘s Havanera Co. brand remains a seasonal menswear staple at JC Penney and Kohl’s featuring a light, open-necked linen guayabera design popular in Latin America.
- Major League Baseball launched “Ponte Accento” (Put an Accent on It) earlier this year with LatinWorks, putting accent marks where appropriate on the names printed on the jerseys of more than 30 Latino players and coaches since the program began last spring.
- Revlon model Alejandra Espinoza, who also hosts Univision’s Mexican TV show “La Banda”, is moving into licensing in the U.S. for the first time, starting with infant and toddler clothing, says Overfield. A new mother known for Instagram and Facebook posts of her son, Ezpinoza’s very public identification as a new mother dovetails nicely with the prominence of mothers in Hispanic culture and also the popularity of the category with Latinos, says Overfield. The company also is expanding Mexican actress Blanca Soto’s licensed jewelry line into the U.S. for the first time. Licensee Nice, which has sold Soto-licensed jewelry direct to consumers in Mexico, opened an office in Dallas to establish a similar business in the U.S., says Overfield. “Using celebrities that are not necessarily well known in the English-language media shows that you understand how to reach” Hispanic consumers, says Overfield.
- Cake decoration supplier DecoPac Inc. has deployed Luis Fitch’s Latino-themed artwork for photo cakes that are popular in Hispanic bakeries for celebrating birthdays, Mother’s Day and other events, and using Spanish phrases, says DecoPac’s Danna Dueck. Fitch’s style “resonates very well in Hispanic markets and we often see bakeries in those markets put more” of the photo cakes in their display cases,” says Dueck.
DeoPac, Danna Dueck, VP Licensing and Product Marketing, 763- 398-5675, firstname.lastname@example.org
Joester Loria Group, Debra Joester, Pres., 212-683-5150 x302, email@example.com
Latin World Entertainment, Nancy Overfield, Pres. Licensing, 817-832-0609
National Basketball Association, Gustavo de Mello, SVP Strategy, Planning & Integration, 212-407-8000, firstname.lastname@example.org
Perry Ellis International, David DiCristina, Sales Dir. Hispanic Brands, 305-592–2830
Univision Communications, Rick Alessandri, EVP Enterprise Development, 212-455-5944, email@example.com
Uno Branding, Luis Fitch, Owner, 612-874-1920
Vidorra Group, David San Juan, Partner, 904-233-4077, firstname.lastname@example.org