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WEST PALM BEACH, Fla. – With the U.S. Hispanic market buying power currently representing $428.3 billion, marketing to the Hispanic community is the number one goal of many credit unions, but the question remains how? According to Miami-based Strategy Research Corporation, Hispanics are now the largest “minority” in the United States and based on the continued economic and political unrest in Latin America Hispanics will continue to immigrate. Experts agree that today’s world is one of acculturation – where the cultural patterns of immigrants endure in some fashion. The country is beginning to realize the potential and the marketing opportunities that this growing segment of the population represents and more so for the financial services industry. The Federal Reserve Bank estimates that as many as 25% of the nation’s Hispanics do not have an account at a financial institution. Yet while Hispanics represent 13% of the U.S. population and despite the untapped potential of this market, a survey released earlier this year by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies finds that nearly 42% of companies are still under spending – allocating an average of only 2.4% of their advertising budget to targeted marketing campaigns. Hispanic Business, a Santa Barbara, California-based information services company reports that the total ad budget for Hispanics in the United States was $2.2 billion last year, compared with the mainstream market spending figure of $233.7 billion. Within this huge population is advertising’s most “attractive market”: younger by about 10 years, larger with one more person per household and more traditional featuring a greater percentage of conventional nuclear families than the general market, according to the census results. Among the “slow” spenders in the AHAA study included the federal government, computer manufacturers and pharmaceutical, auto, travel and entertainment, and securities companies. According to SRC Vice President, Director of Qualitative Research Vivian T. Hernandez, acquiring in-depth knowledge about the Hispanic consumer via focus groups is the ideal first step to a successful marketing campaign. However, Hernandez cautions that all focus groups are not equal. “Hispanics possess many cultural similarities such as common language, Spanish ancestry and common religion,” said Hernandez. “However Hispanic focus groups differ significantly from non-Hispanic focus groups because there are still many cultural, behavioral and attitudinal differences between Hispanics of different countries of origin such as dialects and accents, food music, lifestyle, values and even dress. So it is important to define your target audience when setting up the focus group.” According to Hernandez, there are differences even between Hispanics of similar countries of origin living in different areas of the U.S. For example, Los Angeles Mexicans, who are generally newer arrivals, versus San Antonio Mexicans, who are generally third or fourth generation Americans, are as different as Texans and Bostonians. Hernandez says that all the similarities and differences affect how both qualitative and quantitative research should be conducted among Hispanics. “It is important to keep in mind that consumer behavior is the result of psychological and sociological influence of family and friends,” said Hernandez. “The Hispanic population segment is assimilating more slowly than other groups because they have remained more cohesive and therefore have resisted external pressures to become fully integrated into the American mainstream. Because of these factors there is an enormous opportunity for a segmented target marketing approach.” Hernandez offers some guidelines to ensure maximum effectiveness in Hispanic focus groups: * Take care when combining respondents of different Hispanic nationalities * To avoid role playing, which is time consuming and unproductive, do not mix the sexes * Choose a Hispanic Moderator who speaks perfect Spanish with no heavy accent from his/her country of origin. The Moderator’s sensitivity to the group dynamics and behavior patterns of the various Hispanic groups is the most important asset of an experienced focus group moderator. [email protected]

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