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We have officially kicked off the KAMA 2011-2012 season, and we started off with a bang! The featured speaker at our September 14th luncheon, Angel Martinez, was not only interesting, knowledgeable, and full of great ideas, he was entertaining and engaging as well. Before he could begin his presentation, he said he needed to get his “prop.” The “prop” turned out to be a beautiful black cowboy hat he perched atop his head. Combine that with his authentic bolo tie, and we all knew we were dealing with a true Texan.

Angel is a fifth generation Texan from the small town of Brownsville, TX which is about 98% Hispanic. The importance of this distinction came to light a bit later in the presentation, but he was pointing out that he is one of the 16 million “assimilated” Hispanics of the 50.5 million total comprising the largest minority of the current US population. Insightfully delivered, Angel grouped Hispanics into 3 segments: fully assimilated, bi-assimilated, and unassimilated. When considering marketing to a Hispanic community, age, gender, education, and English language fluency are not important. Their level of “sophistication” or experience with a product is more important. Meaning, if one has seen, used, experienced a particular product previously, when a new line, flavor, version comes to market, Hispanics are more likely to engage with that product over one they haven’t seen. He or she may not be educated or speak English extremely well, but he or she has experience and buying power based on that fact alone.

The “wow factor” of Angel’s presentation hit hard when he started firing off census data regarding the Hispanic population in the US. Currently 50.5 million over last year’s number of 35 million. Hispanics count for more than ½ of the nation’s growth over last year. For a more local view, currently there are 290,000 Hispanics in the state of Tennessee. In Knoxville, the number has tripled in the last year from about 2,700 to over 8,200. It is a trend that we all certainly can’t ignore.

Hispanics, like any group of people or culture, have their own way they liked to be marketed to or “loved on” as Angel put it. They are a very faith-based community that heavily responds to messages of hope and courage in marketing campaigns. Their communities are family centered and matriarchal in nature where women often make the household or buying decisions. In much contrast to the norms of US where mixing business with religion is shied away from, to the Hispanic community it is viewed holistically to the point that religion should be included in business decisions. There must be a symbiotic relationship between the two. Doing business without realizing how it will affect people and communities isn’t good, but you also can’t be all about purpose alone. To paraphrase Angel, “You can’t put ‘purpose’ in an envelope to pay your mortgage.” There has to be a good balance.

Angel closed his presentation with some very inspiring quotes, one of which I will leave with you which was said to have been spoken by Ghandi’s son.

“The US should be a really good salad. Let the tomato be the tomato. The cucumber be the cucumber. The lettuce be the lettuce. Then they all come together to make one really good salad.”

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