Cognac Company Taps a Precious Resource: Us

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Despite statistics that show how powerful the buying power of the United States’ 40 million plus Hispanic population is, one is still hard-pressed to encounter advertisements that target Hispanics, even in cities like New York. We could give companies the benefit of the doubt and assume they are doing their homework, instead of creating off-the-wall campaigns that stereotype Latinos and would result in repelling the demographic. Others have seen the light of opportunity, researching extensively.

Hennessy has long been enjoyed by older generations, but since its adoption by the hip hop community, it has become a widely-consumed spirit among urban youth, to include Latinos. Picking up on this trend, the classic cognac company has not only featured Tego Calderón, but also portrays Colombian/Puerto Rican John Leguizamo, known for his shrewd comedy routines and acting, in their "Puro Carácter" ads. A spin-off message of sophistication and uniqueness congruent with the company’s original catch-phrase, "Never Blend In", these captions-contra-conformity can be interpreted as an incitement to retain one’s Hispanic culture and roots. Also, it should be noted that it’s rather innovative of Hennessy to enlist Calderón and Leguizamo as the faces of their brand rather than the token Latino artist, like Jennifer López or Eva Longoria, for instance.

Although the majority of young Latinos living in New York are bilingual, a company’s best bet is to literally speak their language, and advertise in Spanish. Many companies make the mistake of believing the myth that all young Hispanics with money speak English and/or prefer to be spoken to in English. However, research shows that Hispanic marketing is more effective when communicated in Spanish because of the cultural identification and pride it provokes. With "Puro Carácter", Hennessy seems to have done well on all counts. To top it all off, the cognac company threw a Los Angeles soiree in celebration of Latinos in the entertainment industry, and put their money where their mouth is, in the form of a $10,000 donation to the Latino AIDS charity Las Memorias. Salud to that.

I asked Iván Arellano, a 23-year-old Ecuadorian student, how he felt companies should target the Hispanic demographic, and which Latinos he thought should be featured in advertisements. His response was quite interesting. "They should create campaigns that identify more with the Latino public; much of the advertising I’ve seen lately only has white people, when Latinos are almost never white." Indeed, the vast majority of Hispanic advertisements and television programs typically consist of very light-skinned Latinos. Advertisers should follow Hennessy’s lead and stay with the spirit of "Never Blend In" and "Puro Carácter" by contracting Latinos with talent and integrity, brown, black and white alike, who are proud to be Latino and make their fellow Hispanics proud to be Latino too. Impressionable youth takes advertising seriously, and in targeting this "new" Hispanic market, companies should choose their models wisely.

Our suggestions? How about John Quiñones of ABC’s Primetime? For years, Quiñones has brought national media attention to issues concerning Latinos. The accomplished Mexican-American journalist has compassionately covered the plight of Hispanic immigrants since the "˜80s, and continues to fervently do so. Or how about América Ferrera, the 22-year-old actress born to immigrant Honduran parents, who took home the Best Actress accolade at the Sundance Film Festival for her role in Real Women Have Curves? These two Latinos are not only excellent representatives of the Hispanic community’s phenotype: they are also very inspirational role-models, beautiful inside and out, and they certainly fit Hennessy’s requisites of "Never Blending In" and "Puro Carácter".

What are your suggestions? Who would you like to see in Hispanic advertising? What companies should speak louder to Latinos? Send us your feedback