In Spanish, Target’s slogan “Expect More, Pay Less” translates to “Cuenta con mas, Paga menos.” The phrase has become a common sight at the end of the retailer’s Spanish-language ads, which have appeared increasingly on Telemundo and Univision. As executives have realized that their core customers are increasingly Hispanic, they are bringing more of an ethnic flair to their main advertising campaigns with diverse models of all shapes, shades and hairstyles.
“We’re leaning in even more as our guest is becoming more multicultural,” said Rick Gomez, Target’s senior vice president of marketing. “We see that as an opportunity.”
Target’s holiday ads, which start rolling out this week, feature a brown-haired Latina girl named Marisol who is the director of a Broadway-style holiday musical that she is rushing to put together with the help of Bullseye the dog. One scene depicts a rap battle with singer John Legend in which another little girl bests him with her rhymes that she punctuates at the end: “We want a very merry Christmas so Feliz Navidad!”
As part of Target’s holiday strategy announcement last week — which included a 21 percent increase in broadcast spending and the return of 10 days of deals — the retailer said it was boosting its investment in Spanish-language ads by 67 percent.
Part of that spending: All 16 of the holiday spots will also run in Spanish — a feat made easier by the fact that Kylie Cantrall, the 11-year-old Venezuelan-American actress who plays Marisol, is bilingual.
“Holiday is a good example of what I think the future is — which is not creating siloed marketing plans but having an integrated, holistic approach,” Gomez said. “We’ve moved away from separate marketing plans and separate efforts focused on the Hispanic guest from the general market.”
It’s an approach similar to one Target has begun to take with its merchandising. Following in the footsteps of other retailers such as Macy’s and Kmart, Target in early 2014 launched a women’s clothing line aimed at Hispanic women called Ámbar. It was a short-lived test that was abandoned in favor of incorporating such elements of Ámbar as colors and prints into Target’s other brands.
These days, Julie Guggemos, Target’s senior vice president of product design and development, said the retailer is using a much higher percentage of women of color than before in its research to guide its next wave of in-house designs.
Now that Hispanics make up about 17 percent of the U.S. population — and with predictions of continued growth — marketers have been paying more attention to this demographic group.
Automakers such as Toyota and Ford, phone companies such as AT&T and Verizon, and manufacturers such as Procter & Gamble and General Mills are among those actively courting Latinos, according to the list of the top spenders in Hispanic media in 2015 compiled by Ad Age.
Target landed at No. 31 on the list with $49 million. Wal-Mart was No. 13 with $84 million.
Although Target has been marketing to Latinos for years, the retailer began amplifying its efforts a few years ago. Research showed that its core customer had shifted from the suburban soccer mom to someone much more urban, Hispanic and millennial.
“We kind of had a realization that we had lost sight of who our guest is,” Gomez said.
And in particular, Target executives discovered that Hispanics have more affinity to the brand and spend a greater share of dollars at Target than average. One reason, Gomez said, is that they tend to have more kids, which aligns with Target’s being a destination for families.
Amy Koo, an analyst with Kantar Retail, said it’s not surprising that Target has such a diverse customer base since it has a lot of stores in parts of the country with large populations of Latinos.
“It’s California, Texas, Florida,” she said. “In that respect, it’s funny that they don’t do even better based on who they have around them.”
She added that Kantar’s shopper surveys indicate that Target may have lost some of its Hispanic customers in recent years — perhaps another reason for the recent stepped-up marketing campaigns. But beyond those ads, she said Target has a lot of room for improvement when it comes to having more products that are relevant to those shoppers.
Gabriela Alcantara-Diaz, a board member of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, said marketers need to be careful not to paint Latinos as a monolithic group. Not only is there a big difference between recent immigrants and U.S.-born Hispanics, but they are increasingly moving from urban centers into the suburbs. On top of that, each ethnic group within the category has its own attributes so you can’t really use a one-size-fits-all approach, she said.
“It’s very important to understand the multiethnic attributes and the diversity in those markets,” she said.
That is something about which Target has been mindful, Gomez said.
For example, its “Lúcete A Tu Manera” (or “Show Off Your Way”) campaign earlier this year — which ran during the Billboard Latin Music Awards in April then throughout the summer — showcased a wide range of people, including celebrities such as Rita Moreno and Carmen Carrera.
“What I loved about that work is it portrayed the Hispanic guest not as a stereotype of a mom in the kitchen with kids around the table,” Gomez said. “The Hispanic guest is all different ages, different sizes, different shades. The attitude we portrayed was really confident, really bold, really empowered. It was, I think, a really modern portrayal of who the Latina guest is.”
While the campaign was embraced by many, it also angered some viewers who took to social media to complain about hearing Spanish in a commercial on an English-language network.
Target has worked with LatinWorks, a Latino-focused ad agency, with many of these campaigns, including its first major foray in early 2015. That was for a campaign called #SinTraducción and focused on Spanish words without an English equivalent such as “sobremesa,” which refers to the period after dinner in which families and friends linger to talk. The ads mostly ran on Spanish-language networks, as well as some select English broadcasts.
This year, Target has been moving toward that more integrated approach. For example, it used a Hispanic mother as the “creative muse” to guide its back-to-school and holiday ads this year. The influence can be subtle. In the back-to-school campaign, it could be found in the tagline “to school and beyond” used in many spots.
“When Hispanic parents are sending their kids off to school, they think about it not just as a checklist of everything they need to do,” said Gomez. “They think about it as really setting their kids up for success — not just success in school, but in life.”
Target also has recently added leadership with expertise in this area, too. Monica Lozano, former chief executive of one of the largest media companies serving Hispanics and former publisher of La Opinión newspaper, joined the company’s board of directors earlier this year. Gomez is planning to meet with her next month.
“She’s going to be a great resource for us,” he said.