The current issue of Forbes shows a more serious photo of the normally seductive and funny Colombian actress Sofia Vergara. The headline, “The Next Media Jackpot,” declared that the war is on for the $1 trillion Hispanic market.
Vergara, one of the stars of “Modern Family,” earned an estimated $19 million last year, making her the highest paid actress on television today—not despite the fact that she’s a Latin American with an accent, but because she is. She has concocted the secret sauce to reach across demographics. She has also made it clear that Hispanics want to move beyond cliché telenovellas and typecasting as maids or hookers.
ABC (the network that airs “Modern Family”) and Univision know this. That’s why they are teaming up to create an English language cable channel aimed at Latinos.
It’s a brilliant idea. If it’s done correctly, marketers will be able to successfully target not only the large English-speaking Latino population but also the young Latino population. After all, 41 percent of Millennials are bilingual, the median age of U.S. Hispanics is 27, and these two groups also happen to be the fastest-growing minority in the country.
With these stats in mind, Vergara’s success story should be the manifesto for reaching the same success across this growing demographic. Vergara is unapologetic of her looks, accent and culture. She’s authentic on and off the screen. Authenticity is the key, and she has perfectly endeared herself to Americans without losing her Latin American cred. (Meanwhile, other Latin American crossovers, like Shakira, have received plenty of backlash.)
Hispanics in the United States are continually balancing two worlds. Programs and television personalities reflecting this unique struggle would speak to the millions of Latinos who go back and forth between their Latin and American identities. It is refreshing to see someone like Vergara, who embraces her diversity in both languages and who is mindful of her background and history. Identity is the essence of Vergara’s success, and it is also increasingly important to Hispanics living in the United States. Marketers must understand how important identity is if they want their brands to resonate with this influential demographic.
Kmart, which knows a good thing when it sees one, signed Vergara to create a clothing line for the discount retailer. Referencing Forbes’s piece on the actress, “according to comScore, Latinos are more than twice as likely as non-Hispanic whites to purchase a celebrity-endorsed product.” It’s a victory for everyone (not counting the Pepsi Skinny can fiasco). Her clothing line is inexpensive, is designed for her audience, and hits the sweet spots for a demographic that (for now) earns an income below the national average. She probably could have landed a high-end label partnership, but why bother when her target would never shell out that kind of money? She had realistic expectations of what she could sell to her audience and milked it for everything.
Another reason why the actress has been successful is her optimism. Her interviews, movie roles and the products she endorses, like Cover Girl, show an optimistic, can-do personality. In her interview with Forbes, she comes across as very positive about what’s ahead for the Hispanic market and its talent. Young Hispanics, especially first-generation Hispanics, have seen firsthand the hard work achieved by their parents, and they are encouraged about the future. Don’t take my word for it; take it from the Pew Research Center. Optimism is important and marketers should not overlook its power when targeting this demographic.
Moreover, marketers should take note of Vergara’s success on and off screen. She’s made herself relevant across cultures and languages while always staying true to herself. She’s charismatic and just plain likable (I bet Jennifer Lopez would like to bottle that up, but that’s another story). There isn’t a magic formula for targeting Hispanics today, but Vergara has certainly come close.