In the beginning, it was about showing up and hanging banners. That was the extent of experiential marketing in the 80s. It was a community relations function of Corporate Affairs departments. No need to show ROI. Take a few pictures, put them in a recap, send it to the client and get glowing reviews, piece of cake. We all knew that no client would ever show up to a Hispanic event, particularly when they were in Brooklyn (when Brooklyn was Brooklyn), Orchard Beach, East LA, and the Rio Grande Valley. Vexing choices they had to make, the Hamptons for the weekend or Orchard Beach for an event, go figure.
Then came Calle Ocho Open House which, as Chef Emeril says, kicked it up a notch. The success of the first Calle Ocho quickly led to the expansion of the event to a weeklong celebration aptly branded Carnaval Miami. Along came Univision and its then overlord Televisa (funny how things don’t change) and presto, we have Noche de Carnaval being broadcast across the country and to Latin America with world class talent commanding world class dollars. They did it right. Carnaval Miami was the hottest marketing platform for the Hispanic market, being leveraged across the country by CPG companies as a destination event for Hispanics everywhere. But to Carnaval Miami, the clients came. They were spending big money and it didn’t hurt that it was in the Miami of Miami Vice fame, in winter with a tremenda fiesta at the Vizcaya to boot.
But then everyone started to do it. Fiesta Broadway in Los Angeles, Carnaval de Elizabeth in New Jersey and other shorter-lived versions cropped up here and there. They tried to replicate the model and instead ended up fragmenting and competing for national Hispanic event marketing dollars, which were scarce to begin with. Dollars started to shift from nationally funded to regional budgets, and that is pretty much where these community events are today.
Fast forward from the 80s and 90s to today, and with the vertiginous growth of the Hispanic market and the serious money that it entails, there is real scrutiny on Hispanic contributions to brands’ growth and ROI from Hispanic experiential initiatives. No longer is Hispanic-focused event marketing a function of the Corporate Affairs departments; they are now rightfully being evaluated and measured according to their potential contribution to the brands’ overall health. Here’s the good news: the overall strength of Hispanic-focused experiential marketing is solid. As experiential marketing continues to grow as a component to the overall marketing mix–according to a recent EventTrack study, 51% of brands surveyed will increase their experiential content spend this year– Hispanic focused events and experiential marketing initiatives have all the underpinnings of being able to contribute rich rewards to brands who venture into the Hispanic experiential arena.
Besides seeing more targeted and sophisticated activations across the Hispanic market, my optimism is anchored on two key factors. The first is that Hispanics are under exposed to experiential marketing initiatives as a community. While experiential marketing ranks #1 by Hispanics for driving purchase, generating word of mouth, personal engagement and learning about new products. Hispanics are underexposed to event marketing initiatives as a whole as brands leverage their limited (but growing) experiential dollars to the consumer segment they feel most comfortable with. Secondly, our propensity to over share everything on social media is fertile ground for consumer led event-related content development and ultimately, brand advocacy. Our challenge in the Experiential Marketing Industry is to keep the engagement compelling. I firmly believe we have all the tools to do so. If we build it they will come, share the experience, and reward the brands who reach out.
Pedro de Cordoba | Senior Director, Burson Latino