FORT LAUDERDALE — Hispanics make up more than 17 percent of the U.S. population and account for more than 53 million people, but despite the enormous potential within these exploding demographics, the marine industry is missing the boat.
That was the message Ed Cantu delivered during the Marine Marketers of America luncheon Thursday at the Fort Lauderdale International Boat Show. Cantu is director of consumer insights and planning for Lopez Negrete Communications, the Houston-based marketing firm that the Recreational Boating and Fishing Foundation hired to develop a five-year Hispanic market outreach plan.
The RBFF launched www.vamosapescar.org in April; the website has received 181,000 visits in its first five months, an average of 35,000 a month.
Hispanics are the fastest-growing minority group in the United States and they are an energetic, youthful, and increasingly more wealthy and educated population that values family-oriented activities, seemingly an ideal fit for the boating industry. Yet the Hispanic market has barely been tapped, Cantu said.
“We have heard, ‘This is the decade for the Hispanics’ over and over, but we’re still trying to get fishing and boating on the Hispanic map,” Cantu said.
Cantu described the challenges of developing a marketing plan directed at Hispanics and outlined strategies designed to tap the underserved market. Several of them were drawn from the qualitative results of a Lopez Negrete “Path to Purchase” study.
There is a real need to understand cultural subtleties, he said. “There is an awareness needed from the beginning of any marketing campaign that targets minority markets.”
Within the Hispanic culture, for example, the focus is on family, safety and inclusiveness. Google analytics showed the top search term that brought traffic to vamosapescar.org was “activities for kids.” And instead of a direct translation, the RBFF’s Take Me Fishing campaign was changed to Vamos a Pescar, which translates to Let’s Go Fishing.
“Hispanics need to be asked, not told. It’s an inclusive culture, and it is important to include others. Part of the campaign is understanding that Hispanics are coming from a different starting point and have a different motivation,” Cantu said.
Statistics supplied by Lopez Negrete describe a population segment that could be a potential gold mine for the boating industry:
• Hispanics accounted for 55 percent of the U.S. population growth between the years 2000 and 2012.
• The median age of Hispanics is 28, compared with 42 for a non-Hispanic white.
• Hispanics contributed $700 billion in consumer spending last year.
• Affluence is on the rise. Between 2000 and 2012 there was a 152 percent growth in the number of Hispanic households that earn more than $75,000.
• Outdoor spending is on the rise. In 2012, Hispanic outdoor spending was up 73 percent, compared with a decline of 9 percent for non-Hispanic whites.
• 3.6 million Hispanic households earn more than $75,000. The number of households earning more than $50,000 has increased 200 percent.
“This is a younger, optimistic group that enjoys the outdoors and is closing the education and income gap,” Cantu said.
The largest Hispanic populations are in the Los Angeles, Miami, Houston, New York and Chicago areas, all of which are on the water, but it’s important to remember that Houston and Miami are miles apart, Cantu said.
The Mexican-origin population group makes up 60 percent of Hispanic Americans and this group represents the dominant culture segment in California, Texas and Arizona. Puerto Rican and Dominican Hispanics are the dominant culture groups in New York; Hispanics of Cuban origin dominate Florida. Each Hispanic-American group values the cultural nuances of its country of origin, and marketing approaches can vary greatly among these cultures.
Many Mexican-origin Hispanics have a low experience level with boating and little experience with boat ownership; many do not have fathers, uncles, cousins or friends who owned a boat.
Because many of the Cubans who immigrated to South Florida were educated, older and affluent, they were used to being decision makers, Cantu said. They have been welcomed in dealer showrooms and treated as prospective buyers.
Mexicans, on the other hand, have faced frustration in “mystery shopper” studies and have been treated as low prospects in marine industry-based stores.
Both communities value family; “It is important in the Hispanic community not to say, ‘Look at me,’ but rather, ‘My family has made it.’ [Boating in the Hispanic community] is not an individual with a boat or a man out fishing with other male buddies, but an inclusive activity with extended family and friends,” Cantu said.
By its inclusiveness, boating reflects the value Hispanics place on progressing in a way that lifts the community.
“It’s called individualistic collectivism,” he said. “A rising tide carries all boats.”