By NAT IVES | New York Times News Service
Hershey Foods plans to announce Monday that it will soon blanket Spanish-language television, radio and magazines with ads for its chocolates and candies, becoming the latest big marketer to try spreading its reach in the fast-growing Hispanic market.
In a departure for the company, the candies advertised will be backed by a powerful celebrity endorser, in the form of Thalia Sodi, the Latina pop idol more often known simply as Thalia. Later this year, new versions of Hershey chocolates will even be co-branded with Thalia’s name.
“This is our first comprehensive integrated marketing effort tailored to the Hispanic consumer,” said Thomas K. Hernquist, senior vice president and chief marketing officer at Hershey, based in Hershey, Pa. Referring to the endorsement deal with a major entertainment figure, Hernquist added, “This is not something that Hershey typically does.”
The partnership between Hershey and Thalia speaks to the sometimes halting, sometimes frantic efforts by marketers to penetrate the Hispanic market.
Hershey has been studying the Hispanic market for several years, as have many marketers after the 2000 census, which counted about 36 million Hispanics in the United States, accounting for 12.6 percent of the population. Marketers’ hunger for Hispanic customers has grown, too, in step with each new demographic report; last month the Census Bureau predicted that the number of Hispanic-Americans would rise to nearly 103 million in 2050, or nearly a quarter of the population.
“The census results were a wake-up call,” said Raul Perez, president at Utilis Research and Consulting in New York, which specializes in the Hispanic market. “Some companies have taken steps, some faster than others, in grabbing the opportunity of the Hispanic market.”
William Ortiz, president at HispanicWorks in New York, part of the GlobalWorks Group, placed Hershey among the slower steppers. “What’s interesting is it’s taken them this long to do it,” Ortiz said, noting that competitors like Mars Inc. have moved more quickly into the Hispanic market.
All the same, Thalia is likely to give Hershey a big leg up, Ortiz said. “Hershey’s puts out a wonderful product, so it’s a matter of doing some smart marketing,” he said. “If they’re co-branding a candy with Thalia’s name, that’s smart.”
Hershey’s research convinced its marketing team of the same thing, said Hernquist, the Hershey executive. “This is not just about taking our current advertising and translating it. Thalia has deep roots with Latino consumers that we can associate with our brands.”
For others, marketing aggressively to Hispanics is also a way to build momentum, crossover appeal and sales in the general market. Tommy Mottola, the music mogul who is married to Thalia and handles her licensing and branding deals, said that he planned to use the Latin community as a base.
“Hip-hop was once an urban culture, but is now in white suburbia,” Mottola said. “In the same way, we’re going to be using this as a launching pad to mass market.”
Of course, Thalia is not so far from the mass market already. Her line of clothing, accessories and home products co-branded with Kmart has been on sale since last summer, and Thalia Magazine, published by American Media, goes on sale Tuesday.
Thalia and Hershey’s will continue to promote each other as the year goes on. Thalia will appear in commercials supporting caramel kisses and white chocolate Reese’s peanut butter cups, continuing the Hershey Happiness campaign that portrays chocolate lovers enjoying their Hershey products.
Hershey is sponsoring a U.S. concert tour by Thalia, and by September plans to introduce its line of chocolate and candy co-branded with the singer’s name.
“The object of the advertising is to appeal to the Latino community,” said Lee Garfinkel, chairman and chief creative officer at the New York headquarters of DDB Worldwide, part of the Omnicom Group and the agency creating the campaign. “But because of Hershey’s crossover appeal and Thalia’s crossover appeal, I’m hoping the effect will be greater.” (The Hershey roster also includes Ogilvy & Mather in New York, part of the WPP Group, and Dieste Harmel & Partners, Dallas, part of Omnicom.)
Many more companies are expected to dive into the Hispanic market.
“Now we’re approaching the middle of the decade,” said Perez, the Utilis president. “People who were postponing are catching up, because they don’t want to be surprised by the 2010 census.”