Latinas are one of today’s fastest growing and influential consumer markets. They generate $400 billion in purchasing power, but influence $1.2 trillion in buying decision. Moreover, 73% of Latinas between the ages of 18-44 are mothers, making them a critical segment for marketers seeking to reach women who are gatekeepers of their families. Latinas also tend to skew on average 14 years younger than the general US population and have larger families than other segments. In an effort to gain a more in depth perspective on what this will mean for marketers, Hispanic PR Blog recently spoke with Miriam Muléy, VP of Client Services & Strategy at the vox collective and author of the newly released, The 85% Niche: The Power of Women of All Colors—Latina, Black and Asian (Paramount Books).

HPRB: What has inspired you to focus most of your career on the research and study of multicultural women?

MM: I’ve spent the majority of my professional business career managing brands that primarily appeal to women. In my 25 years of experience as a senior executive in Fortune 100 corporations, I found that there was a tremendous amount of data and understanding about women as consumers, and there was tremendous amount of growing body of work around Hispanics, African Americans and Asians but no one was creating this matrix approach looking at women of color. Very few companies were going beyond the marketing to women veil to understand what impact culture, race and diversity had on the needs and aspirations of these women. When you couple that with the fact that women of color represent a market as large as the population of Italy, France, or Spain, and that they generate $1.2 trillion in buying power in the United States, I felt that I needed to step in and close that informational gap. My goal in writing my book The 85% Niche: The Power of Women of All Colors—Latina, Black and Asian was to dispel the perception that marketing to women did not mean marketing to white women alone. Instead, gender and culture need to be understood when appealing to the women’s and in this case, the mother’s mark.

HPRB: We understand the value of niche marketing, but what makes targeted marketing to multicultural women so powerful?

MM: Marketing to women of color allows a brand to leverage the “power of community” to influence future purchases in a more dynamic way. Like all women, women of color are very viral. We will tell our friends about a new product or service, share information with those that we care about in a very passionate and compelling way, and warn our personal inner circle of the limitations associated with brands that do not perform.

When you consider the impact of being in this country for a short period of time, or of not having a robust circle of people to connect with to learn about the norms of a new environment, successfully marketing to closely knitted women of color increases your odds of success. Word of mouth will grow at an exponential rate. There is a need to depend more heavily on community to just survive. Therefore, when you think about women as being the gatekeepers for their families, and couple that with being a first or second generation immigrants to this country, this creates a very powerful equation for women of color to be ambassadors for brands throughout their life

Another dimension of women of color which makes them a powerful market to connect with is their youthfulness and the higher lifetime value proposition associated in selling products and services to this audience and to the families they manage. With approximately 10 years of additional life span among women of color—fourteen among Latinas versus women overall—coupled with disproportionate usage of various product categories, this makes women of color and Latina moms a very profitable segment to explore and support. Further, as diversity increases to become the majority, women of color and mothers of color will take on greater economic importance to marketers.

HPRB: Your book addresses women of color including Latina, Black and Asian. What characteristic(s) do these women share? What differentiates them?

MM: What immediately comes to mind as a common denominator is the focus on family. It is absolutely central and paramount among Hispanic families, African descended families and Asian families.

In the Hispanic community we have larger families, and the fact that 73% of Latina women aged 15-44 are moms gives you and indication of how very much involved we are in having families and raising children. We have larger families, we start families at a much younger age, we are the gatekeepers of those families, we do all for the family, and so that puts a great amount of focus on products and services that will elevate that center of connection in the Hispanic market.

In the African American market the same is true as well. Smaller markets, but here 67% of all Black women aged 15-44 are mothers. The family is very important, the dynamic here that is probably more critical is that you have a lot single, head of households headed by black women, and that really puts a lot of demand on that woman to be mom and dad in many instances: work, take care of children at home, etc. So she is time pressed and time poor and needs products and services that bring convenience and quality to her, so she does not have to second guess services.

In the Asian community family is very important as well, and there is a multigenerational approach–as you do in the Hispanic market as well, not just a nuclear family but a generational approach to family. And in the Asian community the elders are highly respected, highly revered, which really infuses a sense of respect and deference in activities related to family.

HPRB: When it comes to making purchasing decisions, what are some key findings that you can share with us about Latinas? How do acculturation levels impact this?

MM: When it comes to making purchasing decisions, some of the findings that I have seen about women and about Latinas is that our decision making process is much more involved than a linear, direct decision model would suggest. As my friend and colleague, Marti Barletta would say, “Women are looking for the perfect decision not just a good decision.”

Attitudinally, Latinas and moms of color place a higher regard on motherhood than other groups. Latina women are more likely to state that, “having a child is an experience every woman should have.” Seventy-four percent of Latina moms would agree with this statement versus 49% of non-Hispanic White moms. That’s a huge difference between both audiences. Marketers can leverage this insight in their business plans by celebrating “family” as a positive and natural outgrowth of the cultural values of mothers of color. It’s also important to utilize diverse images of mothers and children in outreach efforts for these women.

From an acculturation perspective, it is important to understand that although she might be a second or third generation Hispanic mom, that culture is key to her. She is more likely to speak to her children in Spanish because she wants them to understand their heritage. She does not want them to disregard any aspect of the American or Hispanic heritage in the process. Companies that acknowledge the infusion of culture in their marketing will be more successful in reaching the Hispanic mom.

HPRB: How does marketing to Hispanic moms differ from other groups? What are they looking for?

MM: The parent-child dynamic between Hispanic parents and their children tends to be one of strong discipline, structure and guidance. Contrary to mainstream values which encourage self-expression, free-thinking, and challenging the norm, mothers of color tend to be disciplinarians. Among recent immigrants, the parent-child relationship also reflects situations where children are able to teach parents about new trends in the market. Children also become translators of information about various brands and services.

Another point of differentiation lies in how Hispanic moms raise their children versus non-Hispanic White moms. Art home, a mother of color will delegate more responsibility to her children in the form of household chores and do so at an earlier age than the general market. This is a perfectly respectable behavior which promotes greater independence among youth. The tendency to raise independent children at an earlier age is due to the need to prepare children to be self-reliant and able to overcome challenges that may be presented in the outside world—in school, in the neighborhood, and ultimately in the workplace.

HPRB: The Latina population tends to be younger than general market and other multicultural sectors. What should brands be doing now to prepare for marketing to Latinas in the years ahead?

MM: With the additional 14 years represented by the Latina population versus the general market comes the opportunity to generate more sales over the lifetime of the customer, who is a disproportionate and heavy user of many disposable products and services. From initial trial to repeat business, to word of mouth referral Latinas offer tremendous advantage and profitability to the retail markets. Every dollar spent on the Latina population comes back to marketers exponentially with brand loyalty.

HPRB: In marketing to this powerful demographic, which brands do you think are doing it right?

MM: When I think about brands that get “it” as it relates to diversity, as it comes to women and as it relates to the women of color market, specifically Latinas, I think of Procter & Gamble. They are a company that stands head and shoulders above many in terms of understanding the full market potential of the market segments. They understand the business case around reaching this audience in a strategic fashion with budgets and an investment that is sustainable over time. They also understand the need to leverage an integrated strategy to achieve results versus relying on one aspect of the marketing mix, for example advertising alone, to achieve breakthrough results. Powerful advertising is fueled by real consumer insights that are culturally based, media budgets that are able to break through the clutter and get your attention, products that are outstanding, really well designed and researched, that meet our needs, a channel of distribution that welcomes us when we walked into stores. Procter & Gamble gets this full picture of the market potential.

In the direct selling industry, which is a very different distribution channel from Procter and Gamble, I think about Avon as a best practice diversity company. Avon is not only a company that markets products for women of color; they also offer an earning opportunity for women. They offer this earning opportunity as a Sales Representative—a micro entrepreneur—a woman can control the amount of time they spend on their business as they manage their family and personal needs. Moreover, Avon invests in targeted product, communication vehicles and programs to reach women of color in a meaningful way.

Is there a recent Latina marketing campaign that has caught your attention?

MM: I have to say the use of Sofia Vergara with the Pepsi creative has caught the attention of the marketplace. It is a humorous use of the actress with strong crossover appeal to the general market, as well as the diverse markets. Pepsi uses her beauty, her charm, and her comical style in a way that makes you feel proud to know that she is also Hispanic, but she is also appealing to the general market.

HPRB: In which ways can social media be most effectively used to meet the specific needs of Latinas?

MM: There is a good deal of information and research that shows Hispanics are absolutely involved in digital and social media, very hungry for that connection and looking for opportunities to stay connected. Where companies can step in is in offering content that the audience can then use as the trigger to be able to connect more effectively. This is growing, but I think there is probably more work that can done around just making sure there is quality, fresh content always available in terms of social media feeds for the Hispanic market on topics of interest and relevance in language.

HPRB: What other insights on marketing to Latinas would you like to share?

MM: It is important to acknowledge the importance of not only having sound marketing strategies built on the cultural insights of the market, but also to ensure that the individuals working on your brands represent the nuances of the market itself. I am talking more about workforce development and making sure that your senior teams, your management and operational teams, your R&D labs, your communications specialists and business teams reflect the marketplace

On a more personal level and to get to know you better…

HPRB: What was your childhood ambition?

MM: My childhood ambition was to always do well academically because I knew this would make my parents proud and education was a value that was highly emphasized and valued in our family. From a career point of view, I remember my love of exploring and learning new things. I actually wanted to be an astronaut at one point because I felt that was the ultimate adventure. While I did not follow through on that dream, I did go on to become the first family member to earn a college degree and go on to graduate school at one of the country’s top Ivy schools-Columbia University to earn an MBA. I spent 25 years in corporate America ascending up through management ranks, launching new products, managing the P&L for many brands and leading cross functional teams to success.

HPRB: What is your favorite life or business quote?

MM: What comes to mind is a quote that my father shared with me which is that, “You have to be the captain of your own ship”. No matter what, despite choppy waters, uncertainty and unrest, you always have to be in control, navigate a path, know that you are in control and steer your life on the course you intend.

HPRB: How did you start your career in PR and where has that taken you?

MM: I actually started my career in marketing. I have a graduate degree, an MBA from Columbia University in business–marketing and finance. I started 25 years ago at Frito-Lay, in Dallas, Texas, in marketing as an Assistant Product Manager… I progressed to other companies such as Johnson & Johnson Baby Products Company and Clairol where I worked on new product development and on existing brands. I was handpicked by the President of Avon to join as a Director and was promoted to General Manager for the Women of Color business unit. Ultimately at General Motors Corporation I was the Executive Director for the Diversity Growth Markets managing the women’s market, Hispanic, African American, Asian, Youth, and LGBT markets across all divisions (Chevrolet, Cadillac, Buick, GMC, Pontiac, Saab, Hummer) for the United States. Since then I’ve written a book with a focus on The 85% Niche: The Power of Women of All Colors—Latina, Black and Asian. Now I am very excited to be a part of The Vox Collective, where I get the chance to really zero in on the Hispanic opportunity while staying connected to multiculturalism on a broader scale.

HPRB: What is the biggest Hispanic marketing cliché that you would love to see go away?

MM: What I would love for marketers to understand is that the Hispanic segment is much more than the stereotypes that you see portrayed. We are not all struggling, blue color workers. There is a growing class of middle class Hispanics; in fact 46% above Hispanics are in the $35,000 to $70,000 household income range. We are entrepreneurs, we are successful business men and women, we have wealth building aspirations and we have the funds to buy prestige products and services. Latinos are not all struggling. While there is a segment of the population across really all groups that are in that group, Hispanics are not all there. I would like to see that myth dismantled because it will give marketers permission to reach the broader spectrum of Hispanics that is large and growing.

HPRB: What are your top do’s and don’ts when it comes to Hispanic marketing via social media?

MM: The number one “do” is to be intentional and consistent with your outreach to Hispanics. Particularly as it relates to social media, there is a need for constant, vigilant response to consumers who may blog or tweet. When a tweet comes in you have to follow up and make sure that you are providing a meaningful, speedy response. The response must be consistent with the brand character yet also provide a value-add response to the audience. The brand DNA must be protected and consistently conveyed across all digital media to ensure and enhance brand equity. Paying attention to this level of detail will ensure a responsive and engaged consumer.