Denise M. Massari
In order to fully appreciate the scope of this unit, I feel it is important to cover some basic terms and language associated with marketing. Since my space is limited and the topic of marketing would cover volumes of units, this section will be elementary at best but should provide enough of a sense to be able to use the information in the classroom.
Mass marketing is all about quantity. It attempts to reach as many people as possible through massive exposure to the product through advertising. These products tend to be something everyone purchases and/or needs, whether it be soda, deodorant, McDonalds Happy Meal or a television network.
Through sales demographics, strategists determine if there is a need to pursue a particular audience a little more aggressively to boost profits from that community, which is where "target" marketing comes in "the aim to reach a specific, 'high quality' audience."
Target marketing comes in all shapes and sizes ages, class, gender, and so on and we have seen this day in and day out. Think about Tide ads for example, and how they usually portray a mother distressed over getting her son's or daughter's soccer uniform clean. In this example homemakers are clearly the target audience.
"Niche" marketing, however, focuses on a subset of the market. It addresses a need that is not being met by mainstream or mass marketers. "You can think of a niche market as a narrowly defined group of potential customers."
In this case companies have ascertained that there is a need for ethnic / multicultural marketing (defined in the introduction of this unit) as research shows that African Americans, Asian Americans and Hispanics will account for 8.8%, 5.4% and 9.9% respectively of buying power by 2013 and marketers want the dollars from these groups to go in to their companies' pockets.
This is where an understanding of the "Marketing Mix" or better known as "The Four P's" is necessary. Product what you are offering, Price what you will charge, Place channels product will go through to reach your customers, and Promotion how you will raise awareness with your target market. The fifth and most important "P" according to marketers and strategists is Positioning "where you place your product in the consumer's mind."
This is where multicultural marketing must be at its strongest since ethnic target audiences demand a different approach. This is not merely a conclusion to which I have come. There are numerous companies out there "specializing" in multicultural marketing. And I must say I was quite taken aback by the straightforwardness with which these companies promoted themselves. To get an understanding of what I am talking about, let me quote one such company's self introduction to the public. For obvious reasons I will omit the company's name but will include it in my sources at the end of this unit.
Whether your goal is to reach the Hispanic market, African American
market, or to select subsets of a specific ethnic group, ____ helps you
define your goals and provides you with the programs and services to
reach those goals. With just one call you can implement an integrated
marketing campaign, capture your target multicultural and urban
consumers, drive sales and put your mind at ease.
Maybe it's just me, but this really stuck in my craw for some reason. As a consumer it provokes a negative reaction because I do not want to believe I am profiled in this way; but when I adopt the marketer's lens, I am not shocked or appalled and I am actually looking for companies like this one to help me reach my ethnic audience. I "get it". I do. After all, marketing is in the end about making money and if corporations want to play and win in today's game, they must employ agencies as the one referenced above because their promises are "too much of an offer to resist." To bring this all together it is important to go back to the Dávila anecdote I discussed earlier. The success of that ad was no accident. Marketers spent much time researching the target (in this case Latino) audience and by exploring the "what", I believe we will find the answer.
Jeans are considered a durable and practical product. They are not only used for work but for social occasions as well. Jeans are a staple in most wardrobes and Wrangler knew it wasn't a matter of convincing Latinos that they needed jeans, they had to convince the target audience that they needed Wrangler jeans. Marketers truly did their "homework" for this campaign. They understood that the Latino community did not identify with the traditional Anglo cowboy but the U.S. western lifestyle aligned almost perfectly with the Mexican lifestyle as reflected in Tejano and Norte–o music. From there marketers deemed the heritage of the vaquero to be the most direct link between the target audience and the product and they researched the history of the vaquero and the importance it held in the Mexican community. To bring this concept full circle, marketers created a counterpart theme, "Viva la Tradición" (Live the Tradition) to Wrangler's Anglo campaign "The Western Original,"
and the target audience "ate it up."
Wrangler created a commercial depicting a young Latino cowboy fitted in Wrangler products and riding through incredible Southwestern scenery on horseback. The young man conjures up black and white images of his grandfather, a vaquero and wishes that he had known him. Suddenly, the images of the grandfather become colorized as the grandfather tells the grandson that he, too, carries the vaquero tradition and should never lose it.
The positioning of this ad is incredibly strong. Not only did Wrangler connect to its target audience by using a proud piece of heritage, the company also capitalized on the importance of family in the Latino community. Marketers proved that it is not enough to gather information; you have to not only know how to use it but in what context stated or unstated. It is the "unstated context" where I see a connection between the ideas of E.D. Hirsch's cultural literacy and those of the up and coming ethnic / multicultural marketers.
Marketing 101…with a Hirschian twist?
"In order to truly understand what someone is saying, we must understand more than the surface meanings of the words; we have to understand the context as well." (Hirsch 1988) Background information is necessary in order to interpret any form of text whether it be written, symbolic or graphic and it is necessary to make a deep connection between people and a product.
Hirsch evokes strong reactions in people as he is a proponent of the Core Knowledge movement, which asserts that all children, regardless of race or background, should learn a common body of knowledge. The reactions come from debates such as; what then are the considerations for the common knowledge curriculum and whose common knowledge are we using? It is easy to see how, when looking at the Core Knowledge curriculum in this manner, his teachings can be misconstrued as being elitist and intolerant of other cultures. I prefer to look at the idea of cultural literacy (or world knowledge) as he defined it: "the network of information readers possess…that enables them to take up newspaper…grasping the implications, relating what they read to the unstated context which alone gives meaning to what they read." (Hirsch 1988)
To give a more concrete example, I will share an experience I had while simply reading his book, Cultural Literacy: What Every American Should Know. He scripts four lines from the song "Waltzing Matilda," which uses terms familiar to "every Australian" as an American though, I had extreme difficulty deciphering the text. If he (Hirsch) had not defined terms such as "billabong", "billy" and "swagman," I would have either tried to look up the words with little success or chalked the lyrics up as "something odd" and given up. I am not Australian but if I had had the slightest knowledge of Australian culture, I might have been able to make sense of what I had read. My inability to understand the text is not a reflection of my native intelligence. I am simply not well versed in or exposed to Australian culture which is understandable in the sense that few Australians are my neighbors.
Now spin that as a marketer. You know the above-mentioned words are recognized and understood by just about every breathing Australian. Is it enough to just use the words because they are well known? Can you expect to throw a few of them in here and there and create a connection? No. They must be used in a context much like that of the song so that they elicit an authentic and emotional experience. It's not enough to know the words. You have to know the origin and/ or history behind them. What do they really mean and to what do they refer? Your cultural literacy as a marketer has to be quite far-reaching if you hope to truly impact your target ethnic audience. As a consumer you will more than likely need to have an equal if not greater cultural literacy as the market is trending towards employing multicultural marketing strategies. It's one thing to recognize meaning but entirely another to deconstruct it.
Why Taco Bell?
Taco Bell, an American chain selling Mexican style fast food was founded in 1962 in Downey, California. There are more than 6,000 restaurants across the United States and abroad. These restaurants serve over two billion customers a year and according to the Orange County Business Journal, earn almost as much (1.9 billion) in revenue. The company has come up with some pretty hefty and zany marketing pitches over the last decade or so and if you ask any Cleveland Cavaliers fan, there are two things they are care about during a game: LeBron James and a team score over 100 points. When the team surpasses the 100 point mark at home, each attendee receives a coupon for a freee chalupa. Clevelanders are big Taco Bell fans and perhaps within the next three years, so will many other NBA fans since as of last July (2009), Taco Bell replaced McDonalds as the fast food sponsor of the NBA in a four-year contract. It doesn't stop there; in an effort to promote their $2 meals, the company created a Facebook page to gather signatures petitioning for more $2 bills to circulate in the United States.
Americans quieren (love) Taco Bell.
While the company has opened chains in Latin America, Europe and Asia, it cannot seem to take hold of Mexico.
Despite the highly publicized and valiant efforts to take Mexico City by storm back in 1992, the restaurants closed within two years and Taco Bell hasn't been back…until now. The company is looking to capture Mexican hearts by appealing to them as an American restaurant that serves Mexican-like food with French fries and ice cream to boot. In other words, Taco Bell is learning that it must make concerted efforts to distinguish its products as an alternative to traditional Mexican food to cater to those upper-class Mexicans who want any and everything American. Its new brand strategy "Taco Bell is something different" has a long way to go, however, if it plans to succeed. As it stands now, the menu confuses native Mexicans as it uses authentic names such as the gordita, chalupa and burrito.
Taquerías and tacos "hold a place of honor in the national cuisine" and one look at Taco Bell tells Mexican customers it is neither a taqueria nor a taco.
A taquería simply is a taco shop. It is tiny and may come in the form of a street-cart vendor or a space as big as your clothing closet or kitchen. They are not fancy and do not have an extensive menu. They offer tacos -- a flat corn tortilla filled with a variety of mixtures (meat, chicken, seafood, vegetables, etc…) The Taco Bell version looks more like a tostada, a fried or toasted corn tortilla served with the taco fillings atop. Since these days Taco Bell is in the business of "thinking outside the bun", it has renamed its taco product as the "tacostada." This makes sense since according to Mexican gastronomy, Taco Bell's taco is actually a folded tostada. But will changing name alone do "the trick"? Perhaps. Perhaps not. Or perhaps Taco Bell is really onto something. The word "tacostada" is a perfect example of how marketers are blending words and cultures to invent a new language, so to speak, that everyone will understand. And as the multicultural / ethnic marketing trend continues, more corporations may be encouraged to engage in this type of culinary and linguistic fusion.
Taco Bell's track record has shown it is willing to take chances but not in the way we may think. It is apparent they are willing to try new ideas and when they want something, they want it badly enough to try just about anything.
Yes, the Taco Bell dog had (she passed away in July 2009) a name and she was the rage and face of Taco Bell advertisements from 1997-2000. In fact it is still hard not to think of her when you hear the company's name. She made the line, "Yo quiero Taco Bell" famous as she sought out and promoted Taco Bell products at all costs in a variety of locations and has become a mnemonic for many teachers to recall the verb "querer." She truly became an advertising icon, but why her breed?
Chihuahuas are the smallest breed of dogs said to have originated in the Mexican state of Chihuahua. They were part of religious Aztec and Toltec ceremonies because their molera a soft spot on the top of the head was believed to have the power of leading the dead into the underworld. As a result they were also often sacrificed when a human died.
When the 14th century Toltecs were defeated by the Aztecs, chihuahuas became pets of the noble class and objects of "true veneration".
So here we have a Mexican dog a valued one at that, using Spanish and eating Mexican food or food similar to Mexican cuisine. Are we connecting the dots yet? It would appear that Taco Bell, in pursuit of a larger Hispanic consumer population, tried to connect to their target audience through usage of their (Latinos) language and one of their own Mexico, in this case-- national products. Multicultural / ethnic marketing at its best, or so Taco Bell thought. It wasn't the Latino community that latched onto Gidget, it was the Americans. And in 2000, Gidget shot her last Taco Bell ad due to a Hispanic advocacy group lobbying against the image of Gidget as they believed the advertisements were "a thinly veiled culture stereo-type."
There's a fine line between employing multicultural / ethnic marketing strategies and offending the intended audience mainly due to the assumptions one makes. And when looked at in that frame, Gidget was postulated to be a success because she's a dog from Mexico. But in order to be truly triumphant, there has to be something more than a geographical connection between an audience and a product. No emotion, no sales. NO sales, no profit. No profit…then it's time to do something else.
A gordita is a small, thick tortilla made of corn flour filled with various items (cheese, meat, stew, etc…). The most traditional version is found in central Mexico while regions to the North use wheat flour resembling a small pita. It is the latter that the Taco Bell gordita most imitates.
A common mistake viewers make is confuse Cinco de Mayo with Mexico's Independence Day. The latter marks a celebration of Mexico's victory over the French at the Battle of Puebla in 1862. Mexico's independence day is actually celebrated September 16 and to herald the event, at 11:00 pm the current Mexican president steps out onto the balcony overlooking the Zócalo the main plaza located in the heart of Mexico City-- and gives the "grito" -- "¡Viva México!" The Zócalo is reminiscent of Times Square on New Year's Eve and the crowd goes wild and joins the president in echoing the grito. The Taco Bell Viva Gordita commercial mimics this event to a tee. The chihuahua, wearing a military beret, steps out onto the balcony as the camera pans the excited crowd and buildings of the Zócalo, and the dog pauses to survey the crowd and then yells, "Viva gordita". The multitude below him roars and the commercial ends in dramatic fashion.
What could be more nationalistic than heralding Independence Day? By using this event in particular, Taco Bell demonstrates that it does indeed recognize and understand the differences between the two holidays. It "captures a nuance" and "connects to people emotionally" as the message of the commercial directly connects to Mexican pride -- freedom is uplifting and combats marginalization. But what about the beret? A Ché Guevara reference? Ché was Argentine fighting for Cuba and yes, he is a hero for many Latinos across the board, but the Mexican president would never wear a beret and most certainly would not want to be portrayed as a militant revolutionary. There are some great ideas here, but do they really work? Is the idea to get people in the door or to actually purchase and become a fan of the product?
Despite the emotional connectivity the commercial achieves, Taco Bell's version of the gordita is not comparable to the traditional and will continue to "confuse" the Mexican community the company so desperately seeks to attract. So in order to see an upswing in sales in the Mexican community, perhaps they need to think more along the lines of the "tacostada" and name it the "gorpita".
The Revolutionary Taco
"Revolutionary" as defined by Webster's dictionary is "constituting or bringing about a major or fundamental change." Taco Bell's slogan "The Revolutionary Taco" indicates that there is something radically different about their taco product in comparison to what is already out there in the market place; at least that is what I, as a literate consumer, would gather upon reading the words. Gidget, however, interprets the slogan as meaning something else.
The commercial is simple. It sweeps over a large billboard containing an image of Taco Bell's taco and the phrase "The Revolutionary Taco." As Gidget nears the billboard, she focuses on "taco" and the root "revolution." She instinctively puts the two words together and says, "A taco Revolution. I am there." Now if we were to look at the meaning of the word "revolution," we would most assuredly understand it to mean a war or political uprising and the way Gidget qualifies the phrase with "a" implies that she, too, is thinking along these lines. Why is she considering battle?
You don't have to know much about Mexico to realize that this is a country which has undergone much political unrest during her lifetime The Mexican War of Independence of 1810, the Mexican-American War of 1846 and the most famous Mexican Revolution of 1910 to name a few. It is the last that has had the most impact on Mexico as well as the United States.
Having suffered under the dictatorship of Porfirio Díaz for thirty years, a new generation of young leaders desired to take part in the political arena and make Mexico a true democracy. While the Mexican Constitution called for a public election and other aspects of democracy, the wealth and power stacked in Díaz's favor secured his control and made democracy without civil disobedience unlikely. Understanding what it would require to exact change, Francisco Madero, politically star-struck , traveled the country and gathered reformers to his cause. Upon discovering Madero's plot, Díaz captured the young revolutionary and threw him in jail. Madero, however, managed to escape and fled to the United States in exile. When Madero heard that Díaz had again been "elected" as President, he created a manifesto declaring that the elections had been a fraud and he would not recognize Díaz as president. Madero claimed himself as the "President Pro-Temp" until new elections could be held. As part of his "campaign," he promised to return confiscated land to the peasants. Madero called for an uprising on November 20, 1910, marking the beginning of the Mexican Revolution.
Persuading individuals such as Pascual Orozco and Fransico "Pancho" Villa enabled Madero and revolutionaries to be fierce combatants. The capture of Ciudad Juarez led by Orozco and Villa in 1911 served as the decisive victory for Madero and company. While Madero's presidency and own life were short-lived thereafter, the Mexican Revolution nonetheless achieved freedom and instilled a national zealous pride for Mexico.
This 30-second ad is steeped in unstated context and does so so simplistically that a non-native Mexican or an individual illiterate in Mexican cultural might miss it. The play on words of "revolution" and "revolutionary" are ingenuous from a marketing standpoint. The idea of revolution appeals to the Mexican community as it reminds them of a proud yet difficult moment of their history. The rebels were the underdogs against Díaz and his armies yet through perseverance and determination, the revolutionaries were victorious. Since Taco Bell had the cultural literacy to recognize the difference between its version of the Taco and the traditional, it was able to use the idea of revolution not only as a means to connect to the target audience but also as a pitch for something new and different.
50 Cent Sues Taco Bell
I decided to use this example in my unit because I believe students will be able to peel away the various layers this particular story holds. I also feel that they will have explored enough (admittedly not much) in the way of target and multicultural marketing strategies and tactics to engage in informed and intelligent discussions. You, the reader, may have to or want to do a little research on rap, the hip-hop/urban lifestyle, influential contributors and the rapper himself, but for the purposes of using this account as an example of multicultural marketing, what you read below can be sufficient.
In July of 2008 Rapper 50 Cent filed a $4,000,000 lawsuit against Taco Bell for use of his name without his permission. In their "Why Pay More?" campaign, Taco Bell asked 50 Cent to change his name to "79, 89 or 99 Cent in concordance with their price campaign. Taco Bell feels it "made a good faith, charitable offer to 50 Cent that if he, indeed, changed his name for a day by rapping his order at Taco Bell, the company would have been pleased to make a $10,000 donation to a charity of his choice." (USA Today: 7/23/2008) To add more insult to injury, Taco Bell stated, "We know that you adopted the name 50 Cent years ago as a metaphor for change. We at Taco Bell are also huge advocates for change. We encourage you to 'Think Outside the Bun' and hope you accept our offer." 50 Cent had no prior knowledge of the "offer". In fact he didn't find out until he saw a news report about it. Naturally he felt Taco Bell unjustly capitalized on his name and they did but for 50, what was more concerning was the flack he received from the public as a sell-out. In this case there was only one place for 50 to go to clear his name in the public eye the legal system.
Now for those who are not "culturally literate" in the hip hop/rap culture, the reference to 50 Cent may be lost. There may be confusion as it would seem that Taco Bell is attempting to personify the monetary quantity of 50 cents versus referring to an actual person. For those who are, your reaction will more than likely be similar to that of the many bloggers mentioned above. 50 Cent has cultivated the image of being a gangster rapper so for him to join the mainstream public would be devastating not only to his image but to those artists who share the "gangsta limelight" as well. Being gangsta means being tough and being street smart; daily urban life en vivo.
Taco Bell lost on this tactic many times over. It's pretty safe to say that the company thought low prices, rapper and African Americans. Now how they all related to one another is another story. Perhaps I sound a bit cheeky but the fact remains that they took advantage of a person for their profit and made an assumption that using a rapper in their marketing scheme would appeal to the ethnic group. They didn't do their homework. A rapper is not a rapper is a rapper. Jay Z is not the same as 50 Cent and he never will be.
Other Commercials to Consider
Due to the vast amount of Taco Bell commercials out there, I could not possibly cover all of them in this unit, but I have included a few below that you may want to investigate as they are great examples of multicultural advertising. They are, however, not necessarily geared solely to the Latino population but upon viewing them, you will ascertain whether they are appropriate for your classroom.
Taco Bell Fiesta Platter A commercial in which a mariachi band comes to the workplace to encourage the employees who have purchased Taco Bell to sit down, relax and enjoy their fiesta platter. A female employee literally lets down her hair, becomes seduced by the music and then sidles up to a member of the band and says, "Hola."
Taco Bell The Roosevelts This ad has so much going on in it that it may be used for two lessons. It is Taco Bell's first music video commercial aired during this year's (2010) Superbowl. It depicts a boy band going out for the evening and as they drive they are singing or rather "biting" to the tune of, "The Benjamins." When they finally arrive at their destination, they are surrounded by a crowd as they begin to break dance. A look-alike Ice Cube nods in approval of the boys' breakin' as do the various other African Americans in the mix. There are women somewhat scantily clad, a "blinged out" pepsi can and neon illuminated prices in the background. As I said there is a lot going on in this commercial but it is definitely worth watching.
"Here, Lizard, Lizard" This commercial was created in anticipation of the movie Godzilla. Taco Bell capitalized on the pop icon as it portrayed Gidget attempting to lure and capture the "lizard" with free taco signs and a small box with a stick and string. As the monster approaches, Gidget realizes its enormity and says, "I think I need a bigger box;" a direct play on the line from the movie Jaws.