Maybe it’ll be a business like H Mart. In 1982, an immigrant family in the Queens borough of New York City opened an Asian-influenced grocery store. Now a chain with 34 superstores in 10 states, H Mart sells Asian foods of every description as well as fresh produce at prices cheaper than Whole Foods. When the first New England branch opened in Burlington, Mass., in 2009, The Boston Globe told of customers who couldn’t wait to enter the 51,000-square-foot store sporting “more than 20 kinds of the cabbage dish kimchi. An entire aisle just for noodles. A refrigerated section dedicated to the popular rice snack mochi ball.”
Or why not a business catering to a freshly self-conscious, religious submarket—domestic Muslims? The U.S. population includes roughly 1.4 million Muslims, the Pew Research Center reported in 2007, and many marketers see them as a small yet promising commercial target. Saffron Road, based in Stamford, Conn., is selling its line of Halal (comporting with Islamic law) frozen entrees in Whole Foods supermarkets. And Amana Mutual Funds, which invests according to Islamic principles, has drawn an increasing number of clients, only a fifth of them Muslim American. The rest are attracted in the recession’s wake by Amana’s less-risky financial products, deputy portfolio manager Monem Salam explained. Islamic law, he noted, forbids investments in casinos, tobacco or liquor companies, financial institutions, or companies that carry too much debt.
Let’s consider Carol’s Daughter, which started selling high-end skin creams, hair products, and fragrances to black women in the early 1980s. Entrepreneur Lisa Price opened her first dedicated store in the late 1990s in Fort Greene, a middle-class black neighborhood in Brooklyn. Now, Carol’s Daughter has nine stores in five states, sells its wares at Macy’s and Sephora, and employs actress Jada Pinkett Smith as the brand’s spokeswoman.
And let’s not forget Black Entertainment Television, a pioneer in broadcasting to a specific demographic market. In the early 1980s, businessman Robert Johnson proved the power of a racial audience with a cable-television channel specializing in black-oriented news shows, sitcom reruns, and music videos. Johnson sold BET to media giant Viacom in 2000 for $3 billion.
Far bigger and more powerful than any of these ethnic-based companies, though, is Univision. Started 50 years ago as a Spanish-language television station in San Antonio, what is now Univision Communications (held since 2007 by a consortium of private-equity companies) owns one cable- and two broadcast-TV networks, 62 television affiliates, and 70 local radio stations—reaching 95 percent of the nation’s Hispanic TV households. Univision Network, the company’s most-watched offering, boasts the most popular primetime lineup in Spanish-language shows and consistently routs Telemundo, its chief competitor, in ratings. Week to week, Univision ranks anywhere from third to fifth in the national television ratings by making sure that its appeal is broad. Edward Rincón, the president of a multicultural market research firm in Texas, noted, “Univision offers a little something for most Spanish speakers, from the telenovelas to soccer to news.”
UNIVISION’S SECRETS TO SUCCESS
Cesar Conde exudes confidence. And why not? A native Floridian, he’s from a family of overachievers—the son of a cardiologist and a college educator—holds a bachelor’s degree from Harvard and an M.B.A. from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School, and was a White House fellow in 2002-03. And now, still a few years shy of 40, he serves as the president of Univision Network.
And by all accounts, a successful one. He has raised the network’s profile through public-affairs programs and secured lucrative broadcast deals for soap operas and soccer, including acquiring exclusive Spanish-language rights to the men’s World Cup in 2010 and 2014. Univision coproduces telenovelas—soaps that run for several months and have a set end date—to bring in 70 to 75 percent of the network’s revenue. Next year, Univision plans to launch separate channels for sports and telenovelas and a documentary unit to produce more serious fare. The network’s strategists are also planning a 24-hour network to cover domestic and international news for Spanish speakers who live in the United States.
Your tired, your poor, and your huddled masses will represent a culturally distinct and growing market to which businesses would be wise to pay heed.
Univision has bulked up its roster of advertisers, adding about 90 new brands. Conde has also established a staff to assist Univision’s advertisers in tailoring their messages for Latino viewers. This 50-person team works with advertisers on everything from market research about the types of cars that Hispanics favor to the actual production of TV ads for a Spanish-speaking audience. Already, this in-house ad agency has helped Univision land accounts such as Dr. Pepper, H&M, Samsung, Starbucks, and Microsoft Kinect for Xbox 360. The team has started to conduct 14 research projects on consumer preferences, proprietary information Univision intends to sell to advertisers. The first study will examine how Hispanics differ from non-Hispanics in using medical products. In mid-May, the company announced plans to expand this team into what Randy Falco, the chief operating officer at Univision Communications, described as the company’s very own McKinsey & Co.