February 22, 2011 | The Huffington Post | Original Article

Latinos and the Census: A $1 Trillion Business Game-Changer.

The past couple of weeks have seen a rising number of media stories about the changing demographic makeup of the U.S. These stories are part of a well-orchestrated teaser campaign by the U.S. Census to unveil the decennial count of the nation's population. A consistent thread in the announcements has been the exponential growth of the Hispanic population in counties and states throughout the union, including emerging Latino states like Oklahoma which saw its Latino population rise by over 80%.

The biggest piece of news so far, however, was delivered last week with the Texas numbers released by the U.S. Census Bureau showing Latinos contributing over 70% of the state's population growth. The Lone Star state provides a strong taste of what the future holds as 95% of the kids born in that state, according to the official tally, are Latinos. At this rate Texas will have a majority Latino population by the year 2040. This is important as Texas is experiencing a Latino demographic tidal wave of a dimension that will be reproduced throughout the country at different points. Simply put, Texas is the Latino future for many other states.

When the final Census figures are released in a couple of weeks, the national Latino population is expected to surpass the powerful fifty million mark. This number makes the national size of the Latino population bigger than the population of states like California, New York, and Texas. This has, of course, tremendous political implications as the Latino vote gains clout in the upcoming and hotly contested state and presidential elections.

But politicians should not be the only ones addressing this demographic game-changer, so should companies looking for growth opportunities. At the core of the opportunity presented by Latinos is the group's youth, on average ten years younger than the mainstream population. This results in more Latinos entering the workforce, making greater contributions to the brittle entitlement systems and to businesses by flexing their $1 trillion and growing purchasing power.

Ways Brands and Companies Can Seize This Opportunity

Reframe the thinking. At fifty million, the Latino market is a critical consumer segment that is bigger than most nations. CEOs should challenge their executive leadership to size the opportunity and act on it through the creation of a proper business plan.
Empower a team. The Latino initiative should be led by an internal heavyweight that reports into the CEO. This leader should be in charge of moving the needle and working with key business teams to make the initiative sustainable and profitable.
Hire the right talent. There's no stronger brand endorsement than that of an employee. Work with colleges and universities and Latino leadership organizations to develop a pipeline of Latino talent and suppliers that will keep the business connected to the opportunity.
Get to know the market. Invest in understanding the dynamics of this market through quantitative and qualitative approaches to get to your sweet spot and their lifestyle triggers. Take in the culture in all ways, formal and not; become a culture expert. It's good for your business brand, and I promise you'll have fun.
Get ready to do business. Any business and marketing plan will depend on a stellar servicing infrastructure, including (depending on your business), a culturally trained sales team that can connect with Latino customers, the creation of market specific distribution and partnership strategies, and more. Do a checklist covering all the angles of the consumer experience.
Inspire and engage through story telling. Tap into the power of Latino culture to imbue your brand story with new energy, and to appeal to both English and Spanish-dominant Latinos and to a mainstream interested in Latino culture. Do this right by identifying those points of connection between the culture and what your brand is all about.
It takes a village. Draw inspiration from how the Hispanic market has grown in influence by building communities and networks. Work with community influencers to build a true relationship around shared values.
Piloting an opportunity. You might want to test things in a smaller scale through pilot programs in smaller markets that can allow learning key lessons to then go national. Census results from smaller markets showing growth might trigger some ideas.
Latino inspiration for product development. Latino culture and consumer insights can inspire your brand's next generation of product development. This can be important in key categories where culture is critical such as food (salsa, dulce de leche), fashion, and more.

The Latino impact on the Census will generate additional significant interest in the Hispanic market. This will create more buzz and clutter, making it critical for brands to stand out through plans that deliver a true value to Latinos. It's like building a deep and nuanced relationship. This might take a bit of time, but a $1 trillion partner merits some courting.