When the late U.S. Sen. John Goodwin Tower sought reelection in 1978, he knew that without the Hispanic vote his chances of scoring a victory at the polls were challenged by the changing sentiment of the American voter base. Tower was running on a Republican ticket even though he had lost some clout among conservatives after a failed endorsement of the nomination of President Gerald R. Ford, Jr. to run against the late President Ronald Reagan.
One of Tower's aides suggested the expertise of Lionel Sosa and his advertising agency Ed Yardang to help him win the hearts, minds and votes of Hispanic Americans in order to secure reelection. These days Sosa admits that the Ed Yardang agency lacked the political acumen and savvy of other advertising firms that specialize in election campaigns, but in the end, his insight of the Latino community in his native Texas and across the United States proved to be a powerful factor in Tower's reelection.
In 1978, Tower obtained an astonishing 37 percent of the Hispanic vote in Texas, not a small feat considering that Texas Republicans had never managed to bring even 10 percent of Texan Latino voters to the polls. Tower was so impressed with the work of Ed Yardang that he referred the advertising agency to a journalist from The Wall Street Journal. A news article on Ed Yardang's affinity for marketing to Latinos in the United States turned into windfall for Sosa's fledgling firm.
The Wall Street Journal article attracted firms like Bacardi, Coca Cola and Coors to Ed Yardang. It was a crucial time for American business interests to establish their brands among Hispanic Americans. The oil crisis of the 1970s prompted an economic chain reaction that resulted in the Latin American debt crisis. This in turn created a massive immigration of Latinos, the entrenching of Hispanic American culture and a major new consumer class in the United States. Sosa amassed more clients, including Westinghouse and Canadian Club whiskey.
A Winning Strategy
What made Sosa and his firm so effective at marketing to Hispanic American consumers was their clear understanding and knowledge of the culture and sentiment of Latinos in the United States. After the early success of the Ed Yardang agency, Sosa took his specialty brand of marketing to a significant level by leading several advertising agencies that focused on the growing Hispanic American segment in the United States. His expertise was particularly appreciated by politicians who wanted to capture the burgeoning Latino vote.
His success can be credited to his observation of how the big advertising and marketing firms were handling campaigns geared toward Hispanics in the U.S. The common denominator in these campaigns was the use of clichés. This indicated that the big firms were taking the easy way out when it came to reaching out to Latinos. However, this approach lacked a solid strategy to reach Hispanic Americans, which is what Sosa brought to the industry.
Ignoring clichés and paying close attention to market research to get to know the Hispanic mindset and appeal directly to their emotions was Sosa’s winning strategy. Sosa went on to serve as an advertising and marketing consultant for the late President Ronald Reagan and members of the Bush political family.
Changing Corporate America's Perception of Hispanic Consumers
Sosa noticed that corporate America did not have a clear perspective on the Hispanic American experience. That changed when he applied creative process concepts to the design of his campaigns. He paid close attention to the data gathered from focus groups and developed a strategy that called for the creation of television commercials in both English and Spanish.
Before Hispanic Americans sat in the boardrooms of Fortune 500 companies, executives were forced to place blind trust in the advertising agencies they retained to handle marketing to Latinos in the U.S. Before Sosa and the Ed Yardang advertising agency, executives only got to see commercials produced solely in Spanish for broadcast on TV networks like Univision. By producing commercials in both languages, Sosa helped educatie corporate America about Hispanic culture.
The Truth About Latinos in the United States
Sosa's marketing strategy attracted lucrative contracts to the agencies he led after Ed Yardang. Anheuser-Busch, Burger King, Domino's Pizza and even the United States Army became clients. By evaluating the advertising and marketing materials crafted by Sosa and his associates, corporate America learned about some important aspects of Hispanic American culture. An Army recruiting commercial produced by one of Sosa's agencies highlighted the pride of a mother whose son became a soldier. To this end, Sosa knows about the deep importance of family life among Hispanics. In the past, Army recruiting commercials focused on a soldier's likelihood to encounter adventure, but making Mom proud is far more important for young Latinos than any adventure.
Another change in perception Sosa brought to executive boards and politicians deals with the misconception of Latinos not being interested in American affairs. As a political and marketing consultant, Sosa worked hard to convince candidates that the Hispanic American voter base they wanted to reach is very entrenched in American life and wants to be engaged in English and Spanish. It was this thinking that helped President George W. Bush earn 40 percent of the Latino vote in some districts.
Sosa is involved in other projects that are intended to demystify Hispanic American culture in the United States. He is the author of Think & Grow Rich: A Latino Choice, a book that appeals to the entrepreneurial spirit of Hispanic Americans. Sosa believes that his strategic approach to marketing and advertising can be adapted by others who are seeking success in the world of Latino business ownership. Sosa stresses the importance of making specific goals that are in line with realistic expectations.
Sosa and his wife produced and directed a 24-part documentary TV series for the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) about the early immigration from Mexico to the American Southwest by thousands of families displaced by the bloody Mexican Revolution of 1910. Children of La Revolucion is part of Sosa's continuing effort to raise awareness about a major segment of the Hispanic American ethnicity. Many of the families that escaped the turmoil settled in Sosa's native Texas, and their descendants tell their life stories in the documentary.