Why @Target Needs to Stop Latino Ethnic Marketing: The “BODEGA” Fail

It started innocently for us. We were going into a local Target in Stoughton, Massachusetts (a hotbed of Latino culture, by the way) to grab a cup of coffee, as we walked in, we saw this right in front of the store's entrance:

So we walked a bit more.

Until we came here.

Now, for those who think this is yet another "here we go again moment we're offended moment" (we're actually not, because occurrences like the Target Bodega #FAIL are happening on an almost daily basis), that is not the point. This speaks to a bigger issue: if American advertisers are really serious about winning the hearts and minds of the US Latino consumer, they HAVE to be more authentic, they have to be more savvy, and most importantly, they have to truly understand the cultural nuances of the market.

Take the case of the BODEGA Fail. Here is why it missed the mark:

  • It tries to segregate the Latino consumer by communicating the sales message that the discount section (which is in the way back of the store) is the section with a big and flashy Spanish word on it. You know those Latinos who like to buy cheaper things and buy in bulk!
  • The use of BODEGA gets lost in translation. Sure to a Mexican American consumer, the notion of a warehouse would work, and maybe this concept will find no fault in the Southwest. However, to an urban New York Latino, for example, the BODEGA is more than just a grocery store. It is a community hub, where the neighborhood gathers to get food products, buy their newspapers, get a beer, some smokes, their local gossip. Bodegas in New York City traditionally served an underserved community. They were local and authentic. They were definitely not a discount section that sells diapers in bulk or gallons of dishwasher liquid. And to the Spanish speaker from Spain, a BODEGA means a wine cellar. Now if Target actually HAD a wine section, that would work.
  • To those who say well, BODEGA also means grocery story. Sure, but it is a word with so many connotations that it can confuse people and insult some of them as well. Target should have been safer with its choice. For us, when we saw BODEGA, we were expecting to buy an Old English 40 and an El Diario in the back of Target, not tampons. And we understand that to those who are of Mexican descent, this word is not problematic. But Mexicans aren't the only Latinos in the United States. Sorry, Target, you perplex us.
  • It makes the assumption that Latino consumers are "special", hard to reach, and know nothing about department stores. In a culture where the Sears catalog was required reading in some Latino families and places like Costco and BJ's do very little to pander to Latino consumers but do quite well, Target entered a slippery slope. Why take a chance a poorly worded and executed campaign? Just sell your products, Target. Do you HAVE to make it LATINO with a prominent banner?
  • The message can turn off non-Latino consumers. Wouldn't it confuse those people who have no clue what that section means? Wouldn't you just rather say, CLEARANCE or DISCOUNT?

In the end, Target will still be Target. But advertising to Latinos is a tough job and Target should hire an agency that doesn't just use an English-Spanish dictionary. The agency might also realize that the US Latino market is just not a Mexican American one. What works in Texas won't work in New York.

If you are going to play in that world, you better get it right. There should be no questions and no doubts.

Because in the end, you just become a American company to speaks down to Latino customers, instead of a company that speaks to Latinos and respects their purchasing power.

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