Great Idea, Poor Execution? Five Reasons Why Rolling Stone’s “Latino” Issue Misses Mark

Nov 12, 2012
11:02 PM

The current wave in marketing has agencies everywhere telling brands that if you don't go "Latino," you will miss out on the NEXT BIG THING. So in a world where agencies are looking for business and brands are now ready to spend on the "Latinization" of their offerings, it is getting messy out there.

Add to the fact that when brands finally go "Latino," they have only one shot to get it right, and you can understand the pressure. In the rush to embrace the U.S. Latino market, many brands will get bad advice. Such is the case of brands like Clorox Latino. If the Latino connection doesn't fit, don't force feed it because most of the time, the brand will just stumble out of the gate and it will look unauthentic and stale.

Which brings me to what everyone in the Latino space is talking about this week: Rolling Stone's bilingual issue, which will hit the stands later this week. You can read the reasons why it is such a GREAT IDEA somewhere else. Here is my five reasons why I think this is just another example of a interesting initial idea that got lost in the execution phase. And another example of a "Latino" idea gone bad.

  1. Pitbull? The best that Rolling Stone can do for its first cover is Pitbull? I can understand if this were another magazine, but this is Rolling Stone,  a brand that I have known since the early 80s, when I became a loyal reader. To me, the magazine and the brand have always tried to take risks. You would think that when it came to its first bilingual issue, it would have taken a risk. If Rolling Stone REALLY knew what was up and if it wanted to gain some cred in this first issue, choosing Calle 13 over Pitbull would have been the way to go. But I guess Calle 13 is too edgy for a magazine/brand that earned its chops from being edgy. Lost opportunity. Just gets us some ads to place and we can say we are down with Latinos. Yawn.
  2. The "Café Tacvba is the Radiohead of Mexico" Headline: Really? This is the problem with mainstream English-language U.S. magazines. Being hip means you come from England (Radiohead), but Café Tacvba, who I will argue was just as influential to bilingual and bicultural kids growing up to different types of music, is just a second-class band that reminds you of Radiohead. Hey, you think this is just me who is saying this? Univision News mentioned the poor comparison in a profile about the legendary band, and the head of Rolling Stone México basically had to tell his readers that the main Rolling Stone brand has no flipping clue about Café Tacvba (mistake #1: the U.S. magazine spelled it "Cafe Tacuba"), as well as anything else about rock en español in Latin America. The letter even said that the list of the 10 Greatest Records of Latino Rock sucked. Imagine that when other magazines in your family basically tell you that your knowledge of music in Latin America is awful. Ouch. (Advice to Rolling Stone: maybe you should actually have your Latin American properties develop the next bilingual issue?)
  3. Any magazine that features Sofía Vergara these days is just shilling to a PR agency: Once again, yet another English-language publication celebrating the "amazing" contributions of Sofía Vergara. The Charo Factor lives on! Is Sofía a stereotype or is she more than that? As if making it an intellectual debate will gloss over the fact as to why she is in the issue in the first place. You have male readers. Putting Sofía in the issue will attract those male readers. If Rolling Stone really wanted to gain some respect, it would have added  Ana Tijoux's name to the cover? Yes to Sofía, but no to Ana? Come on.
  4. The ads and the rational behind them: I am not making up the next few sentences. This is what Sundar Raman, marketing director for North American fabric care at Proctor & Gamble, told The New York Times about why it was running Gain ads in this "Latino" section: “Gain scents are more expressive, more emotional, and it just so happens that both Hispanics and African-Americans are more predisposed to scents being more experiential.” W… T…. F. Dear Mr. Raman, please don't talk to the Times any more? Thanks.
  5. The Lost Opportunity: It is clear that Rolling Stone just didn't dig deep enough into its initial Latino issue. Why assume that its growing Latino readership wants to read articles in Spanish? Why overlook so many big musical themes that actually are deeply connected to young bilingual and bicultural music fans? For example, you know what would have rocked? A piece about why almost any true rock fan in Mexico LOVES and WORSHIPS Morrissey and the Smiths. Or what about The Clash and its history of incorporating "Clash Spanish" into its music? These are just two of many interesting and nuanced stories that go beyond an issue that would rather segregate its "Latino" content than celebrate it within the pages of the "mainstream" issue.

That is why in the end, I will just pass on the new "Latino" issue, and I suspect that many Latino Rebels readers would agree. Besides, sites like Remezcla do more more for he Latino music scene in this country than Rolling Stone ever will. If Mr. Raman and the agencies that place the ads for him were smart and savvy, they would start seriously looking at those sites instead of placing their chips into a "Latino" edition that really doesn't reflect the world their target demographic is living in.


Julio (Julito) Ricardo Varela (@julito77 on Twitter) founded (part of Latino Rebels, LLC) in May, 2011 and proceeded to open it up to about 20 like-minded Rebeldes. His personal blog,, has been active since 2008 and is widely read in Puerto Rico and beyond. He pens columns on LR regularly. This year, Julito represented the Rebeldes on CBS' Face the NationNPR,  UnivisionForbesand The New York Times.