Reaching the Mainstream

When Michelle Jordan began working for Pepsico 24 years ago, the Hispanic community was only a small fraction of the consumer market.

A fraction the company tried to reach with multicultural marketing and philanthropic donations.

Now, Hispanics are the mainstream, she said.

“That is the mainstream market now,” said Jordan, Pepsico’s senior manager for national strategic community partnerships. “The focus has now become multicultural and that is what we call the mainstream.”

Since 1985, one nonprofit organization has helped Pepsico and other Fortune 1,000 corporations better reach out to the Hispanic community: the National Hispanic Corporate Council. Twelve Fortune 500 executives founded the organization that year to facilitate information-sharing on the Hispanic market.

Today, the NHCC and its roughly 62 corporate members continue that mission, sharing information and best practices on marketing, community relations, human resources, procurement and corporate social responsibility.

“These functional areas allow us to gain insights into those areas specifically in the Hispanic community and also allow us to benchmark against Fortune 1,000 corporations, so it’s very cutting edge,” said Jordan, who became chair of the NHCC’s board in January. The “NHCC is rare and unique in many aspects and allows us to gain insights to the Hispanic community that you can’t gain by partnering with any other nonprofit organization.”

The council’s mission is to be the “primary source of information to the corporations regarding the Hispanic market,” something it strives to accomplish through biannual member meetings, online “Webinars,” resources, conferences and community outreach studies on different topics, said NHCC President and CEO Carlos Soto.

The NHCC is based in Arlington, Va., but its meetings are hosted at the corporate members’ headquarters, allowing them to experience each other’s corporate cultures.

“We get to meet those CEOs, we get to interact with all these leadership teams, so that gives us another opportunity to talk about how important the Hispanic community is and how that is driving their business,” Jordan said.

In October, NHCC will host a corporate social responsibility think tank and a conference on Hispanic marketing and new media in Atlanta, Ga.

“The Hispanic market is not a choice if you’re going to stay in business,” Soto said. The conference will address questions such as, “Do we use traditional media? Do we use new media? Do we use a combination of both? What’s the most effective method of communicating our message to the Hispanic consumer?”

The council and its members also work to give back to the Hispanic community. During each meeting, they visit a local middle school or high school to speak with the students about staying in school and going to college.

“They see seven or eight Latinos that are professionals working for a corporation” Soto said. “They say, ‘This person can work for General Motors, I can work for General Motors, so I need to get my education’.”

The Hispanic population has more than doubled since 1980, in 2007 reaching 15 percent of the population with a spending power of more than $850 billion. NHCC’s members – from Starbucks to Wal-Mart to State Farm Insurance – want to tap that market in stores and tap that talent in their companies. NHCC helps them do that, whether they’re at the “dormant level” or “professional level” of Hispanic inclusion, Soto said.

“By partnering with these national organizations like the NHCC, we benefit, the corporation benefits, the organization benefits and we’re able to work and see the benefits to the community,” Jordan said. “So it’s not just about giving money and claiming that you’ve given dollars to this organization and listing it on your Web site, it’s truly a partnership and that’s how NHCC gains strength.”

By Kathy Adams