I Envy Pitbull: His Musical Contributions Are Questionable, But He Perfects Hispanic Marketing

I envy you, Pitbull.

You are everywhere.

Germans no longer love David Hasselhoff. They love Pitbull.

You truly are Mr. Worldwide, injecting your 305-fueled lyrical interludes into just about every high-energy song played on contemporary hit radio stations around the world.

Personally, it irritates me.

I’m not a fan of your music; of endless lyrics about fiscal irresponsibility, getting bottle service at a night club, and looking good to score hot chicks; and your ability to present to the world that every Latin guy in Miami is just like you.

Yet I applaud you, Mr. Armando Christian Pérez, the 34-year-old golden boy who first rose to prominence 11 years ago, following 2002 work with hip-hop artist Lil’ Jon.


Because he has emerged as a master of Hispanic marketing, and he may not even realize it.

By navigating around a choppy sea of reggaeton artists and a Latin Urban explosion that is today in sonic and artist transition, Pitbull has successfully infused the sounds and beats that move today’s Hispanic millennial into straight-ahead pop and dance tunes that have found not only a “total market” audience in the U.S. but a global audience as diverse as Muslim teens in the United Arab Emirates, Jews celebrating Israeli Independence Day in Fort Lauderdale, and fortysomething white gay men in South Florida reveling at a black-tie affair in support of cancer research.

What Pitbull has mastered is Hispanic intregration into global messaging.

This is unique and differs from some of the more high-profile marketing executions achieved on a global level. Coca-Cola, a company profiled in the 2015 Hispanic Market Overview, presented by Lopez Negrete Communications, is perhaps the one company that has taken a global message and tweaked and adapted it for specific audiences. “Open Happiness” was the most recent effort that sought to accomplish this.

But “Open Happiness” was not inherently Latino, nor is any other global marketing effort tied around a singular theme.

Pitbull has also demonstrated that, despite what this author thinks about his musical contributions of late, today’s Hispanic culture is bilingual, bicultural and decides at any given moment whether it wishes to speak in Spanish or hear a Latin-tinged beat.

Interestingly, Pitbull has recorded far more works in English than in Spanish. Sure, his use of the Cuban way to say “C’mon” — ¡Dale! — has made it a household phrase in many a household that believes a biblioteca is a church because it is “the home of bibles, right?” The album El Mariel, released in 2006, included several Spanish-language tracks. He even enjoyed his own show from 2007 to 2009, airing in Spanish, on NBC Universo predecesor mun2. In 2010, Pitbull received 7 nominations for Spanish-language work released that year at the Billboard Latin Music Awards.

But it’s songs like “I Know You Want Me,” “Give Me Everything,” and “Fireball” that have grabbed the world’s attention, not “Bon, Bon” or “Echa Pa’lla (Manos Pa’rriba).”

This is an important fact, because it also ties in to the demise of NUVOtv, formerly Si TV; the shift in focus from U.S. Hispanics to Latin Americans by Viacom’s Tr3s, resulting in widespread layoffs; a rebranding of former Hispanic millennial-focused mun2 to sports-and-entertainment focused NBC Universo; and lingering questions about the viability of 24/7 networks “superserving” Latino millennials in English–such as the much-hyped El Rey Network and ABC/Univision joint production, Fusion.

The state of Fusion is addressed in this year’s Hispanic Market Overview by Univision executive Keith Turner.

But Pitbull may have the best answer as to why English-language media focused on Hispanics hasn’t worked: It’s all about relevance, and the best language to bring that relevant content to U.S. Hispanics.

As we learned through interviews conducted for Hispanic Market Overview and from research studies used to prepare the 2015 report, the increasingly bilingual Hispanic population is indeed consuming more English-language media. But, on the whole, it still uses more Spanish-language media and is a consumer group that continues to resonate strongly to Hispanic culture and messaging when delivered in Spanish.

A look at the latest Nielsen ratings confirms that the ratings for any given prime-time telenovela airing on Univision are substantially higher than the top-rated English-language program in Hispanic homes, Dancing With the Stars.

Popularity in U.S.-based sports is indeed growing, with NCAA College Football the next huge growth opportunity for multicultural marketers. But have you seen any dip in soccer ratings?

Meanwhile, Hispanic newspapers and magazines are skillfully learning how to bring old media to a new media world in a fiscally sensible way–something its non-Hispanic counterparts have been struggling with for years.

We even learn why Direct Response is a highly effective way to reach specific segments of Hispanics, since they are not a homogenous consumer group and should not be treated that way by marketers.

In short, it’s time for marketers to get back to basics by understanding that the U.S. Census Bureau did not suddenly wave a magic wand in 2010 and turn millions of Hispanics who communicate in Spanish into English-only consumers. These individuals may watch “The Americans” on FX, but they also may watch soccer on beIN SPORT or Fox Deportes.

Jimmy John’s gets it. While watching the season finale of “The Americans,” the sandwich shop aired a slightly goofy commercial featuring a Hispanic man who comes home after a hard day of work to find his home in disarray. His wife is complaining in Spanish, his kids have made a mess, but he has a solution: call Jimmy John’s. All of the dialogue is in Spanish; the music is Latin. Only the tag line and end message are in English.

I’ve not seen this spot yet on Spanish-language television. But I hope Jimmy John’s is as smart as I think they are, and puts this spot on every channel consumed by Hispanics aged 18-49.

It’s also a shame they couldn’t incorporate a Pitbull song into the spot.

In an uncertain economy that has the potential for growth or could spiral into another recession, one thing is certain: Marketers best start listening to Pitbull’s music a whole lot more, study his rise to fame and transfer those learnings into a savvy marketing plan that taps into both Spanish-language and English-language media.

With Latin themes and smart creative, marketers have only ROI to gain from delivering messages that Hispanics can be proud of while also positively impacting the non-Hispanic consumer.


Adam R Jacobson



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