Q&A with Lucia Ballas-Traynor

Lucia Ballas-Traynor is a marketing and media executive with extensive experience in building and leading top Hispanic media brands across digital, mobile, TV, print and live events.

Do you feel that one culture (American or Latino) has a stronger day-to-day influence on the content- and commerce-related choices that Latinas make in their lives?

No. I feel that Latinas intuitively adjust their cultural temperature (more American or more Latina) throughout the day depending on a few variables — a particular situation that they may face (when turbulence hits my flight I instantly turn into a loca Latina); where they are during the particular time (at home, at the office, shopping at a mass retailer or at the local bodega); who they are with (family, friends, colleagues, Latinos, or Americans); the role that they are playing (mother, daughter, worker, lover); and the task that they are engaged in (cooking, listening to music). For example, when a Latina becomes a mom, she wants to pass on her culture, values, and traditions to her kids. When she's home, she tries to infuse Latin flavors into her cooking, expose her kids to Latin music, and read traditional Spanish nursery rhymes. But in the corporate world, she pulls upon her American style of communication and personal appearance to succeed and integrate herself.

When looking to influencers, what is more important to Latinas — topical expertise or a topical expert who understand the Latina experience?

A topical expert who understands the Latina experience is the ideal and most effective influencer. To build trust and credibility with Latinas, authenticity and relevance are crucial. This is especially important in key categories such as food, beauty, style, and health, which are deeply influenced by a culturally unique set of values, attitudes, and behaviors. So, for example, using a renowned American chef to tout the benefits of a particular food brand will do the job of reaching Latinas, but using a chef who is recognized as an authority among Latinas and uses a recipe that infuses the Latin flavors will engage Latinas and sell the product.

Share an example of a brand that you feel does an excellent job of engaging and communicating with Latinas overall. Are there any lessons to be learned from their successes?

There are many brands that have done an excellent job of engaging and communicating with Latinas. There are at least two lessons to be learned from these particular brands. One is that the most successful brands have dedicated multicultural expertise and have a deep understanding of the Latina consumer. Second is that the most successful campaigns have been driven by an insight that is universal yet unique to Latinas. Target, as an example, has multicultural experts on its own marketing team as well as at its advertising agency. One of my favorite Target baby commercials airing on mainstream English-language TV networks was rooted in two insights — Latinas are driving births in the US, and for new Latina moms, retaining and passing on cultural traditions is crucial. Target featured what looks like a Latina and her family in the commercial and the song playing — "If You're Happy and You Know It" — started in English and then switched to Spanish.