PepsiCo's Javier Farfan Wants to Reinvent Latino Marketing

For some, marketing is just a way to sell a product to a consumer. For Javier Farfan, 36, it is much more.

The senior director of cultural branding for PepsiCo thinks that by shifting the way his company approaches minorities, he can shift the way they are viewed by society. That is especially critical for Latinos because, while the population has grown in size and economic and political strength, it is still pigeonholed and on the periphery in Main Street America.

“It is a powerful thing when Latinos start seeing themselves in the media,” he said. “They are being part of a broader conversation.”

Marketing to Latinos is traditionally an afterthought, he said. Products would be created and then marketed and then translated into Spanish. Or a separate set of Spanish ads would be created, effectively assuming the population lived in isolation.

Farfan thinks that the trick to reaching Latinos is to reverse that thinking and either create products up front that will appeal both to Latinos and to mainstream America or to create ads that can similarly crossover.

For example, they have hired Sofia Vergara to be a spokesperson for diet Pepsi with commercials that air on mainstream channels. In addition, they use David Beckham to appeal to Latino soccer sensibilities while providing a recognizable face for American audiences.

Sofía Vergara Works Hard to Look Good

Moves like this, Farfan says, are necessary. Latinos are not exclusively immigrants who watch only telenovelas and never leave their neighborhoods. Instead, they have lived here for generations and are woven into the American fabric.

That is why Farfan stresses that music and dancing be used to connect with Hispanic-Americans who watch mainstream media, rather than creating a separate advertising campaign that relies primarily on language.

“I think back in the day… the Hispanic community, and more power to them, created a marketplace for themselves that said, ‘Hey, we need a voice within the media,’” he said. “But I think it simplified who we were now that we’re going to second and third generation.”

And rather than just assume that all Latinos are the same, Farfan has done something that few others have: he’s gone into neighborhoods to understand nuance by taking in particular field data.

When people think Latino, they tend to think of those living in Los Angeles, New York or Miami. But Farfan has gone outside of that box and looked at border towns and seeing the similarities between second- and third-generation kids in those areas and mainstream America, according to Hispanic marketing expert and Pepsi advisory board member Isabel Valdes.

“He has a very deep knowledge on these segments,” Valdes said. “And he is taking this practice to a new level.”

Industry insiders are taking notice.

“Pepsi has a more nuanced view of the Latino demographic,” said Jake Beniflah, who has established a nonprofit organization called the Center for Multicultural Science. “Instead of looking at and conceptualizing consumers as Spanish speaking and culturally different, they are segments within the Hispanic population. Some are closer to mainstream consumer, some are closer to their home country.”

Fashion Scene Booms in Hipster Tijuana

What Pepsi and Farfan are doing may not be revolutionary in the market place, but they are taking on a more sophisticated approach that many say is the way advertising has to go.

“The trend is to look at Hispanics more holistically,” said Miguel Martínez, VP of Hispanic Services at Market Research Services Inc. “Marketers are realizing not all Latinos speak Spanish and they value being talked to in a way that is culturally relevant to them.”

Farfan’s interest in this type of marketing dates back to his childhood in Washington Heights. Born to Ecuadoran parents, he was born and raised in New York City and watched as his neighborhood evolved from being an Irish stronghold to being home to a large Dominican population.

10 Top Dominican Models

“I was always culturally different,” he said. “So I was reflective of nuances of culture and how it impacts and influences society.”

He started off in Seattle working at Microsoft and trying to target Latinos. He started to see how technology’s rapid growth changed the media. With many more outlets for communication being developed, the way consumers were being approached was getting fragmented. So his business degree from New York University was quickly becoming outdated. And he had to use his personal history to think bigger and broader. He landed at Pepsi in 2010 with that mentality fresh on his mind.

While his job is to sell more Pepsi, his dream goes well beyond that.

“[This style of marketing] has a drastic impact, now we have ownership over how we want to portray ourselves and show the complexities in our lives,” he said. “It shows the power and influence we have at this point in our lives. And that’s causing people to listen more about the size of the community and the dollars per consumer they can win, so we need to elevate the way we interact.”

Soni Sangha is a freelance writer based in New York City.

Follow us on
Like us at

Soni Sangha is a freelance writer based in New York City.

Like us on Facebook
Follow us on Twitter& Instagram