Opinion: Political campaigns, corporate America should invest to win big with Hispanics

Sticking with what works is a great strategy — until it isn’t.

Donald J. Trump led a surprisingly successful primary campaign in the crowded Republican field largely by being himself, throwing caution to the wind, and mostly ignoring the perceived wisdom of his party.

All of corporate America should be investing heavily to win big with Hispanics in the future, or suffer the same fate as defunct brands who were caught flat-footed in the past.

— Mike Valdes-Fauli

Love him or hate him, this served Mr. Trump well in a path to apparent victory. That is, until the general election began and the ground beneath his feet changed. Rather than soften his rhetoric and make appeals to the middle, he doubled-down and stuck to his guns.

In the past few weeks, Mr. Trump has seen his poll numbers drop by double digits, witnessed a parade of Republican lawmakers aggressively chastising his remarks and had to fire his long-serving Campaign Manager.

Love her or hate her, a once stagnant Hillary Clinton campaign has smelled blood in the water and shown signs of life. The lesson? One needs to be nimble, willing to quickly pivot and remain aware that what worked well in the past is almost never a recipe for perpetual success in the future.

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Like political campaigns, corporate America would be wise to heed the lesson that past success is not a reason to rest on one’s laurels and replicate the same well-trodden strategies that got you there. The annals of corporate history are riddled with corpses that didn’t follow this sage advice.

Remember Friendster? If so, you’re probably one of the few who does. This once celebrated startup could justifiably lay claim to being the first-ever social media network. Company management seemed to believe that their initial success and first-mover status would insulate them from future competition, and therefore refused to invest in enhancements to user-interface, product features and innovation.

Similarly, Kodak spent several decades as an undisputed leader in all things photography as its domination of the film business delivered a daily pot of gold to company coffers. We were honored to serve as their Latin American communications partner for many years, and witnessed first-hand conversations in which key executives would downplay digital photography’s disruptive role in their eventual demise. This unfortunately had negative ramifications for a company that had once been a giant pioneer and leader in that sector.

And in one final example, Yahoo! has been in the news over the past few years for all the wrong reasons. Without belaboring the company’s multiple woes, it’s accurate to summarize their plight with the phrase “too little too late.”

Marissa Mayer has done an admirable job of throwing the kitchen sink at the fundamental problem; consumers once relied on a single homepage for services like news, weather, sports and e-mail.

Rather than a catch-all aggregator, the consumer norm has now shifted to fragmented specialists that provide niche information and services, and Google is now serving as the primary tie that binds us together (at latest count, over 100 billion Google searches per month).

Those that blatantly ignore obvious trends do so at their own peril. Conversely, in this fast-moving economy the companies that thrive are those which rapidly pivot when needed, spot trends before they happen and are willing to cannibalize their core business to ensure longevity.

One obvious trend is mobile. Just a few short years ago, mobile advertising was barely a double-digit percentage of Facebook’s total revenue. Today, with its stock price, revenue and profit margins soaring, it comprises over 80 percent. That dramatic 180° turn is exactly what is needed in today’s economy.

Another such trend is the Latinization of America, with the Hispanic market now comprising over 55 million people, nearly 18 percent of the population and $1.5 trillion in buying power. For that reason, many marketers such PepsiCo, Procter & Gamble, and Wal-Mart have made big bets on Latinos that have paid major dividends.

The fact is, all of corporate America should be investing heavily to win big with Hispanics in the future, or suffer the same fate as defunct brands who were caught flat-footed in the past.

Like the frog in a pot of water that doesn’t notice its imminent danger from too-slowly rising temperature, brands should take stock of the perils that may already be engulfing them. For that matter, so should Donald J. Trump.