ISSUE NO. 65 06/06/12

Pizza Patrón, a pizza chain based in Dallas, serves pizza to a largely Hispanic client base, and 70% of its patrons are Spanish-speaking. In order to appeal to the Hispanic community, the chain of 104 stores offered a free pepperoni pizza to anyone who asked for it in Spanish. The "Pizza Por Favor" ("Pizza Please") promotion, which was limited to June 5th between 5 and 8 p.m., was expected to give away as many as 80,000 pizzas.

Though executives at Pizza Patrón are pleased with the opportunity to simultaneously honor immigrants and have consumers sample their $4.99 large pizza, not everyone believes requiring Spanish is a good move. For instance, Peter Thomas, chairman of the Conservative Caucus, which lobbies for English to be the United States' spoken language, told USA Today that, "It seems to punish people who can't speak Spanish, and I resent that." He added, "In public areas, people should be speaking English, and that includes pizza parlors." At the other end of the spectrum is Hispanic Marketing Group president Marcela Gomez who also condemns the promotion. "Maybe they thought it was a cute thing to do, but I think its discrimination," said Gomez. "As an advertising agency, I would never recommend this to my client."
But Pizza Patrón's brand director, Andrew Gamm, is confident that this promotion hits the right note. Given that the chain's target market is Hispanics, Gamm said, "It makes perfect sense for us. We're trying to make our bond with the Hispanic community stronger."

The amount of controversy this innocuous-seeming promotion stirred up is surprising but, at the same time, it is also telling in that the mere suggestion of using Spanish over English is a genuinely heated issue. Though the pizza chain sees this as an inclusive outreach, some see it as exclusionary. Ultimately, every brand and every retailer who wish to win over the coveted Hispanic shopper segment will have to decide which side of this issue they are on. They will have to decide whether they want to overtly court Hispanics and risk earning the ire of those who would feel left out or covertly appeal to them by trying to minimize exclusionary language and offers.

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"Pizza Patron's Free Deal for Spanish Orders Raises Eyebrows," USA Today, 5/22/12

give-aways, Hispanic shoppers, Pizza Patron

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