Segmenting the audience is a marketing-strategy cornerstone. It allows the marketer to target customers who share unique needs, purchasing behaviors and identifying characteristics.

The beef checkoff program does segmentation successfully with its “Beef. It's What's for Dinner” ad campaign. The industry's target segment is adults 25-54. The checkoff's nutrition ad campaign has an even tighter segment — health-conscious adults between 35 and 64.

The beef industry uses this segmentation to focus limited checkoff resources on matching the audience to beef's unique capabilities — delicious beef that has a great enjoyment factor and beef's 29 lean cuts for health-conscious consumers.

But how does the industry segment the rapidly growing U.S. Hispanic population that may not identify with the current ad campaign? The U.S. Census Bureau reports one of every eight persons in the U.S. is Hispanic, but that segment is far from homogenous.

They may come from Mexico, Central and South America, Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic or Cuba. Or they may have been born in the U.S. Each country owns a unique culture and cuisine. Each country has developed its own vernacular and idioms within the Spanish language.

So an ad slogan that targets consumers of Cuban heritage in Miami may not register with Mexican immigrants in Texas.

“The Hispanic population clearly presents opportunities for the beef industry,” says Rick Husted, National Cattlemen's Beef Association (NCBA) executive director of market research. “It's already a big market that will grow to the No.-1 ethnic group in the U.S.”

But, he adds, this population also presents challenges in directing checkoff resources to a national plan. The plan must segment the Hispanic population for the highest impact while providing producers the best return on their investment.

In addressing this challenge, Husted says 2006 primarily will be a research year. In the interim, NCBA is staying current with the marketing efforts of two states with high concentrations of Hispanic consumers as they address their own opportunities.

“We're gathering insight from work the Texas and California beef councils have done as input into how to proceed,” Husted says. “These states have done a great job of putting a face on this market. Their efforts will be of great value as other states consider if and how to address the Hispanic market.

“We've discussed how best to address the Hispanic market; we need to feel confident any decisions we make are data-driven and in the best interests of the beef industry,” Husted says.