Four Business Lessons from Bachata King Romeo Santos

Image Source: Felix Cabrera Promotions

Ten years ago no-one would have bet on a three-night sold out show at Madison Square Garden featuring a fairly unknown and not-so-popular genre: Bachata.

Fast forward now and the New York Times refers to the genre and singer Romeo Santos as,

"Crossing Over, No Translation Needed ... Suave, sweet-voiced singer Romeo is a major star and heartthrob... one of the most prominent Latin singers in the country."

Originally from the Dominican Republic, this somewhat controversial genre has roots in the bars and brothels of Santo Domingo. Bachata has now gained commercial viability after young groups like Aventura and recent collaborations by music giants like Juan Luis Guerra, Maná, Shakira and even Usher, have elevated its relevancy to new levels of cross-over inclusion!

The genre's overwhelming success was certainly made clear during this weekend's sold-out show at the Garden featuring Romeo Santos, also known as the king of Bachata. A concert sold-out within hours of its password protected pre-sale, marks the kick-off of an extensive nationwide tour in support of his solo album "Formula Vol. 1." The album debuted in November with the strongest first week sales of any Latin Album in the last four years. The Album has held the #1 position on Billboard's "Top Latin Albums" chart for TEN weeks and has already produced two consecutive #1 Singles.

So what is Romeo's secret? Besides being a great talent and a lady charmer, there is a lot more science and foresight that comes with his recent success; so much so that it is worthy of a marketing lesson for brands and executives wondering how to 'win' in a recession economy.
Here are four simple marketing lessons from the success and recent sold-out hysteria at Madison Square Garden:

  1. Stay true to your roots (or your brand essence, as marketers would say). After leaving the successful group, Romeo didn't deviate from his Dominican and Bachata origins; instead he worked to make it better, more relevant and more appealing with mixes of R&B, sprinkles of English and lyrics that resonate to the core of Latino emotions. Are you working on relevant extensions of what makes you 'you'?

  • Embrace biculturalism (speak English and Español también). Census numbers, Latino identity research studies, new website, channels and more continue to demonstrate there is power in embracing and understanding that being bicultural and bilingual is the trend that wins. Romeo has the advantage of coming from two powerful worlds: the street savvy of the Bronx with his strong heritage of Dominican culture and music. He is bicultural; he is bilingual and not shy to demonstrate it! The concert for example was easily 60/40, Spanish/English!
  • Cross-collaborate to play-off each other's strengths (co-op to win, cross-collaborate and cross-sell). Teambuilding exercises prove it, leadership books preach about it, yet we still see brands being selfish in their intent to win by keeping to their selves most of the time. Physics rules prove there is power in synergy, and Romeo has accomplished this beautifully. His 15-track album features collaborations with the Spanish hip-hop singer Mala Rodriguez, Usher on "Promise" and "All Aboard" with Lil Wayne. I would venture to say that many of the fans that rushed into buying his album were as intrigued as to hear his debut as they were to hear Usher singing bachata en Inglés! He believes in collaboration so much that young bachata sensation Prince Royce made a surprise appearance at his show too.
  • Ride the excitement cleverly! Another parallel lesson I was able to draw from Romeo's overwhelming success at the Garden, was the integration of brands that participated in the event. Loops featuring AT&T opened the show, while Delta Air Lines, an official partner of Madison Square Garden, opened its luxury suite to top Latino influencers, reporters and bloggers to report live from the concert. This is a great example of how a brand can maximize a significant 'general market' investment to connect with Latino influencers with relevancy. Under the hash-tag #ROMEODelta the influencers tweet-casted the concert to their thousands of fans and followers for an exclusive view at the show.
  • Have you checked with your 'general market' comrades into the partnerships, shows, venues of other sponsored properties available to you? I would bet that there is more than one way to maximize them with relevancy for Latinos, but you need to start by asking the question...

    In summary, arts and entertainment--and in this case Romeo Santos-- certainly serve as visible indicators of the latest trends, pop culture and what sticks with our consumers in America. So next time you think of what 'key messaging', promotions, communication approach or talent to choose from, check out the latest music charts, research emerging entertainment trends, and borrow a page or two of their success to make it yours!

    Lili Gil is an award-winning business and Hispanic market expert, business, politics and news media contributor and creator of the online show and channel Moments2CulturRise. She is also co-founder and managing partner of XL Alliance a multicultural strategy and marketing firm dedicated to helping business executives and leaders navigate and enter emerging markets. Gil was recently selected by the World Economic Forum as one of only 190 Young Global Leaders identified across 65 countries for her leadership, community and business impact.