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Last year, I was approached by Lee Raymundo, MBA candidate at UCLA. He asked for an interview. He wrote:
“I read your article ‘Marketing to Second-Generation Latinos’ with
great interest and believe your insight would be of great value to me. I have
been trying to understand the behavior and culture of second generation Latinos vs. first generation and what ideals would most likely appeal to them. I understand that Bud Light is especially popular with this segment but have so far, struggled to understand why.”
He explained that his team was working with Budweiser, “on understanding the most effective way to reach the Latino community with a brand that resonates with this segment.” So, we addressed his questions. I gave him a general overview on the language preferences for first- and second-generation Latinos/Hispanics, which are basically related to acculturation.
Based on that particular interview and several other similar conversations, I have concluded that many professionals trying to reach Latinos/Hispanics assume that Latinos/Hispanics fall into one single market–an assumption that is too general.
“Latino/Hispanic” is a term used in census-taking to track people whose
heritage can be traced to 21 countries in Latin America plus Spain (Europe),
but should not be used—or misused—when marketing to a specific population under this umbrella term.Thus, every time I am asked to talk about Latinos/Hispanics, I always reply with the same question, “Which segment of Latinos/Hispanics?”
Most people do not understand the huge cultural, socioeconomic, and generational differences among Latinos aside from their country of origin, language of preference, and acculturation levels. Language is of utmost importance. Yet, it should not be understood simply as English vs.Spanish, but how well the target group speaks either language and how extensive is their vocabulary in either one.
Other questions include: Has the market segment been schooled and/or received college degrees in Spanish or in English? Do they prefer reading in English but speaking Spanish at home? It might be that English is the language they learned to read and write grammatically, but they prefer the emotional connection associated with the sounds and certain words in Spanish. Our accents and the extent of our vocabulary tell a lot about who we are culturally, where we come from, our education and socioeconomic levels–all of which are important marketing indicators for Hispanic marketing strategic planning.
There is also the “American Latino/Hispanic” layer, which encompasses all Latinos/Hispanics living in the U.S. and can be very subtle. For instance, most first-generation, Spanish-dominant Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. know common English-language terms they use in their daily lives even though their primary language is Spanish at home and work.
Moreover, there are cultural dimensions that second-generation, bilingual and English-dominant Latinos/Hispanics do not give up and that includes collectivism—us, we, nosotros. That is the one specific example I gave to Mr. Raymundo. I told him that whatever message he is trying to communicate across the board with Latinos/Hispanics, do not market to them through an individualistic identity—me, I, only myself—because that’s crossing into assimilation terrain and an assimilated Latino/Hispanic no longer counts culturally as a Latino/Hispanic.
By Mari D. González
I’m a graduate student in Intercultural Communication doing research on online marketing specific to Latinos in the U.S. and Mexicans in Mexico. I do a lot of reading on the topic and just finished reading Joe Kutchera’s book, Latino Link: Building Brands Online with Hispanic Communities and Content.
His is a complete read on the intricacies of the Latino market from a global and international perspective. He is not simply expressing his opinions. He does extensive research and lets the voices of other experts speak and share their valuable in-the-trenches experiences. Latino Link presents the real step-by-step, “how to” market to Latinos and to middle-class Mexicans who travel from Mexico to shop in the U.S. that I haven’t found in other books.
We already know the Latino/Hispanic market is large and expanding. The numbers are there–just check the Pew Hispanic Center website. Yet, we need to understand the complexities of comparing and contrasting this market within the context of the general market. And, beyond that, he compares the Latino market with Mexico as a stand alone and expanding online market. Kutchera talks about the “invisible consumer,” the affluent and middle-class Mexican buyer whose potential has not been recognized. Why? Perhaps, because most executives and so-called Hispanic marketing consultants have been fixated on the stereotypical Latino/Hispanic and the Mexican (in Mexico) consumer and continue to exploit the market based on such stereotypes.
What I enjoyed most is Mr. Kutchera’s ability to investigate without a preconceived premise or hypothesis. He is open to being surprised and finding new knowledge outside the box even from his own nephews who are habitual internet users and are the present and future consumers. As a consumer behavior researcher who focuses on the cultural and linguistic aspects of the Latino/Hispanic y en el mercado de Mexico, and the market in Mexico, I highly recommend Latino Link.
Edited by Connie Cobb
By Mari D. GonzálezI have recently started watching Telemundo’s “Una Maid en Manhattan” soap opera during my gym visits. For all the bad rap it got by Latina activists when it first came out, its plot, content, and characters are not as bad as I expected.
First, the main character, a maid, Marisa Lujan, is not the stereotypical uneducated and unsophisticated type represented in Latin American dramas where Power Distance by social class is more important than ethnicity.
Second, the maid is not being class ethnified or classed down because of her ethnicity, that is, where a Latina must be from a lower social class than her white middle class boss. Marisa Lujan’s supervisor is a Latino, her middle class peers are Latinos, and the father of her suitor, a U.S. Senator, is also a Latino. In other words, this is a less stereotypical scenario of Latinos in the U.S. The characters are not “caged” in the historically negative label where Latinas are cast as maids or servants of whites in Hollywood movies. “Una Maid en Manhattan” characters have been freed from that category.
Third, the “Una Maid en Manhattan” cast includes Hispanic/Latino diversity, namely black, blonde, and in-between. Although I am still waiting to see a more indigenous, dark face a la Mario Lopez in male roles, Marisa Lujan doesn’t fit the typical protagonist role of Mexican and Venezuelan telenovelas whose producers tend to prefer actresses who are blonde, European-looking, and heavily made-up by el bisturi , or a surgical instrument.
Lastly, Marisa Lujan is not half-dressed as are Univision’s telenovela actresses–and even most of their newscasters. The half-dressed image is more representative of white-American network executives’ obsession with the “hot-as-a-pepper” stereotype they have formed than with real Latina women in the U.S. and abroad. In fact, in general Latin American countries have warmer weather but only a small proportion of the population live by the beach and actually dress that informally.
Edited by Connie Cobb
From a Hispanic Professionals LinkedIn Group Discussion
By Mari D. González
Our view of ourselves continues to change as the context changes, as we grow in market potential, in political power, and become more educated. No ethnic group named by an out-group has ever been monolithic. The grouping and the naming is usually in the context of a dominant vs. minority group in which the “namer” assumes control. I’m reading about the emergence of a new public identity of Moslems in Germany where they are seen as having a religious identity even when they no longer practice Islam.
Different historical factors influence the relationship between Americans of African vs. Anglo descent and Americans of Latino/Hispanic vs. Anglo descent. The first has been anchored in color alone (which I’m glad is changing) whereas Latinos/Hispanics come from a reverse view of color influenced by Catholic humanistic values where any amount of European blood moved them away from their indigenous or African roots and thus closer to the dominant social group.
I’d say that because I am “blanquita” or “guerita,” and enjoy the unearned privileges that unfortunately come with it, I have even more responsibility to advocate for an educated view of Latinos/Hispanics, immigrants, and any minority for that matter. By the way, “blanquita” and “guerita,” aren’t used as endearments but are common terms in families where one sibling is blonde with light eyes and the other is dark skinned such as in my own family.
I was born and raised in Mexico and moved to the U.S. I have college degrees from both countries, which has definitely shaped my views. And contrary to what the media portrays, the majority of people Latin America are not poor but working class (not much different from the U.S. now in terms of unemployment and job security). Here are Senator Chris Dodd’s words that support my view:
“… the Latin American economy, long defined as “emerging,” has finally emerged. In the five years leading up to the 2008 global financial crisis, Latin American economies experienced growth rates of 5.5 percent, while keeping inflation in single digits. And when the crisis did hit, Latin America stood strong, weathering the crisis better than any other region in the world. While income inequality remains a significant issue (as it does in the United States, I might add), 40 million Latin Americans were lifted out of poverty between 2002 and 2008.”
Below is the Hispanic Professionals LinkedIn group discussion thread that inspired me to write this post.
Member of LinknedIn’s Hispanic Professionals group: “What has happened in the US is that scholarly research and media attention has focused principally on the urban poor and then attributed what they learned about that particular world view to blacks in general.”
Mari: This is exactly what I call “Ethnifying Class,” a term I thought up based on personal experiences as I continue to move back and forth between whites and Latinos/Hispanics in different circles (social classes). I recommend that you read “The ‘Splintering’ of America’s Black Population” which talks about the now recognized socioeconomic diversity among Blacks in the U.S.
Member of LinknedIn’s Hispanic Professionals group: “This does not happen with white Americans … the attitudes and behavior of poor urban and rural whites are not attributed to whites in general.”
Mari: Because whites make up the dominant culture, they can afford to campaign for how they want us to see them. However, it must be a lot more difficult to be poor and white because poor whites are invisible in a way.
Edited by Connie Cobb
By Mari D. González
We Marketers and Latinos who study intergenerational and broad-based Latinos/Hispanics can be both intrigued and frustrated by their complexities. Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. keep growing not only in numbers but in intricacy. Thus, over-simplifying them as a group simply does not cut it. Early demographic predictions indicate that “the final figure could surpass 55 million, or 17% of the U.S. population.” (Ruben Navarrette, March 2011, CNN Opinion). Complete U.S. Census data has not been released as of today.
We need both hard data and a continuous dose of culture to speak as up-to-date and savvy professionals. We need to be informed by statistics but also through collaboration, conversations, self-observation and self-directed research.
Below is my short exchange on Facebook’s Hispanic and Online Marketing group with one of its members and a Hispanic Marketing Consultant.
Mari: Because Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S form a very large and culturally heterogeneous group, one of the complexities relate to “what language marketers should use” when targeting them –Spanish, English, both, and/or the hybrid Spanglish. As you indicate, segmentation is also generational; 18-25 year-olds prefer “bilingual/Spanglish.” I recommend that you check what Univision radio has done, at least in the Bay Area. They have 2 very popular radio stations, La Kalle (bilingual/Spanglish with a good mix of English and Spanish pop music) and Radio Romántica (boleros, groups, rancheras in Spanish only). What Univision may have concluded is that the Spanish-dominants are from an older generation and/or hold onto their country-of-origin values.
HM: Hi Mari and thank you! I will check out your blog and look into your suggestions. Generationally speaking, I’m wondering how the 35-50 year old Hispanics like their content as well, since they make up the largest growing segment of online users. For me, radio is a slightly different animal. It seems I also need to get a current assessment of our main market, Miami, and break down the current profile of online users who live in or travel to this diverse city. And judging from Facebook’s research, their top Hispanic users come from Spain, Mexico, Colombia and Chile. So I’ve got to overlay this somehow since these countries also represent a growing portion of the local Hispanic market. I believe the Colombians are now the second largest socioeconomic group behind the Cubans [in Miami, FL].
Mari: How do 35-50 year-old users prefer content? It all depends on the platform. Is it more professionally-oriented? Then it will be English. Is it more social? Then, it will be a combination of English and Spanish, and of their culture of origin and their culture of residence con un toque Colombiano, Cubano y/o Mexicano [with a Colombian, Cuban and/or Mexican touch]. However, there is this “Latino” encompassing layer that gives us a group identity. So spice it up “con un toque Latino” as well.
Edited by Connie Cobb
By Mari D. González
It is not uncommon to read outrageous statements in discussion forums and blog comments. The anonymity of users gives them more freedom to express their individual opinions without a second thought; this tendency is less common when people use their real names.
A few weeks ago, I read this comment on a well-liked Latino blog: “Mexicans have no clue, their Spanish it’s [is] the worst among the Central American people.”
I wrote the following response:
1) Mexico is part of North America not Central America, and NAFTA refers to the North America Free Trade Agreement between Mexico, Canada, and the U.S.
2) Mexican Spanish includes words from the 60 Indigenous languages officially recognized by the Mexican government. The extent of the Indigenous influence is due to Mesoamerica (Central Mexico southward through Central America) being the center of the first most developed pre-Hispanic civilizations in the Americas.
3) Most Mexicans are proud of their Indigenous background and cultural make up. As a Mexican, I speak Mexican Spanish because that is my mother tongue; I use Spanglish with my Latino(a) friends in the U.S.
While we acculturate and adapt to the United States by keeping up with the challenge of “straddling two cultures” that is a common topic among Latina bloggers, let us not forget where we come from and the values we learned there such as respect for language differences and the nuances of language use. Let us “preserve our unique cultural identities” and “continue defining ourselves” without shoving others out of the way.
Welcome to the sequel or Chicano movement Part II, which is now more about integration than differentiation, and should be termed the “Latino Movement.” The term Latino was officially established in 1997 by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget. It indicated that the terms Hispanic and Latino were to be used interchangeably beginning January 1, 2001.
Edited by Connie Cobb