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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.
Last year, I wrote a paper for school on the meaning of the terms Latino and Hispanic according to the people being categorized. Aside from the literature review, I interviewed eight self-identified Latinos or Hispanics and these were my findings.
Since its inception by the U.S. Office of Management and Budget in 1977, the term Hispanic has been both controversial and accepted by different circles to categorize people with ancestry in Spain and Spanish-speaking countries of the Western hemisphere. Some argue that choosing one label over the other is a matter of assimilation while others choose a label to state pride of having developed an agreeable ethnic identity. Several authors (Martin, 2005; Acuña, 2000; Gonzales, 1999; Rodriguez, 2007) acknowledge the political implications behind the choice of a specific label. Martin (2005) in particular proposes to analyze the term Latino in the context of “reinterpretation” of an existing name that has sprung from political movements dating back to the 1960’s (p. 397). Other researchers (Korzenny & Korzenny, 2005; Rodriguez, 2007; Davila, 2001) recognize a different and significant dynamic – the capitalizing of the consumer power through the use of the label Hispanic which is representative of a common linguistic indicator.
The term Hispanic is inaccurate because is not perceived by the receivers as representative of their “broader culture” and because it implies that “all” Latino/Hispanic speak Spanish. The term Hispanic does however speak of the Spanish colonization from which the Spanish language was instituted. Yet, not all people who live in Latin America speak Spanish such as the many Indigenous people across the continent. The term Hispanic however, is seen as convenient through the use of census data to make the case for the allocation of funds that support language-based social service programs and for marketers and advertisers to sell Spanish media programs by arguing that if not all, the majority of Hispanics prefer to speak Spanish.
Individuals who are more aware of the labels’ socio-politics argue that neither the term Hispanic nor Latino applies to them because they want to distance themselves from the negative stereotypes more commonly attached to Mexican immigrants and people of Mexican descent who have dealt with a second colonization by historically being categorized as second-class group since the time their first-class citizenship rights were stripped off them in the nineteen century when the U.S. west border moved further south.
Californians in contrast to New Mexicans prefer using the term Latino(a) when given the choice between Latino(a) and Hispanic. For more educated Californians, “Latino” is the new Chicano in that it evokes their indigenous roots, a shared history of struggle and the colonization of the people in Latin American countries. Latino as a term is self-appropriated; it comes from the people which might have been the legacy from the Chicano movement. It is not surprising that Latinos in California are more aware of the political connotation of the term Latino because Chicano studies departments are at many state universities in the Southwestern United States, particularly in California.