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To attract “Spanglish” speakers, you need to appeal, invite, and get close to a younger generation of Latinos who do not necessarily are fully fluent in Spanish but have acquired the emotional vocabulary of their parents’ language.
Speaking Spanglish represents having a dual and hybrid cultural identity. The language itself is a mix of what is relevant in Spanish but does not exist in English or cannot be completely expressed in English.
By Mari D. González
The Oscars’ controversial comment by Sean Penn when presenting Alejandro González Iñárritu is a great example on how communication between members of Low-context and High-context groups causes misinterpretation.
According to anthropologist and intercultural communication pioneer, Edward T. Hall, North European and North American macro-cultures would be defined as “Low-context” because their communication preference is characterized by explicit verbal messages. Hall further explains that in Low-context, “Effective verbal communication is expected to be direct and unambiguous.” On the other hand, societies from the rest of the world including Latin America, Asia, and Arab countries utilize “High-context” communication in which, “most of the information is part of the context or internalized in the person; very little is made explicit (Hall, as cited by de Mooij, 2014). In these countries, people are programmed to read context and meaning between words.
Low-context communication is related to an individualistic identity in which people are “I” conscious and express private opinions publicly. Conversely, in High-context or collectivist societies expressing personal opinions and disregarding group of reference’s perceptions is not recommended. There is a risk of making them feel humiliated or what Asians call “losing face.”
In collectivist cultures, personal identity is related to and not separate from that of the group of reference as in “we.” An offense to a person of that group is an offense to all members who identify with that in-group. Hence, a perceived offense to Iñárritu could be perceived as an offense to those who identify as Mexicans because their individual identity is not separate from that of the group of reference as it is for members of individualistic cultures.
I’m yet to see how “Tu vales por two” resonates with bilinguals because “two” sounds contrived. The Spanish phrase is, “Vales por dos.” Replacing “dos” for “two” does not make this phrase Spanglish. It makes it incorrect in English and in Spanish and for that matter in Spanglish.
This is a good example of amateur Spanglish, non-fluent Spanglish or Spanglish for beginners. For Spanglish to work, it has to be a mix of emotionally-charged words in Spanish that are commonly known among Spanish speakers which do not translate in well English or words that were first learned in English and never learned in Spanish because they are too long or impractical.
Spanglish is an “insiders” language that is learned through socialization and mingling with other Spanglish-speakers. Spanglish is spoken among a subculture of in-group members who grew up speaking Spanish and English simultaneously.
By Mari D. González
Every time I hear complaints about the lack of diversity in Hollywood movies, I wish those who are dissatisfied and passionate about portraying a more realistic picture of the world resolved to change things around.
The reality is that in recent years, white-Americans have become a minority group in California while Latinos and Asians have continued to grow in numbers.
The movie ¡Hola Venky! is a great example of being proactive. According to the Mexican Heritage Corporation based in San Jose, ¡Hola Venky! is a romantic comedy that highlights Mexican culture and music, and also spotlights Indian culture, creating a rich, modern fusion. “The film follows Venky, a divorced Indian engineer, as he comes to Silicon Valley and falls in love with a Mexican woman, Inez, whose father was a noted mariachi musician.”
Most people who have had any contact with people from India and from Mexico will immediately notice the richness and colorfulness in both cultures’ music, food and dress. That does not mean we should minimize the gaps between these two cultures which can make interactions either captivating or cheerless, depending on how open you are.
But, for those of use who love intercultural communication, ¡Hola Venky! promises to be the perfect movie.
By Mari D. González
The demographic shift presents challenges and offers opportunities to companies and organizations that attempt to understand and serve diverse populations and their broad set of dynamics.
“Asians were the nation’s fastest-growing race or ethnic group in 2012. Their population rose by 530,000, or 2.9 percent, in the preceding year, to 18.9 million.” –U.S. Census Bureau
“Latinos now account for 17% of the U.S. population, up from 13% in 2000.” -PHC, 2011 Census
“One in six Americans is Hispanic. Ignoring Latino tastes is daft which is why American firms are at last getting serious about pursuing the Hispanic dollar.” –The Economist, May 2013
“Native Hawaiians and Other Pacific Islanders (climbing 2.2 percent to about 1.4 million), American Indians and Alaska Natives (rising 1.5 percent to a little over 6.3 million), and blacks or African-Americans (increasing 1.3 percent to 44.5 million) followed Asians and Hispanics in percentage growth rates.” –U.S. Census Bureau
This growth and demographic shift presents challenges and offers opportunities to companies and organizations that attempt to understand and serve diverse populations and their broad set of dynamics.
By Mari D. González
I am pleased to learn that there is a newly formed national professional organization that addresses cross-cultural understanding in marketing –The Cross Cultural Marketing and Communications Association (CCMCA). This organization will facilitate and expand a much-needed cross-cultural perspective in the U.S. Thus, the idea that there is a dominant culture to which everyone should adhere is beginning to lose popularity. This acknowledgment informs us that the exponential growth of U.S. micro cultures, or so- called minority groups, can no longer be ignored.
In the last few decades, the conversation on ethnic marketing has paid a lot of attention to Hispanics. At the beginning of 2013, driven by census results in population growth of Asians, African-Americans, and Latinos and by a larger display of political power from those emerging groups, we began to hear less about Hispanic marketing and more about multicultural marketing.
Nevertheless, the term multicultural had already lost its distinctive meaning because it has been overused. “Multicultural” became the kind of I-feel-good-using-it-but-do-not-know-what-it-really-means expression. It lost meaning because many people used it thoughtlessly. Most people do not dare to learn about the culturally different unless they live in Oakland, CA, where there is greater diversity and they are likelier to make friends with people of other ethnicities.
On the other hand, cross-cultural, which means looking at similarities and differences, places social groups on a level playing field. Cross-cultural communication promises to see groups without any hierarchy, to cross over and even get closer to another cultural group. In cross-cultural communication, we learn by looking at how these cultural groups see themselves as opposed to how they have been perceived by the macro or dominant culture, which in this case, would be considered top-cultural instead of cross-cultural.
As a professional interculturalist who has done cross-cultural analysis in marketing, I could not be more delighted that a nation-wide professional marketing organization now exists and has the potential to address domestic, as opposed to international, issues related to culture in marketing and communications. This is an internal, inside the country, analysis of the relevance that the many ethnicities and social groups have in this country instead of, for instance, looking at the Chinese or the European markets.
By Mari D. González
A cross-cultural report, developed jointly by the U.S.’s Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB) and the Interactive Internet Advertising Committee of China (IIACC) shows the divergence of mobile behavior between Chinese and Americans.
This cross-cultural study on smartphone use shows that the Chinese are more engaged with print media than with watching TV in comparison to the general U.S. consumer. Also, the Chinese are less attached to their devices.
Based on Helen Legatt’s article, the differences are as follows:
“While U.S. consumers reported using their smartphones as a secondary
device, while consuming media from other sources, Chinese smartphone
users reported engaging less with other media. Over a quarter of Chinese
(28%) said they watch less television and 27% read less print media.
Overall, when compared to their U.S. counterparts, Chinese smartphone
users were 86% more likely to report less television viewing and 42%
more likely to engage with print media.
At the same time, Chinese smartphone users are less attached to their
devices. While 69% of U.S. consumers said they would not leave home
without theirs, few Chinese felt the same way (6%). Furthermore, while
35% of U.S. smartphone users say that their device is the first thing
they reach for in the morning, just 7% of Chinese did so.”
By Mari D. González
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.