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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
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
THE PREMISE: “America’s corporations can no longer ignore Hispanic marketing like Mitt Romney did.”
THE RELUCTANCE: “Companies [have failed] to understand the importance of being culturally relevant because they first-and-foremost have their brand’s interests – rather than Hispanic consumer’s cultural values, preferences and passion points – at heart.” Armando Azarloza
THE CHALLENGE: “Companies are deprived of diversity in leadership, [thus] lack the imagination, creativity, authenticity and innovation to market to today’s fast growing demographic shift.”
AND THE GOOD NEWS: “Hispanic small businesses are growing at twice the rate of the national average – generating over $350B in annual revenues (that some estimate is closer to $650B).”
The article “9 Little Translation Mistakes that Caused Big Problems” by Arika Okrent has clear examples of wrong translations and the implications for intercultural communication, international relations, and marketing.
Interestingly enough, most examples in the article involved translators who translated into their second or third language and not into their native language. Food for thought.
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
I am very please to have an echo on the fact that the more the number of Latinos/Hispanics in the U.S. increases, the more they need to be segmented because their complexity as well increases.
Last July, I submitted a research paper for possible publication at the Journal of Internationalisation and Localisation (JIAL) titled “Interactive Food & Beverage Marketing: Targeting Latino Youth in the Digital Age.” The study covered:
“Recent interest in the Latino/Hispanic population and culture has lead to fruitful research and increased attention on U.S. Latinos/Hispanics…. Marketing that targets Latino/Hispanic youth, has become promising, specialized, and lucrative. [This study] investigates the type of cultural knowledge marketing researchers are using to target Latino/Hispanic youth…. It explores how the ever-growing access to digital media changes the way the food and beverage companies do business with Latino/Hispanic youth” (Gonzalez, M.D., 2009, p. 4).
My findings show that Latinos/Hispanics specifically youth are creating a new “hybrid” culture which marketers need to take into account. They cannot effectively be reached by Spanish-only media nor are they being attracted to mainstream mass media because they do not culturally identify with it.
Marketers are loosing the mark of this large and continuously growing population of bicultural and bilingual digital media savvy generation if they do no pay attention to what matters to them. For instance, while they listen to the whole spectrum of music in English, from rock to hip pop, they also listen to “rancheras” (Mexican country music) by Vicente Fernandez.
The following information posted by Louis Pagan makes an interesting comparison on how Latinos/Hispanics continue to use their cultural strengths such as “being personal” and “sociable” while using media to network and advertise: http://louispagan.com/?p=453