Latin-ize your world

Powered by the 2010 Census results, there has been some buzz around the Hispanic marketing arena about what the rapid growth among U.S. Hispanic populations will mean for the future of marketing to Latinos. Traditionally, Hispanic advertising has been seen as a niche-marketing specialty. It was primarily driven by a need to customize brand messages to an under-represented Latino population that spoke Spanish. However, recent insights are now challenging this concept as well as the whole idea of demographic based marketing in itself. One popular fact to emerge from the Census found that over half of all children under two are non-whites. This generation will fuel tremendous growth and change in the U.S. population over the next thirty to forty years. Recent reports also indicate that younger Latinos are language neutral – having neither a preference for Spanish or English. They do, however, value bi-culturalism and being both parts U.S. and Latin American. If Latinos are set to become such an integrated part of the U.S. population, regardless of language, should they really be referred to as a niche market?

A recent study by Horowitz Associates has found that many U.S. Latinos are not categorical in their own cultural perceptions. Although many are bilingual and bicultural, the study indicates 72% of Latinos prefer English programming on television. Yet four out ten indicate they watch Spanish language television at least every other day. These insights suggest much about the high value these individuals place on culturally relevant content.

Adriana Waterston, VP of Marketing and Business Development for Horowitz Associates states,

“The Hispanic market has always been complex and diverse, with a market for both Spanish and English language media, marketing, and advertising. It has never been exclusively about language as much as it is about cultural relevance. There is a large and growing opportunity for language-agnostic content and messaging that speaks to the experience of being both American and Latino that will resonate loudly with this bicultural segment.”

It is no longer relevant to expect Hispanic customers to simply adapt to all aspects of U.S. consumer behavior. Some marketers have already been preparing for a new future with new rules. A recent article by Jon Garrido refers to our current national state as Nuevo Hispania and advises marketers to heed the call.

“For decades, businesses and cultural institutions could afford to ignore the Hispanic market. Now, they are chasing it aggressively, because that’s where the money is.

That poses a big challenge. Underrepresented for decades in U.S. commerce and media, Hispanic Americans long ago developed their own commercial, cultural and media channels. And that means companies and institutions can’t just throw open the doors and expect Hispanics to come in.

Those companies and institutions must go to the customer.”

We can no longer assume acculturation is a one-way process that measures the level of Latino assimilation to the U.S. way of life. The truth is, the U.S. is also becoming acculturated to the Hispanic way of life – a Latinization, if you will, of America. Just like marketers of general market products seeking Latino consumers, some manufacturers of traditionally Hispanic market products are re-aligning to attract new general market consumers. Novamex, the manufacturer of the popular Mexican soft drink Jarritos, is now expanding its focus from Latino consumers to the general market. Initial consumer research has found Jarritos, with its unique flavors and colorful variety, has a very appealing product value to non-Latinos. I have no doubt we will see more Latin American products and services going mainstream.

What is important is not how well we understand the facts and figures that tout Latino growth and influence, but how well we understand what it means for the current state of the U.S. Perhaps the question should not be “what is it like to be Latino in America?” but rather “what is it like to be an American in a Latinized nation?”

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