The advantage, and disadvantage, of cultural signifiers



Blogger’s note:

Miss me? You may notice the long gap between this post and the last …years actually. After taking a break to focus on career and personal goals, I’ve decided to jump back into blogging for Latino Branding Power. I’ve always enjoyed publishing these multicultural marketing related posts and seeing the feedback of readers. I hope to continue to find new and relevant topics to post about–our Latin-American communities continue to evolve and change as before.

Thanks for being a follower of these posts. As always, feel free to comment and connect with me anytime with questions and observations.

Jonathan Barrera Mikulich



The recent holiday season has been time for me to both celebrate and reflect. Music has often been the soundtrack to our celebrations and I tend to reflect on the origins of holiday music and how it has become so beloved.

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Latino Branding Power goes to the Smithsonian!

American Enterprise Exhibit

I am honored to announce that work from Latino Branding Power was curated this past year for display in the Smithsonian’s National Museum of American History. The original design, ¡Lotería, Lotería!: Latinos are Winning in Social Media, now appears in the Smithsonian’s new American Enterprise exhibition, a major installation that chronicles the history of events and individuals that have shaped business in the United States. The exhibition opened to the public on July 1 in Washington D.C. and will be on display for 20 years.

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(Video) Latino Branding: A Critical Marketing Trend


This past month, I had the pleasure of sharing in a panel presentation about the importance of Latino marketing and branding. Presented by the Grand Rapids Area Professionals for Excellence (GRAPE) and hosted at Amway headquarters in Ada, Michigan, the panel discussion featured myself and three other invited guests – all respected Latino/a professionals in West Michigan. What followed was an engaging and well-informed discourse, not only on the subject of Latino marketing, but also about acculturation, demographic labeling, and even politics.

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Branding power case study: el Jimador

el-Jimador_Work_Redesign-Label-DetailRecently, I had the pleasure of connecting with the Minneapolis design firm Cue to discuss their organization’s redesign of the popular tequila brand el Jimador. The tequila was introduced in 1994 and has since become the top selling tequila in Mexico, competing in a saturated market of over 1,300 existing tequila brands. Responding to competition within an increasingly changing demographic base in both the U.S. and Mexico, el Jimador needed to find new ways to appeal to the new multicultural consumer. I was fortunate to spend a few minutes speaking with Ed Mathie, the managing director for Cue, about their efforts to strengthen el Jimador’s brand expression, and get an inside look at how engaging and value driven brand strategies are developed and implemented.

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Todo se transforma: thoughts on Latino leadership and change


Almost two years ago, I shared some thoughts regarding the topic of leadership and Latino communities. At the time, the Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project reported the results of a 2010 poll that indicated the U.S. Latino populace did not feel there existed a single individual that could be considered their national leader. The organization recently released the results of a new survey has that indicated similar data despite indications that also suggest a national Latino leader is needed. Ironically, these results have been released at a time when we in West Michigan are now experiencing a change in leadership within our own Latino community. Again, I feel the responsibility to address how Latino leadership can be engaged with both locally and nationally, and how non-Latino organizations can engage with both Latino communities and leaders regardless of changes that may seem daunting yet inevitable.

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Latino Branding Power awarded Hispanic Business of the Year

Left to right: Orlando Bonifacio, Salvador Lopez, Jonathan Barrera Mikulich, Gloria Lara, Angie Hanks, Veronica Ramirez

Left to right: Orlando Bonifacio, Salvador Lopez, Jonathan Barrera Mikulich, Gloria Lara, Angie Hanks, Veronica Ramirez

This past week, I received one of the greatest honors since I started Latino Branding Power just over two years ago. On Monday, March 25, at the West Michigan Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Annual Awards Banquet, I received the award for Hispanic Business of the Year in recognition for efforts with Latino Branding Power. It was an incredible honor to be recognized by my peers, the West Michigan Latino business community, and the many people who have supported me over the years.

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Latino Branding Power wins design accolades

I am proud to announce that Latino Branding Power’s infographic “Latinos in the U.S. are…” won a placement in the popular American Graphic Design Awards 2012 competition. The annual contest, presented by the magazine Graphic Design USA, highlights projects from designers, studios, and agencies throughout the nation. Originally created in conjunction with the 2010 Census results, the infographic touts statistics about Hispanic growth in the U.S. It is an honor to be considered among the many talented winners within the creative industry and to help give Hispanic influence a voice among them.

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Ferris State University addresses higher education for Latinos in Michigan

This past year, the Pew Hispanic Center released results from the U.S. Census Bureau that found Latino college student populations meeting a number of milestones in 2011:

  • The number of Latinos enrolled in college exceeded 2 million
  • Latinos made up 16.5% of all college enrollments
  • Latinos made up 25.2% of student enrolled in two-year colleges
  • For the first time, Latinos were the nation’s largest minority among four-year college and university students

These milestones reflect a continuing upward trend now seen by many college admissions departments. Should this be a wakeup call for college administrators? One university in rural northwestern Michigan decided to answer the call.

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LATISM delivers

Once again, the LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) National Conference proved to be one of the most vibrant and worthwhile Latino/a interest opportunities available. The three-day extravaganza hosted its 2012 version last month at the Hyatt Regency in Houston. I first attended the LATISM National Conference in Chicago last year at the famed Navy Pier conference center. This year, I had the privilege of being invited as a guest speaker in a panel discussion. Myself, along with Melissa Salas Blair, Claudia Deschamps, Olga Romero-Rios, and moderator Monica Vila, discussed various marketing communication insights on the panel entitled Understanding the New Hispanic Consumer. Our Friday morning panel was lively, well attended, and set the tone for what would be an exciting and invaluable second LATISM experience for me.

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Nos vemos en Houston

I am happy to have been selected as a guest speaker at this year’s LATISM (Latinos in Social Media) Conference in Houston. Last year, I had the pleasure of attending the national traveling conference when it came close to my neck of the woods at Chicago’s Navy Pier. I found the experience both educational and inspiring (you can read my recap post about the 2011 conference here). In Houston, I will be a panelist for a discussion under the business track entitled “Understanding the New Hispanic Consumer”, a session dedicated understanding the key issues businesses must remember to create effective strategies to reach Latinos. I am looking forward to participating on the panel, rekindling old friendships, and making new connections.

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Am I less Latino if I don’t speak Spanish?

San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro

Earlier this year I was intrigued by an article on the NBC Latino website. In an opinion piece by Raul A. Reyes, a question was tackled that I’m sure many of us of Latin American heritage have heard before. If you do not speak Spanish, are you less Latino? Reyes brought up San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro who became well known on the heels of his Democratic National Convention speech. Apparently Castro is not fluent in Spanish and his lack of fluency implies, by some, that his Hispanic heritage may not be perceived as authentic.

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Is controversy appropriate in Hispanic marketing?

Today, the Dallas based pizza franchise Pizza Patrón will launch a one-day marketing effort to connect with its burgeoning Latino consumer base. For a three-hour period, Pizza Patrón will give away free pizza pies to customers who order in Spanish. This seemingly low-key promotion tactic has actually sparked controversy for the pizza chain–mainly from critics who feel rewarding those who order in Spanish is discriminatory. Good or bad, controversy surrounding the marketing stunt has given Pizza Patrón plenty of publicity. Is there a place for controversy in marketing campaigns, even those that reference Latinos?

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Huevos con aceite: Are you missing song lyrics or opportunities?

I remember listening to popular music as a teenager. Sometimes the way lyrics were sung gave much leeway to misinterpretations. Some of the most famous misinterpretations have become almost legendary and many can be found on the website The site is named after the popular Jimi Hendrix song Purple Haze in which the lyrics “’Scuse me while I kiss the sky” have often been misinterpreted as “’Scuse me while I kiss this guy”. Kind of funny. What happens, though, when the layer of a second language defines how an individual interprets the letras of a song? The results can be amusing, if not somewhat clever.

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The end of Hispanic marketing? (Part II)

I had just completed a new blog post this week when the Pew Hispanic Center released another study. This one is about the turnaround in Mexican immigration. According to the report, immigration from Mexico has dropped to zero and possibly even less. Like their previous report about Hispanic/Latino identity, this latest report also has implications for marketers and brands. So, is this now the end of Hispanic marketing? Again, not really.

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The end of Hispanic marketing?

A report this past month from the Pew Hispanic Center states that neither of the terms “Hispanic” or “Latino” has been fully embraced by individuals of… well… Hispanic or Latino origin. While this may not be new news to those of us who belong or work within Latino populations, the report indicates challenges many brands and marketers face in trying to connect with Hispanic demographics. According to the report, half of Latinos identify more strongly with their respective country of origin (Mexico, Puerto Rico, Colombia, etc.) rather than a pan-Latino identity. Is this the end of Hispanic marketing? Not really. The answer, however, may be much more complicated.
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Latinnovating celebrates green Hispanic entrepreneurs

In recognition of Earth Day 2012, I am proud to present a review of the book Latinnovating: Green American Jobs and the Latinos Creating ThemLatinnovating, by author Graciela Tiscareño-Sato, explores the lives, ambitions, and influences of ten Latino business owners who have dedicated their entrepreneurialism to maintaining green business ventures. Latinnovating is essentially a series of well-developed case studies of the ten entrepreneurs and uses their stories as inspiration for students and professionals alike. Published last year, Latinnovating has already earned many accolades and propelled Tiscareño-Sato as one of the top Latina sustainability leaders.

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