No longer the fastest-growing immigrant group, Latinos still occupy a special place in the multicultural pantheon.
It's a story that got a lot of attention last week, but not so much from the Latin-American marketing community. And it's too bad, because Latin-American marketers have a lot to add to this topic.
The story, reported here and many other venues: Asians are now the fastest-growing group of immigrants, overtaking Latinos. The numbers come from a recent Pew study and they've earned decent coverage in the mainstream press. But there are at least three things that Latino-American marketers can add to the conversation that might otherwise fail to rise to more interesting climes:
The Asian influx is a complex thing. My co-columnist Gustavo Razzetti and I have written about the complexity of the Latino "metatribe" many times. Latinos are not a single monolithic tribe; we are many. The same is true for Asians; perhaps even more so. Whereas Latinos are bound at least by ties to a single language, the Asians counted in the Pew study come from radically different cultures separated by different languages. What do Chinese, Filipino, Indian, Vietnamese, Korean, and Japanese Americans have in common? It's a question that marketers will need to ask. In the meantime, the missteps that marketers have made with a culture that's less complex - Latinos - can be instructive.
The tech-savvy immigrant? Latin-American marketers - especially those who have come of age in the last generation - might also have something to say about technology. As we have reported here, Latinos are often ranked at the top or near the top of studies on digital, social, and mobile technology adoption. The numbers for various Asian-American groups are just as impressive. Beyond the obvious nudge that marketers ought to be looking at digital channels, there is also the imperative that they start looking at the sociological factors underlying this phenomenon. In a series of blog posts for Forbes, I looked at the potential for social networking tools to enable Latino diasporas to give back to people in their homelands. In a more recent post, I wrote about the launch of a new Silicon Valley company called Interesante that has a diaspora-savvy business model: it enables exiles from Latino countries to shop from vendors back home. Latino marketers who have been following trends like this might have something interesting to say to their Asian marketing brethren.
X marks the spot. Then there's the risk that comes from being number one. The wealth of the Latin American market is just the bright side of a big conversation. There's a dark side, too; for with all the attention comes resentment and scorn. As The LA Times' Gregory Rodriguez noted in a column this weekend, Asian-Americans may become the latest in a series of targets where Latinos were only the last in the succession:
"It's official! A new study by the Pew Research Center proves the old trope true: Asians are the new Jews. All those essentially positive stereotypes you've heard about — the hard work and the Tiger Moms — have made Asian Americans the highest-income, best-educated and fastest-growing racial group in the United States. Not only that, in the last few years, Asians have overtaken Latinos as the largest group of new immigrants to the U.S.
This is all good news — both for Asian Americans and the United States — but the Jewish comparison has a dark side. Once the cheering over this study, titled 'The Rise of Asian America,' has subsided, we might remember it as the dawn of a new era of anti-Asian bias."
Indeed. And one thing that Latino marketers might share - just as Jewish marketers (admen, Mad Men, and other professionals of old) taught the world, there's a lot you can do with the powers of persuasion. Latinos may not have the income or education that Asians have attained, but Latino marketers have come a long way in helping their own to take power and advance themselves despite and because of their status as targets. Time to start sharing that hard-earned wisdom. Already Asians have been targeted, for many years. But there's nothing better to advance a cause than the celebrity of being "number one."
Giovanni Rodriguez is an author, consultant, and public speaker on organizational leadership and digital/social communications. The views expressed in this blog are entirely his own.
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