Marketing to Latinos: The Challenges of Naturalization

When I started writing this column, I came across a wonderful story. A 101-year-old woman became a U.S. citizen with the help of a 69-year-old immigration document after living on American soil since infancy. On October 12, Eulalia Garcia Maturey had her naturalization ceremony on her 101st anniversary in Brownsville, Texas.

I can’t but stop and draw a parallel between her story and that of Latino marketing. She witnessed the evolution of the Hispanic population in the U.S. The same evolution happened to Latino marketing. What was once a small, isolated segment in the country is now the largest minority (now representing around 17 percent of the total population) and one of the most important growth opportunities for both marketers and advertising agencies.

But, as in every evolution, paradigms and best practices shift.

Latino Marketing Paradigms

I don’t know how many traditional Hispanic professionals would openly admit it, but marketing to Latinos was built on some (old) paradigms that, though only partly true, were very helpful in building an entry barrier.

  • Spanish language was the key driver to segment the audience and separated Latinos from the mainstream population.
  • Latinos were targeted in isolation, as if they lived on a world of their own (food, music, passions, family, friends, etc.).
  • Spanish language TV was the primary media to reach Latinos, supported by outreach/grass-root programs.
  • Marketing strategies were based on the differences between Latino consumers and their general market counterparts.
  • Hispanic agencies were the only experts capable of understanding and communicating with this target.

In a nutshell, Latinos became a target with a different language, culture, and behavior. Let the Hispanics deal with the Hispanics.

Paradigm Shift

With 70 percent of Hispanic consumers self-defining themselves as bicultural, language ends up playing a secondary role. Cultural relevance is the key. Bicultural Latinos live in both worlds; they switch from one culture to another, the same with language. Shouldn’t your strategy live in both worlds, too?

  • Latinos should be targeted inclusively. That means that your general market communication should address and be appealing to Latinos, too, and that your Hispanic strategy should treat your audience as an integrated part of overall America.
  • Social media has become the key to engage with U.S. Hispanics. It’s growing faster, providing empowerment to our segment, and allowing content creation that is relevant both from a culture and a language standpoint. Forty percent of Latinos are creating their own content online (blogs, videos, music, experiences, etc.) and sharing it through their powerful personal networks that are stronger both in size, activation, and – what’s key to social media – influence.
  • Latinos should be targeted holistically. Focusing on Hispanics’ differences alone is as useless as focusing solely on their similarities. As with every human being, when targeting Latinos you should consider them as a whole. Both deep insights and consumer truths help uncover those triggers to create relevant and effective messages.
  • Hispanics are not the exclusive expertise of Hispanic agencies anymore. General market agencies are developing Hispanic capabilities the same way that Hispanic agencies are modifying their offering to serve a target than cannot be kept in a box anymore.

As with Eulalia Garcia Maturey, Latino marketing is also becoming official, though its naturalization may not be featured in the news.

What will the future be like for Latino marketing now that it has also become officially a citizen?

Well, that’s an excellent question. And that’s precisely what we will be discussing in this column every two weeks.

Stay tuned!

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