Latinos and Marketing: The Power of Authenticity

Last Friday, I had the privilege to interview David Iudica, director of strategic insights and research at Yahoo, regarding the second phase of Ethnodynamics.

According to the study, developed by Yahoo, Mindshare, and Added Value, marketers must understand the nuances between the two generations of Hispanics, and how acculturation affects their preferences.

Also, it emphasizes the importance of the vast Latino population growth with a projected spend of $1.5 trillion for 2015. I can’t help but think about “Casa de mi Padre,” the latest Will Ferrell movie, which was developed completely in Spanish in a clear attempt to reach Hispanic moviegoers.

The Evolving Latino Consumer

The findings stress the notion of how the majority of the Latino population is second generation, American born, and bilingual/English speaking. My colleague, Giovanni Rodriguez, and I have been discussing this phenomenon. So if you are a regular reader of this column, this might not be new to you.

What’s important is that the study confirms the trend and provides some insights on the role ethnicity plays when targeting this demographic.

Latinos do nurture ethnicity more than other segments. This is manifested through a series of behaviors like exposing their children to their Latino background, trying to get in touch with their Hispanic identity, feeling very comfortable as it relates to their ethnicity, and being part of activities/traditions that celebrate their heritage.

The Generational Latino Gap

When it comes to generation breakdown, there are some differences that marketers need to consider. Let’s take identity and values, for example.

First-generation Latino behavior is much more influenced by ethnicity. Their Latino background plays a major role when it comes to feelings about their individuality, religion, and values. It also affects how they socialize (neighborhoods, close circle of friends, etc.) and other behaviors (eating habits, celebrations, vacations, etc.). For second-generation Latinos, ethnicity is more about outward expression and bicultural in nature.

Content plays an important yet different role. First-generation Hispanics seek content that is in Spanish language and speaks to their ethnicity for topics like news, entertainment, and food. Second-generation Hispanics are more sensitive to how their ethnicity is portrayed in the media.

Second-generation Latinos have a stronger civic commitment. They care about the role Latinos are playing in today’s American society. They are very involved in discussions about Latinos’ role in the elections, immigration debates, etc. They want to play a major (influential) role and want to make sure that they are taken into consideration.

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The Common Thread: Authenticity

For both first- and second-generations, ethnicity is an important part of the past and the present. Both segments agreed: it influences “who I am” and both feel very proud of “how I grew up” as well as “my ethnic identity.”

Ethnicity plays a significant part of the Latino identity. As David Iudica, a bicultural Latino himself, said to me: “I have my feet firmly planted in both worlds, it’s an important part of my identity.”

Overall, it seems that marketers have a long way to go in order to better impact Latino audiences. For different reasons, both first- and second-generations feel they aren’t being represented or spoken to in the right way.

1st-generation

2ndgeneration

This reminds me of a controversy that happened a couple of weeks ago around a proposal to recreate a mural on the walls of the Mission Drive-In Theater in San Antonio, Texas. The images, one of a Mexican sitting asleep against the wall with his sombrero covering his face and another with a stereotypical Mexican posing with a burro, backfired. Sometimes marketers, in trying to connect with Latinos, get hooked with their own stereotypes and generate negative reactions rather than relevance.

The (Right) Approach When Marketing to Latinos

A successful Latino marketing strategy should be built on a common thread: what are the attitudes and behaviors – related to your product category – that bring Latinos together?

A sense of pride, identity, and authenticity (the world I live in) are important for all Latinos.

Authenticity is key. Choosing an authentic Hispanic spokesperson, rather than a well-known spokesperson, is relevant to all Latinos.

Latinos crave ethnic-specific marketing messages, yet portraying an appropriate level of diversity in advertising is critical.

If done right, Hispanics will talk about advertising positively, but they will also be quick to call out negative portrayals.

Messaging should be customized to speak to the individual needs of each generation:

  • For first-generation Hispanics: speak in their language and make sure to authentically represent their ethnicity.
  • For second-generation Hispanics, you need to portray them as part of a bigger whole: represent diversity in general messaging and show how Latinos are influencing the mainstream. Don’t address them simply as Latinos: talk to their whole bicultural identity.

First-generations want Latino content, second-generations want mainstream content but with a Latino flavor.

Authentic Bobbleheads

Will Ferrell’s “Casa de mi Padre” seemed to connect with the Latino audience and is set to be a box office success. But, when it comes to how brands “talk” to Latinos, not all are successful stories. Think of Jaime Jarrin, a Hall of Fame broadcaster, who has not been included in the Dodger’s 50th-anniversary bobbleheads. Jaime is Latino and broadcasts in Spanish and, according to The Los Angeles Times, that’s why he was left out. As the article says, “Jaime Jarrin’s primary language has always been Dodger. It’s a shame that, in this case, the Dodgers seem to be the only ones who don’t understand.”

Ask second-generation Latinos. See if they find this kind of behavior to be authentic.

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