What to Consider When Marketing to the U.S. Latino and Hispanic Consumer

July 29, 2011

The biggest mistake a company can make is to view the U.S. Hispanic market as homogeneous. Acculturation levels, language preferences and country of origin make for unique sub-groups within the segment.  The Hispanic market’s current size is 50 million strong in the U.S. as of 2010 Census.  They form larger households, they are young, trendy, digital and active consumers. They are acquiring relative wealth speedily.  Yet, this profile is at odds with the neglect of investment across most advertising and marketing categories by U.S. companies. U.S. marketers would be smart to energize and shift their Latino/Hispanic marketing strategies.

Hispanics – One Market or Más?
“Latino” or “Hispanic”, as a descriptive word refers to an origin or ethnicity, not a race. There is no one monolithic “Hispanic market.”  If you think this way shift your thinking. What, if anything, unifies Hispanics? Language!   Spanish stands as a symbol of difference for U.S. Hispanics; wherever they’re from and regardless of their history, Spanish is a key to their individual and collective pasts.

Country of Origin
The single most important segmentation factor among U.S. Hispanics may be their country of origin. The U.S. Hispanic market is comprised of subcultures from over 20 countries in Central and South America, the Caribbean and Spain, with the majority (63%) of Mexican heritage. The culture, beliefs, opinions and consumer behavior patterns of U.S. Hispanics are not identical, as a result of the influence of differences in their native countries’ geography, indigenous ancestry and colonial origins.

Source: TranslationDirectory.com

¿Habla usted español?
Language is one of the most obvious examples of this phenomenon. Spanish is likely to remain the language of preference among U.S. Latinos. In fact, Univision is now the #5 network in the United States, behind ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox.

When asked about advertising effectiveness, 38% of Hispanics surveyed found English language ads less effective than Spanish ads in terms of recall and 70% less effective than Spanish ads in terms of persuasion. Many younger and acculturated Latinos mix languages into a form of “Spanglish,” in which they speak English peppered with Spanish words. But when it comes to selling, 56% of Latino adults respond best to advertising when it is presented in Spanish.

Acculturation vs. Assimilation
U.S. Latinos tend to “adopt and adapt” to customs and habits in the U.S. without shedding traditions and value systems. Along that line, marketers, and those trying to tap into the Hispanic segment, cannot simply transfer directly to the U.S. Latino market the conceptualizations or marketing strategies that work with more traditional, general market consumers. Latinos are assimilating to prevalent U.S. culture, but they are not, and probably never will be, fully assimilated. Instead, theirs is a path of acculturation. It is a process of integration of native and traditional immigrant cultural values with dominant cultural ones.

A Final Take

For many businesses this is a wake up call.  Often time ignorance creates distance.  So with a bit of education the entire Latino/Hispanic market will see closer and “friendlier” and all will benefit.

source: Laura Sonderup is the Director of Heinrich Hispanidad