Pi Attitude Zone: Affiliation & Cohesion

Ignoring Hispanics? That’s Un-American

As everyone knows, America’s Latino consumers are different.  This has become an almost universally accepted truth in the US ad industry, reflecting the arresting fact that one American consumer in every six is now Hispanic.  Everyone seems to agree:  they have to be targeted with marketing approaches in some way different from traditional mainstream brand campaigns. 

But different in what way, exactly?  At this point things get fuzzier.  Many of the stereotypes about Hispanic consumers are simply no longer true, for instance that they all speak Spanish at home, and that they all eat tortillas instead of bread.

As Latino consumers in the USA get more numerous and more affluent, and as generation follows generation, their tastes, appetites and mindsets are changing.  Marketers can no longer automatically assume that Latinos should be addressed with brand communications in Spanish.  First, there are significant numbers whose background is Brazilian, so Spanish is wasted on them.  Try Portuguese instead.

But, even more significantly, most of today’s Hispanic Americans were actually born in the USA itself, and less than a quarter of the new generation prefer speaking Spanish to English.  Marketing to Latinos is succeeding by abandoning niche-group thinking, and instead fielding carefully-crafted mainstream campaigns in English.  Latino ad agencies are now behind mainstream communication for brands like Target stores, Kraft foods and the Bud Light beer brand.  A recent TV ad for Tide detergent shows an abuelita (Spanish-speaking grandmother) extolling the product’s virtues in her mother tongue, while her teenage grand-daughter helpfully looks up from her cellphone and translates her grandma’s words into perfect English, without the trace of a foreign accent.

Does this mean that Latinos are for marketing purposes totally assimilated?  Not necessarily.  While the average American consumer is 37, the median age for Latinos is only 27, meaning a whole different mindset that has little to do with ethnic origin.  Latino family size is typically bigger, and they spend significantly more than their fellow-Americans on baby food.  Indeed, food and clothing in general use up a higher-than-average proportion of their weekly shopping budget.  Their tastes run more to home cooking, in contrast with the average American’s growing uptake of convenience foods.  They are as interested as everyone else in controlling their weight, but tend not to think in terms of calorie-counting.  Diet sodas are learning to say “less sugar”, not “fewer calories”.

Pi says:  it’s probably no longer enough to run Spanish translations of your ads as part of the mix.  Brand campaigns will have to be conceived from the start as Latino-friendly, if they are to reap full advantage from the biggest demographic shift in contemporary America.

Zone: Affiliation & Cohesion Country: USA / North America Product – Communications