It’s almost impossible, if not insulting, to try to speak of a generic Hispanic culture in the U.S.: Hispanic culture is inherently dynamic and hard to classify. There are constantly new waves of Hispanic immigrants, more than 20 different countries represented, and huge differences between generations. Anyone who seeks to market to this audience needs to appreciate its complexity.
First, let’s discard with stereotypes. Most Hispanics are not recent immigrants to this country: in fact, the majority of Hispanics in the U.S. – three out of five – are native-born citizens. The last census showed that the biggest group in the Latino population is Generation Y, those between 5 and 24 years old.
As you might expect, there’s a stark contrast in English ability between Hispanic immigrants and their native born children. Among Hispanic immigrants, Puerto Ricans and South Americans are most likely to claim English proficiency, while Mexicans are the least likely. According to a Pew Hispanic Center Report, only 1 in four Hispanic immigrants report being able to speak English well. But that number jumps to 88% for US-born Hispanics 18 and over.
However even though English language skills increase over generations, Spanish stays a large part of their lives. The Census Bureau reports that 78% of Hispanics age 5 and older report speaking Spanish at home. That is an important point for anyone trying to reach the Hispanic market. If the vast majority of Latinos are speaking Spanish at home, and you have no outreach in Spanish, do you think you are reaching this market? If you do, you are mistaken. Too many think they are reaching the Hispanic market via their mainstream outreach in English.
Along with the combination of languages comes the combination of cultures. AdAge recently reported that more than 60% of Latinos see themselves as bicultural, mixing elements of their parents’ and grandparents’ Latino heritage with their American heritage. The choice is not either American culture or Latino culture: modern Hispanics fuse those cultures, along with others, creating musical genres like reggaeton and unpredictable dialects like Spanglish.
AT&T put a smart spin on this in one of their advertising campaigns, in a Spanish-language commercial called “Rapchera.” In it, an immigrant teenager creates a new sound by fusing his father’s ranchera music and his sister’s rap songs. He performs “rapchera” at a local concert to wide acclaim.
For the modern Hispanic population, it’s neither acceptable to simply translate your mainstream message into Spanish nor to just leave it in English. You must adapt the message to fit their changing culture.
One good article about changing your business model for the Hispanic audience came from Tony Malaghan, CEO of Arial International. Malaghan’s article discusses some helpful tips such as hiring Hispanic marketing experts, making sure your customer service team is bilingual, and having a Hispanic marketing point person in your senior executive team.
We’d love to hear how your efforts at Hispanic marketing are going.