This question may sound odd coming from a middle-aged, white male of European (doubly German, if last names mean anything) descent but … why isn’t Hispanic marketing a *much* bigger thing?
The prevalence and the power of the Hispanic community is — or should be — well-known.
- Nearly 1 in 5 Americans are Hispanic, making it the single-largest non-white demographic.
- The spending power of Hispanics equals 13% of the US GDP, and it’s grown 2.6X more than other demographic groups since 2010.
- By 2030, nearly 30% of students in US public schools will be Hispanic.
So, why aren’t more brands focusing on or at least including Hispanics as part of their marketing efforts?
Is the diversity of what “Hispanic” means part of what is holding marketers back? The term encompasses many countries and cultures. The US Office of Management and Budget defines Hispanic — and loops it in with Latino — “as a person of Cuban, Mexican, Puerto Rican, South or Central American, or other Spanish culture or origin regardless of race.”
That echoes a recent NielsenIQ study that points to the diversity within the Hispanic community: While 51% identify with Mexico, the rest are split among six other cultures.
But the complexity of “Hispanic” should not stop brands — especially when there is so much $$ at stake.
Progress is being made
All that said, of course, some brands are doing Hispanic marketing right.
“We are seeing more brands increasing their investment as they realize how significant Hispanics are to their growth. For example, Walmart’s CEO is on record saying that they expect 92% of their future growth is coming from the Hispanic market,” said Horacio Gavilan, executive director of the Hispanic Marketing Council. (Note: HMC is a SmartBrief partner.)
However, Gavilan added, “For every Walmart, Mcdonald’s and Nestle that are doing it right, many brands are still not allocating the necessary resources. Many have a hard time changing their current strategies because their leadership doesn’t know what they don’t know while others have misconceptions about the Hispanic consumer.”
VMLY&R Miami Executive Director Renee Lavecchia said she also sees a distinct divide among brands that are disciplined and doing it right because they see the “Hispanic opportunity as a home run in the making” compared to those who “know they have to do it, but don’t make it a priority.”
Lavecchia also said there are brands that know they need to make the Hispanic segment a priority but “need an agency to show them the way.
“Regardless of which camp they fall in, multicultural America is not an ideal. It’s very real and it’s not going away. The brands that embrace it are the ones that will stay relevant,” Lavecchia said.
Hispanic marketing best practices
While one obvious way to make progress with Hispanic marketing is to devote more budget to it, more money alone won’t work.
“It’s not only important to allocate the necessary dollars but also make sure you hire an agency that specializes in reaching Hispanics so they can create culturally relevant work that will resonate,” Gavilan said.
In addition to having Hispanic representation on a brand team, UBS’ Melinda Hightower, who leads the company’s multicultural strategic client segments operations, says brands also need to go beyond cultural identity.
“Recognize that ethnic diversity, though significant, is only one aspect of a person’s identity. Successful brands seek to understand how ethnic diversity intersects with other aspects of identity (e.g., gender) to shape a client or consumer’s experience,” she said.
Lavecchia also offers a number of best-practice tips for reaching Hispanics:
- A multicultural champion: Name someone high up in the organization that champions the importance of this audience, and has real decision-making power and control of a budget.
- Measurable business objectives: Have a clear sense of where you want to impact your business and how you can measure it.
- Vertical alignment with the C-level: Your CMO/CEO is the best person to rally teams and get them committed to your efforts.
How much do terms matter?
In recent years, some terminology around Hispanics — such as the use of Latinx — has come to the forefront. While there are varying opinions about the use of Latinx, Latino and Hispanic, experts say it still boils down to knowing your audience.
“We’ve found that words matter and it’s important to map onto how people describe themselves,” Hightower said. “Market research is critical to ensure that the message resonates.”
Lavecchia adds that “getting the terminology right is important, especially these days. Both Hispanic and Latinx terms have very valid reasons to be used.
“But regardless of the term, what really matters is getting this audience’s values right and speaking to their mindset where they are. Ultimately, people are choosing brands that represent the values that they stand for,” she said.
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