The Monday Morning Quarterback

Latino Marketing: Getting to the Corazón of the Matter

In a market as homogenous as Fresno, there’s still a need for a marketing plan that targets Latinos.

First, let’s define the terms.

Though often used interchangeably, “Hispanic” and “Latino” do not have identical meanings.

I’ve read that “Hispanic” derives from Latin word for “Spain.” It is a reference word that potentially encompasses all Spanish-speaking peoples in both the Northern and Southern  hemispheres. It emphasizes the common language among populations that have little else in common.

“Latino” is believed to be a shortening of the Spanish word “Latinoamericano” and refers more exclusively to persons or communities of Latin American origin.

Of the two, Hispanic can be used in reference to Spain and its history and culture. For instance, a native of Spain residing in the United States is an Hispanic, not a Latino. Of course, the Hispanic influence on Mexican cultures has been a major one.

These distinctions matter when used in reference to United States residents of Latin American origin. More important is the political use of the terms.

For many, Latino is said to be a term of ethnic pride and Hispanic can be an offensive label. According to this view, Hispanic lacks cultural resonance of Latino, with its Spanish sound and its ability to show the feminine form Latina when used of women.

Furthermore, Hispanic is a term long used by the United States Census Bureau and other government agencies, thus bearing the stamp of the Anglo establishment.

These views are prevalent, but by no means universal. Usage is related to geography as well as politics. Latino is preferred in California; Hispanic is used in Texas.

Therefore, for the purposes of this humble presentation, the development of an overall marketing communications plan, and any reference made to the group in advertising, we suggest using the geographically-accepted Latino. Readers memo should also comprehend that the data and opinions herein have been researched from variety of publicly-available resources, but also derive from professional experience.

Latinos Rule

Fresno County’s population is dominated by Latinos. Like most of the other cultures that call Fresno County home, many Latinos are first- or second-generation immigrants, drawn here to invest in the American Dream. Some Latinos have lived here for years without becoming fluent in English. Others speak English well but feel more comfortable in Spanish. Many families speak Spanish at home and English in outside the home.  Some young, English-speaking Latinos are going through “retro acculturation,” because there are career advantages to being bilingual.

The Fresno County Latino population can be divided approximately into three groups:

  • There are the Latinos that are fully absorbed into California Anglo culture. They speak very little Spanish, and maintain lifestyles and living spaces that do not reflect Latino culture. They do not consider themselves to be Latino, and avoid all Latino marketing attempts. They have worked throughout their lives, sometimes across generations, to embrace all things “American” and leave their Latino heritage behind.
  • A portion of Latinos are comfortable in two “worlds:” with friends and family, they speak Spanish, or a mixture of English and Spanish. They move between the Anglo and the Latino cultures with ease, and make the transition without struggle. They may speak Spanish at home, and English elsewhere. They listen to their favorite radio stations and watch TV programs whether they are presented in Spanish or English. Many members of this group aspire to be absorbed; however, a growing number are forging community acceptance and personal happiness by embracing their heritage. This segment of the Latino population is believed to be growing.
  • Another segment of Latinos in Fresno County is made up of the newest arrivals. Most are immigrant hopefuls. Some are undocumented workers. Many hope to stay for the rest of their lives, and some hope to return home as soon as possible. They deal exclusively in the Spanish language and are heavily influenced by Spanish media and word-of-mouth. They have been drawn here by the American Dream and are here to make money, because they can make more here than at home. They deal almost exclusively in cash. Using money orders, wire transfers and overnight shipping services, they send money and consumer goods back to their families.

Common Sense, Common Language

Because the Latino population is so diverse, marketing and advertising efforts must be developed to appeal to the broad Latino audience through cultural commonalities, using simple and direct Spanish words. After all, we don’t produce one English-language ad for Kingsburg residents and another for those in Prather, so why should we produce different Spanish-language ads? Not all Latinos speak or read Spanish proficiently. Latinos often use different words in different contexts. But for many Latinos, English can be the language of  my business, and Spanish can be the language of mi corazón.

A misconception about Latinos that marketers often bring to the table is the idea that Latinos are not as big consumers as are Anglos. Data collected from the U.S. Census, the Data Marketing Association, and other resources, disputes that conclusion.

  • Latino buying power in the United States is huge. In 2010, Latino disposable income was estimated to exceed $900 billion. The number of Latino households with annual income in excess of $100,000 rose dramatically from 2000 to 2010. It should be seen that the issue is not whether Latinos have money (they do), but how they spend the money they have.

It’s been said that Latinos tend to make every day special for their families, as opposed to saving up for a family vacation. Latinos spend their income on housing, groceries, telephone services, furniture, major appliances, clothing, and gas and motor oil. And they are starting families. More than One in five American births in 2010 was to a Latino family. In Los Angeles, 60% of all kids under age six are Latino.

Incidentally, Latinos use mobile devices. They are one of the fastest-growing online populations, and the bilingual and English-dominant segments are equal.

Latinos respond to marketing efforts that help them visualize family improvements, and place them squarely within the American Dream. Latino families get together far more often than Anglo families; often there will be numerous generations of a Latino family living under one roof.

How to Succeed at Latino Marketing

Key to an advertiser’s successful acceptance by the Latino market is the sense of “family” that the advertiser can convey, and the advertiser’s ability to enable customers  to achieve – and keep – the American Dream. These are the twin values that Latinos – of any stripe – hold dear.

A successful Latino marketing campaign can involve more than translating and re-purposing current collateral materials, or mirroring a bilingual version of the web site. It’s a campaign that advocates creating advertising that reaches Latinos where they live, work and play. To succeed at Latino marketing you should develop campaigns that present you in a compelling way that Latinos understand. After all, marketing to Latinos is just like marketing to any other group – but different.

~ Art Reker, Account and Creative Executive