Are Marketers Missing the Party?: Language and Hispanic Heritage Month

You probably know when Saint Patrick’s Day is. Most likely, you have an idea of when Black History month is, too. But did you know that last month (Sept. 15 – Oct. 15) was Hispanic Heritage Month? If the answer is no, don’t worry – plenty of Hispanics didn’t know, either.

As a member of Communispace’s Hispanic Think Tank, I am a researcher on our Hispanic market research communities. I interact with members in Spanish, English and sometimes even Spanglish to help connect our clients with this vastly important and yet too-often misunderstood market.

In their own words

Over the past couple of weeks, I noticed something particularly interesting: nearly all of the members of our Spanish-language Hispanic communities were not only aware that it was Hispanic Heritage Month – they were able to name sponsors, and point to the brands and companies that are helping them celebrate (Univision, Colgate-Palmolive, Kraft, and local supermarkets and pharmacies to name a few). However, virtually NO members of our English-language Hispanic communities had ever heard of this celebration. What gives?

[Translated from the original Spanish]

“I’ve heard of Hispanic Heritage Month – I read about it in Cosmo en Español. I’ve just learned about the dates when we celebrate this special month … although I don’t think we really have anything planned.” -Carina F (First Generation Hispanic, member Spanish-language community)

“I had no idea; we need to make it more known … I come from a heavily Latin influenced community and nowhere is it mentioned … lol. We need to change that! :)” -Yvonne C (Second Generation Hispanic, member English-language community)

“This feels all new to me. It’s still played low key and it would be nice if this ‘Month’ were as publicized as African-American heritage month.” -Marta C (First Generation Hispanic, member English-language community)

The unaware members were mainly second and third-generation Hispanics – those born in the United States, raised reading, writing, going to school and working for the most part in English. Although they might speak Spanish at home with their families or use it in specific social settings, the majority are English-dominant. They are the fastest growing Hispanic segment, and the major driver behind the Hispanic population increase in the U.S. (62%+ of all Latinos are U.S. born, according to Juan Tornoe’s Hispanic Trending). Yet for some reason, most marketers tend to ignore them.

Unraveling the language puzzle

Increasing numbers of Hispanics (especially second and third generation) report to speak English inside and outside of the home, as seen in the chart below. Many also consume English media on TV and online.

Source: AdAge Hispanic Fact Pack, 2011.

My hypothesis is that plenty of brands participate in Hispanic Heritage Month – they just happen to do it in Spanish (and only Spanish). Failing to recognize and connect with English speaking Hispanics in the U.S. seems like a huge missed opportunity for marketers. Even if you can’t sponsor a large-scale event or post celebratory sale prices, a message acknowledging this month – and this population – could go a long way in building brand affinity. And why wouldn’t you want to foster connections with a market that is quadrupling in buying power?

How can marketers connect? 

For brands hoping to leverage the power of the Hispanic market, I pose some suggestions:

  1. Don’t ignore English-speaking Hispanics. They’re the largest and fastest-growing group, and they represent a vast opportunity. Connecting with them means connecting with generations both future and past (as they are often the bridge between ages and acculturation levels).
  2. Take advantage of opportunities (like Hispanic Heritage Month) to include and celebrate Hispanics. Use the situations that feel most natural to acknowledge these consumers. Speak to them directly – on their terms, in their language.
  3. For those afraid of ruffling the feathers of the “general market” by advertising to Hispanics in English, I pose this thought: the General Market has changed. Hispanics now make up a considerable part, and their influence is undeniable (did you know that America’s #1 condiment is now salsa, and the surnames Garcia and Rodriguez are among the top 10 most common last names in the U.S.?). In this new American landscape, there’s no need to reach the Hispanic market and the General Market in silo. Instead, brands can consider going broad and giving us all a reason to celebrate.

Latinos are currently becoming the fastest growing consumer group in the U.S., challenging marketers and demographers to take a fresh look at what it means to be—or become—an “American.” Download our award-winning study, Me Entiendes?, to learn what your brand can do to can truly understand and reflect the Latino experience.

 

 

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