Here at the Pundit, we’ve dealt before with the issue of the need to improve the way the industry markets to Latinos. All too often, well meaning efforts have either failed or actually did harm because they wound up insulting people.
It still is very common to think that marketing to Latinos means putting everything in Spanish, although many Latinos speak perfect English. Other times, marketers use symbols of another country, such as Mexican flags when marketing to Cubans.
The Latino community is so diverse now — coming from so many countries, being in the U.S. for such a varied amount of time, having such a range of facility with English, etc., that it has been a very difficult community for marketers to get their hand around.
However, a new study, What Makes a Latino, Latino? done by the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies, provides a new way of thinking about the issue:
The heart is the symbol AHAA is using to describe the new Latino Cultural Identity. Its complexity, adaptability, intricacy and interrelation with other vital systems resemble the heart of Latino Cultural Identity — values that change according to environment and external stimuli as does a human heart.
The Project identifies four “chambers” of Latino Identity: interpersonal orientation; time and space perception; spirituality; and gender perception — each with its own qualities and characteristics. While intuitively Hispanic marketers have understood the characteristics of US Hispanics, the analysis indicated that it is the interconnectedness of all four chambers and the influence of contextual factors such as immigration stress, education, discrimination, ethnic pride and socioeconomic level on those chambers that is really shaping Latino identity today and influences the way marketers must “speak” to Latino consumers.
Advertising Age elaborated on the new study:
“Interpersonal orientation is the way we live our relationships with other people, and is … radically different from non-Latinos,” AHAA Chairman, Carl Kravetz, said. For instance, individualism is important to Anglos, whereas Latinos have a collectivist culture that favors cooperation, and values family needs over those of the individual.
For marketers, Mr. Kravetz said, that means understanding the family as a unit, including group decision making, and avoiding conflict between individual needs and group expectations.
The way Latinos perceive time and space is also very different. Mr. Kravetz drew a laugh when he described time commitments for Latinos as “more of a goal than real commitments.” They also change plans easily, are more present- and past-oriented and value friends and family more than privacy. In contrast, non-Hispanics are future-oriented, have a rigid sense of space and privacy, and focus on results, he said.
Religion and spirituality affect how Latinos see the world, imparting both a sense of fatalism and a love of rituals and celebrations.
Gender roles are also radically different in the Latino world. Machismo is about protecting and providing for the family, and can cause aggression or shame among men who feel they can’t live up to that role.
There are also contextual factors — things that make each person individually unique — that interact with the heart’s chambers, Mr. Kravetz said.
“Think about what happens to a Latino’s interpersonal orientation when it comes in contact with differing levels of acculturation,” he said. “What are the consequences of a past and present orientation interconnecting with fatalism when you’re discussing health care … or insurance?
“This new hypothesis of Latino Identity is a threshold moment for the Hispanic marketing industry because it not only tells us how Latinos are, it begins to explain why we are the way we are,” he said. “And this is very, very significant.”
You can watch a presentation by AHAA Chair, Carl Kravetz, read a transcript of the presentation or view a slide show right here.