By Jorge A. Plasencia
I often get asked whether brands should use Español or English to reach U.S. Hispanic consumers. The answer is both or a mix, but it’s more complex than just language. Latinos are one of the most diverse minority groups in this country — the market includes some 20 national identities. While we enjoy similar values and traditions, understanding cultural nuances affords brands an authentic connection to us, regardless of language.
Hispanics share several basic characteristics. The most obvious one is the Spanish language. Other important traits include strong faith, close-knit families, a love of Latin music, and many times, multigenerational homes. Although these and other traits link us, Latinos do maintain deep-rooted bonds with their countries of origin. They are staunchly proud of their heritage, be that Mexican, Puerto Rican, Cuban, Colombian, or Salvadoran, to name a few. It’s essential to recognize that all of these countries have their distinctiveness, including folklore, history, music, cuisine, and accents. These universal cultural truths resonate with Latino consumers because they appeal to the heart of what makes Hispanics Hispanic — what makes us proud to be who we are.
As a segment, the Hispanic market is continually making headlines for its growth and for being a vital contributor to the U.S. economy. The Hispanic community currently comprises over 61 million people — that’s 18% of the population. The Census Bureau predicts the number will rise to 25% by midcentury. Hispanic buying power is projected to rise from $1.7 trillion to $2.3 trillion in just the next five years, according to the University of Georgia’s Selig Center for Economic Growth. From 2010 to 2019, Hispanic buying power increased by 69%, outpacing non-Hispanics, whose buying power increased by 41% during the same time. According to the Pew Research Center, about 38% of Latinos mainly use Spanish, 36% are bilingual, and 25% mainly use English. Kantar’s U.S. Monitor reports that 57% of Hispanics feel that the Spanish language is more important today than five years ago. Hispanics are also advancing in key areas, such as educational attainment, homeownership, and wealth-building. Latinos are much younger than the general market — a median age of 28 compared to 42 for non-Hispanic Whites. Hispanics are also early-adopters and over-index on smartphone usage and most things technological, digital, and social media.
How does this all translate to marketing and advertising? It can make or break the future of a brand. We are at a tipping point, and companies whose c-level leaders understand and embrace this demographic phenomenon’s significance can benefit greatly. The moment to make this strategic shift in priorities is ahora (now). It defies logic that only 6% of total U.S. media spend is going to the Hispanic market, yet we are nearing 20% of the population.
According to Kantar, nearly 60% of Latinos seek out brands that acknowledge their unique cultural traditions and about the same agree that their cultural heritage has a large influence on their purchase decisions. Suffice to say, by not realizing Hispanics’ enormous potential and understanding the way to their hearts, many brands are missing out on current and future business growth.
Nielsen’s latest Hispanic study, “Cultural Connectivity Transformed: How Latinos are Connecting in Times of Social Distancing,” shows that Hispanics are using culturally relevant media, including podcasts and streaming services, more than ever and at rates far higher than their non-Hispanic counterparts to overcome the effects of social distancing amid the pandemic. Latinos want and need their content.
There is an immense opportunity for brands to build loyalty with Latinos. Through a meaningful, nuanced Hispanic marketing strategy inclusive and reflective of the vast U.S. Latino market, companies can gain our trust by investing in our community and tugging at our heartstrings in genuine ways. Do that, and Hispanics will become your growth engine and loyal customers for generations to come.
Hispanic Star is honored to partner with Advertising Week feature Hispanic voices during Hispanic Heritage Month and beyond.
Jorge A. Plasencia is co-founder, chairman, and CEO of Republica Havas, a leading creative, media, and communications agency. Plasencia is the former board chair of UnidosUS and currently serves on the board of the Friends of the American Latino Museum.