Acculturation and language use, national origin and birthplace, tenure in the U.S. and generational distance from immigration -- all of these are relevant and useful in the right contexts. But, I argued, the reality of daily life for U.S. Latinos involves navigating a variety of subcultures, and cultural shape-shifting from day to day and even hour by hour, depending on the context. Bilingual, bicultural Latinos are quite expert at this, as are most other so-called "minorities," as are men and women, as are we all when it comes to navigating the various roles we each play in our lives.
I believe this concept of "contextual identity," or "situational Latinidad" in the case of Hispanics, is vitally important because we now have the information and personal media channels to reach consumers in context-relevant and welcome ways. Our agency uses a systematic approach to tease out contexts in which Latinos feel more or less Latino, what that means, and how it shapes their behavior in a variety of specific product, service, media, and sponsorship categories. It's exciting work, and we look forward to helping clients develop more impactful 360-degree marketing programs using this approach.
In the meantime, we are exploring the marketing implications of two related phenomena within U.S. Latino culture: cross-cultural "swirling," and "retro-acculturation". What we're calling "swirling" refers to a delightful tendency we U.S. Latinos have to enjoy certain aspects of Hispanic cultures other than our own, as well as other cultures in general.
In particular, many of us enjoy the food, music, and dances of Latin American subcultures different from ours. Marketers wring their hands over the distinct vocabularies among the many Latino nationality groups. As Latinos in the U.S., we encounter these differences regularly in our social and professional encounters with Latinos of different heritage than our own. More educated Hispanics tend to be aware of these differences, and many of us enjoy learning about them, as they are sometimes pretty amusing.
Here is the marketing implication of "swirling": While at times we might need to engage one particular Spanish-language subculture, it would be a mistake for us to assume that other Latino groups cannot be engaged with the same communications. For decades, U.S. Hispanics have experienced the dialects of a variety of countries through Univision and Telemundo programming. Rather than focus on the challenges of national dialects, the more relevant consideration for marketing communications is whether the dialect to be used, the message, and the media and programming address the right socioeconomic group or category-based subculture.
The other marketing-relevant phenomenon, "retro-acculturation," refers to a desire by second and later- generation Latinos either to strengthen connections with their Latino heritage, or to revive ones that have faded over time. Music, food, dance, Latino community causes, and the arts offer emotionally evocative vehicles for this.
One example of recent "retro-crossover" is Nelly Furtado's new album in Spanish. She got her start as an English-language musician, but now sought to celebrate her Hispanic heritage by singing in Spanish and collaborating with Latin music artists. I haven't seen information on her fan base, but she's probably bringing more acculturated Latino fans along on this journey.
So now, marketing to Latinos gets beyond language to consider "retro-acculturation" and cultural "swirl," taking Latino-relevant marketing into the demographic future.