My Telenovela Is Not My Mom's Telenovela

by , Nov 15, 2012, 12:58 PM
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The cultural gap between parents and their offspring is an age-old cliché. “If it’s too loud, you’re too old,” was the common refrain coming from a teenager’s bedroom when told to turn the music down. Similarly, my telenovela is not my mom’s telenovela

I say my mom’s telenovela because, while Latino men watch novelas en masse, admitting to that is roughly the equivalent of non-Latino men confessing their fondness for daytime soaps or even prime time “girly” dramas à la “Desperate Housewives.” But acculturated Latinos not only have the challenge of a generational gap with their parents, there’s also the task of navigating the bicultural divide. 

During a brainstorming session with a client whose new mandate was to “capture” the Hispanic market, she proposed “a list of the Spanish language newspapers and media outlets in that region.” She reasoned that her intended target demographic, 18- to 35-year-old Latino males, would surely fit nicely into this plan. “Yes, but so would their parents,” I added. 

I brought up the issue of self-identification here a while back, basically saying it doesn’t matter much anymore where your ancestry originated, the point is you now identify as Latino. However, in a bicultural world, one’s identification is extended to encompass their American (or other) cultural identity as well.  MTV Tr3s offers one of best examples of how to “speak Spanish and live American.” The proliferation of “Spanglish” on the Internet and used by some entertainment media is a great example on how two cultures are not only bridged, but are also meshing.

This is all good news for marketers, mostly because it allows engagement at a personal level without being intrusive. Understanding how bicultural nuances influence decisions on we engage with brands and how that relationship will evolve can be a major score. As always, there are pitfalls. Publications that seek to exploit the use of Spanglish by peppering the occasional chica and muy bueno will likely not gain much traction with this audience. It’s more about understanding why those particular words are used. Sometimes it’s for emphasis and other times because there’s just no equivalent to a well placed wepa!

Speaking Spanish and living American can open up a whole new world of engagement because in some way, brands and marketers get two worlds for the price of one. We can happily start a night off hanging out with friends at the local micro brewery, catch the latest “Avengers” flick, head out to the Copa Cabana then top it all off with a late-night taco cart raid of milanesas and carnitas. Our magazine subscriptions to Latin Trends and Latina sit comfortably alongside the latest Details and Vanity Fair magazines on our coffee table. It doesn’t have to be either/or; depending on your demographic, it’s likely both.

To have Latino and American worlds collide doesn’t mean they have to create a cultural explosion. In fact, they can create a wonderful opportunity for both the consumer and the marketer if it’s executed properly. 

My mom’s telenovela may not have the appeal it used to have, but that doesn’t mean I won’t sit with her every night for a week straight until the heroine’s baby daddy is revealed. Bombarded by Spanish language commercials, mostly from the same brands that target me in English, doesn’t create a rift, it reinforces a brand’s stickiness. Got that, chico?

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