So the school devised a plan to increase school bus ridership and reduce the number of private cars. Parents were encouraged to leave their cars at home. And the school designated new drop-off and pick-up points farther away from the main entrance for parents who still chose to drive their kids to school.
After one month, results were evaluated, and the situation assessed. A high number of students switched to the school bus, and these were almost all the white students. As for the Hispanics, they chose to still be driven by car. The program, therefore, did not meet the target of car reduction. So the school decided to investigate and ask, "Porque?"
You see, the car has symbolic meaning for Hispanics, and it sends out a powerful message that having a car shows that this generation is better off than its parents' generation, which stayed behind in Mexico. It also serves as a badge of success on wheels, and part of the American dream.
According to a Yale neuroscientist, the brain functions in three parts, Cortex (logic and analysis), Limbic (feelings), and Reptilian (instinct).
These brain parts then create different values, Functional (Cortex), Emotional (Limbic), and Symbolic (Reptilian). The latter is considered the oldest part of the brain, with the least evolution and one that humans share with reptiles. It is also most powerful, as it deals with survival and reproduction. Apply this theory to culture, and you can understand consumer behavior more deeply.
The car's meaning to the Hispanic family is beyond the functional (a means of transportation) and emotional (I'm just like other American parents with cars. I belong to the same club), but strikes the rawest nerve in the symbolic meaning of success.
The Hispanics did, of course, had some company, with some white parents opting to continue driving their children. But their reason had a different symbolic meaning: "My car is the extension of my family dinner table. It's where we get together as a family and discuss things openly." Driving the children has become a symbol of bonding with the children, in an uninterrupted environment with no distractions.
So, imagine if GM or Ford could understand such reality and build cars that were "On-Code" with the Hispanic culture and their attached symbolic meaning.
Advertisers, marketers and brand-builders need to understand this first generation of Mexican-American car-buyers. Every target market is different, but the key remains the same: Understand both the consumers' symbolic value and their culture.