Finding Consumer Insights In Unexpected Places

Insights for marketers can come from anywhere. That's why we recently invited Junot Diaz, Pulitzer Prize-winning author of The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao, for a talk with our agency.

As the preeminent Dominican writer of his generation, Diaz has a unique perspective on being Latino. And though he'd never claim to be an expert at selling to Hispanics, he certainly understands what motivates, moves and resonates with us.

Here are a few of the most salient points Diaz made during his visit:

On diversity within the Hispanic community: "Within the Latino community, you have everything that you have inside of the U.S. community. That's just the way it works. Linguistic stuff, generational stuff, you have immigrant stuff, you have racial stuff."

If we could only rent out Diaz and place him in front of clients who only invest in adaptations of English language work. This statement not only justifies the need for Spanish language advertisements but condemns those who over simplify the Hispanic market. We must accept the market's complexity and diversity so can make decisions based not on pre-conceived notions, but on target research we've invested in.



On Hispanic families and gender roles: Asked if Diaz's family was upset with the autobiographical elements of his fiction, he had this to say: "If ... one of my sisters wr(ote) the stuff I wrote, they would be obliterated. The other thing is I'm straight. (My) privilege begins to stack up. My masculine privilege trumps any feeling of shame or any sort of irritation my family has. I am 42 and I am still not my mother's dream. And that's just the way it works. I call that a tie. 'I'm not your dream; you're not my dream.' I call that a tie."

The statement above speaks to gender roles prevalent in many Hispanic cultures and the conflict first-generation Americans experience in trying to break them. When developing marketing communication for Hispanics, we needs to understand the pressures family and community place on individuals to fulfill these roles, and comprehend that gender roles vary from culture to culture. Additionally, family and community pressure is different in the U.S. Hispanic market than in the general market. Family and community are likely more present and, therefore, more influential. Gender roles within the Hispanic community may seem antiquated to the general market, but they must be accounted for when attempting to deliver a message to the U.S. Hispanic market.

On "Simultaneity": "People, whether they like to admit it or not, function across the axis of simultaneity, which (means) that I can simultaneously be a Latino, simultaneously be a Dominican, simultaneously be an immigrant, and simultaneously be someone of African descent."

Like most individuals, U.S. Hispanics are products of their environment, and their environment is often tied with U.S. culture. As marketers, we tend to try to simplify and talk to people based on one aspect of their identity. Recognizing that Latinos have multiple "identities" may make communicating with them more complex, but it certainly helps us connect with them on a more authentic level.

It's no surprise Diaz is such a rich source of insights for Hispanic marketers. As a writer, it's his job to understand the inner workings of the people he writes about, and, in turn, to understand who he is and how his own perspective influences his writing. As marketers, we must remember that cultural insights are everywhere. Yes, they can still be found in the focus groups and ethnographies and surveys we love to rely on in the industry, but they can also be found in unexpected places.

3 comments about "Finding Consumer Insights In Unexpected Places ".
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  1. Adrian Jordan from Cablevision, June 16, 2011 at 10 p.m.

    Interesting and I could not agree more! Insight by definition is the "instance of apprehending the true nature of a thing, especially through intuitive understanding." Its all about that balance between formal research presented on a graph and visiting la barbería and just listening.

  2. Louis Pagan from Hispanicize, June 17, 2011 at 9:03 a.m.

    Great article.

    But, I'd rename this as "Finding Consumer Insights In Overlooked Places"

  3. Valerie Russo from Literanista, June 17, 2011 at 5:13 p.m.

    I think there are some great points here but my principle belief is that marketers also need to be storytellers. Looking to notable writers as paragons of their culture may carry some weight but ultimately it's your consumers who really walk the walk - it is they that hold the keys to your success. Great writers are great in that they speak to the masses but it's important to recall that many of them spin fiction not ethnography.

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