It seems like a lot of marketers are focusing on the native-born segment of the population, and some are even questioning the role of specialized Hispanic agencies. It started shortly after the 2010 U.S. Census revealed that 62% of Hispanics are native born. Clearly the native-born segment of the U.S. Hispanic market is critical for marketers to understand and address, but foreign-born Hispanics still hold the key to the Hispanic market —and the need for marketing agencies that understand this segment is stronger than ever.
Market Size, Influence and Potential
Today there are roughly 19 million foreign-born Hispanics in the U.S., a market roughly the size of New York State. This is a large market, but it is not so much the size of the market that matters but rather the influence Hispanics have on each other, regardless of where they were born, that makes the foreign-born Hispanics so important.
Foreign-born Hispanics are the parents, grandparents, uncles and aunts of native-born Hispanics and have significant influence over them. Although native-born Hispanics are forming their own unique Hispanic-American culture, the importance of family and the role of elders remain strong. In this way, marketers who are successful in reaching foreign-born Hispanics will also be reaching native-born Hispanics, but will do so within a culturally relevant and meaningful context, the family.
What’s more, it is quite possible that we are on the verge of a period of strong immigration growth. Just as a weakening U.S. economy and tighter immigration policy in the wake of 9/11 slowed immigration, an improving economy and the increased possibility of immigration reform would drive increased immigration and, along with it, the size of the foreign-born Hispanic market. It is true that new Hispanics immigrants will likely be less affluent and less educated than native-born Hispanics. But new immigrants will be a marketer's dream as they will not only be ambitious, hard-working and open-minded they will also have access to information and technology that past immigrant generations did not have.
The Spanish language factor
Market size, influence and potential growth are powerful reasons to invest now in the foreign-born Hispanic market. But there's another compelling reason to invest in them: their language. Spanish represents a unique marketing channel that gives marketers a simple, quantifiable and efficient way to reach foreign-born U.S. Hispanics. (If we assume for argument’s sake that foreign-born Hispanics skew Spanish-dominant).
Today there are myriad cost effective options for reaching Hispanics in Spanish. These options include a robust Spanish-language media market in addition to digital tactics including social and mobile. What’s more, there is relatively less competition when it comes to marketing in Spanish. By investing in Spanish-language marketing initiatives, marketers are not only assured that investments are being targeted squarely at U.S. Hispanics, but also that those investments will have a strong impact due to the relative lack of competition.
On the other hand, reaching native-born U.S. Hispanics is more complex, more expensive and not as measurable as simply targeting U.S. Hispanics in Spanish. To reach native-born Hispanics, marketers often infuse Hispanic culture into general market campaigns, partner with emerging, English language, Hispanic-centric media properties or leverage advanced consumer targeting techniques.
As the demographic makeup of the country continues to evolve and become more multi-cultural, marketers should indeed explore ways to reach native-born Hispanics and other emerging segments. But it's important not to write off foreign-born Hispanics, both the ones currently here and the ones who will be here in the future and marketing agencies who intimately understand this segment are best suited to reach them.