Everybody Loves Biculturals

It seems whenever the conversation turns to the Hispanic market, everybody focuses on biculturals. Whether its veteran Hispanic marketers or newbie brands looking to increase their investment in the Hispanic market, everybody asks about bicultural Hispanics.

So who exactly are these biculturals everyone seems obsessed with? The advertising industry loves a new hot term, or concept and biculturals seems to be exactly that within the Hispanic ad world. While there is not an official definition established by some industry trade group, generally, bicultural Hispanics refers to a subset of U.S. Hispanics who fit the following profile:

Acculturation: Partially acculturated to fully acculturated

Country of origin: U.S. born

Language preference: Bilingual or English-preferred

Age: Under 45

Culturally: Active in both mainstream and Latino culture

Depending on your exact definition, bicultural Hispanics account for approximately 50 to 60% of the U.S. Hispanic market, or 26 to 31 million U.S. Hispanics. This is a large swath. Beyond their sheer numbers, they are a growth market representing more than 20% of U.S. population growth and 45% of Hispanic population growth. They are young with an average age of 27. They are a marketer’s dream-come-true with higher income and education levels. 

It’s easy to understand why everyone is so focused on Hispanic biculturals. What’s not so easy to figure out is how to effectively advertise to and engage them. Hispanic biculturals don’t fit well into most of the paradigms of professional marketers. 

First off, biculturals don’t fit into the demographic and behavioral profile most marketers understand as “Hispanic.” They may not consume Spanish-language media. Many don’t even speak Spanish. They have very different attitudes than their immigrant predecessors. 

Secondly, while they are very much a part of the so-called “general market,” many are culturally Latino, going back and forth between English and Spanish language media and spoken language. They proudly consider themselves “Latinos.”

Most Hispanic marketing experts haven’t figured them out, as they cut their teeth reaching the unacculturated, Spanish-preferring immigrant. The same goes for most media companies and publishers. General market advertising professionals are starting to acknowledge their existence, and the few media companies catering to them are in classic “test and learn” mode.

So what is a marketer to do? I don’t have any definitive answers when it comes to such a complex and rapidly evolving demographic group. But as a wise man once said, I know what doesn’t work. Here are some examples:

Total Market Approach – While this overly used, misappropriated, and confusing term is all the rage, it’s code for general market agencies that are 1) casting some Hispanics in their TV spots and 2) adding Univision and Telemundo into their media plans. 

Add Spanish – Another simplistic strategy where a few Spanish words or sentences are gratuitously inserted into an ad as a not-so-subtle guiño to bicultural Hispanics. While mixing languages can work when it’s organic and relevant to the creative, it’s mostly used as a sprinkling technique.

Hispanic Marketing Playbook (circa 1985-2010) – This playbook exists. It’s still used, a lot. It’s irrelevant to biculturals. To be successful with biculturals, we need to throw it out and start fresh.

2 comments about "Everybody Loves Biculturals".
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  1. Lisa Urias from Urias Communications, September 5, 2013 at 12:33 p.m.

    I always find it interesting when companies think reaching Latinos is somehow easier than reaching the various general market audiences. Yet those same processes much be engaged to fully connect your brand to these burgeoning markets: customer segmentation, research, focus group testing, and ultimately, creating a compelling campaign with enough weight behind it to be successful.

  2. Jose Huitron from Hub 81, September 5, 2013 at 1:07 p.m.

    Tocayo, I love how you put a spotlight on what doesn't work. "Sprinkling techniques" is a good term. Never heard of the Playbook but I agree we need to start fresh with relevance, meaningful content, and creative genius.

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