'Cultural Relevancy'?

Whenever the topic of reaching Hispanic consumers is brought up, we are constantly reminded of the importance of cultural relevancy, even though I’ve written extensibly about the subject. But exactly what does it mean? And how does a brand empower cultural relevancy as part of their strategy? According to an article in Forbes, “Hispanics are more inclined to build trustworthy relationships with people and companies that take the time to understand who we are and what we represent morally, ethically and culturally.”

Of course, knowledge like the technology usage trends amongst Hispanics or about whether Spanish over English is more effective in marketing efforts is undeniably important. Insight into how to use this knowledge as an opportunity to engage Hispanics through the issues that affect them is, perhaps, invaluable.

One of the main issues affecting Hispanics is, and has always been, immigration. However, this could be a difficult or even taboo subject to incorporate into a brand’s strategy. On the other hand, in-depth knowledge of not just the topic but of the whole picture could help a brand “empathize” with the community and, as a result, gain their trust and loyalty on a deeper level.

For example, a recent study by PEW Research Center shows that in 2012 a whopping 419,384 deportations of undocumented Hispanic immigrants were executed, a record to date. Further research into the subject yielded the surprising fact that Hispanics see unauthorized immigration into the country as having a positive impact in the overall community. Why? Could it be that Latinos see their growing numbers —whether through authorized immigration or not— as a way to achieve a stronger voice? Could this also be a mitigating factor for the prevailing sentiment that they don’t have any clear national leaders? These questions are not answered in the study. And anyone looking to do so would, perhaps, have to conduct a followup survey or even multiple ones.

As we know, surveys can be expensive, take time and sometimes lead to more questions than answers —thus requiring more research and involvement on the part of an interested brand. Which could easily be seen as unnecessary and cumbersome by someone just looking for quick answers and a cursory knowledge on how to “connect with Hispanics.”

It is common knowledge that many elements are necessary when trying to earn someone’s trust and loyalty. Not unlike a one-on-one relationship, a brand must show genuine interest, deep knowledge about the issues that affect the community, and the willingness to engage in them and take action, in order to build a lasting and mutually beneficial partnership with Hispanics.

So. No matter how “sticky," complex, or politically charged these issues may be, an in-depth and comprehensive analysis of them — and their impact in the community as a whole — will lead to the realization that they cannot be separated  from it nor ignored. This is not “optional information.”

The brands that understand this and are willing to engage in a holistic way will be, in effect, empowering the community. In fact, many of them already have in place foundations and organizations that could, through outreach efforts, be opening dialogue and contributing to the community’s overall health, thereby making the company’s commitment evident. Brands that act this way, could gain more loyal consumers than the ones that are simply focusing on how to “sell more to” or “capture more” of this group’s tremendous buying power.

Perhaps cultural relevancy is on a very basic level nothing more than good, old empathy.

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