The Top 7 Things I've Learned About The Hispanic Market

In my career, I’ve had good mentors and been on the receiving end of some eye-opening lessons; what follows is a distillation of that received wisdom.

People, not consumers

Ad agency folks and clients often lose sight of the fact that we are selling products to people. People have hopes, dreams, aspirations, fears, loves and hates, etc. The word “consumers” makes people sound like termites, eating their way through life, destroying everything and producing nothing. Humanize your audience.

Among Hispanics, the immigrant generation is differentiated by their unique aspirations and fears, and their heirs carry the burden of achieving the dreams their parents had for them. Respect that.

What people say they do and what they actually do are often two very different things. 

When clients ask for focus groups remind them that getting the target’s side of the story is important but it’s not the whole picture. Nothing beats direct observation. 



Observing Latinos in the real world is doubly important. Shame and pride can be big motivators for Hispanics. I did a qualitative study in which we were told to recruit Hispanic homemakers with household incomes of $15,000 or less. The client saw our well-dressed respondents and doubted they were in that income bracket. I explained that, for Hispanic women, going to talk to strangers, and being paid for it, was not something they’d take lightly. Most would insist on wearing nice clothes, make-up and adorning themselves with jewelry.

Our target doesn’t possess “the insight” that we are all desperately seeking

Most people are oblivious to many aspects of their own motivations. They simply don’t sit around thinking about what makes them tick. It’s our job to study them and learn more about them than they know about themselves. In most cases a valuable insight won’t come directly from a person’s mouth. Instead they may say something and suddenly you’ll be the one that puts the puzzle together.

It’s been my experience that Latinos are even less able to explain their motivations. For a variety of reasons, many Latinos are too busy living life to contemplate how they are living it and why. 

People in the real world don’t scrutinize advertising the way we do. 

Clients tend to scrutinize every word in every ad. Fact is, people don’t pay close attention to advertising, even when they are trying to. I’ve shown TV spots to focus groups who were asked to watch carefully and am always surprised at how little they retain. Advertising is like an impressionistic painting; the way it makes you feel is based on the big picture it forms rather than the actual brush strokes seen up close. 

Most people don’t make rational purchase decisions. 

What’s really important is how advertising makes people feel. People don’t usually put a lot of thought into purchasing decisions. They will post-rationalize their emotional decisions. With each ad, as with each brushstroke in the impressionistic painting, we can guide them toward making the desired decision. We can’t tell the whole story in every ad. Instead, make sure each ad supports the big picture we are trying to paint.

We should never forget that we are not the target.

I once had a client, a Colombian sugarcane millionaire, tell me he didn’t like a piece of spec creative for another client that he happened to see. I said, “That’s okay, that was designed to attract the attention of a 13-year-old Latina girl in the U.S.”

Hispanic marketers are especially guilty of forgetting this tenet. We fall into the trap of believing our Latino experience is universal. It’s not. Often we come from a different country than our target audience, have different world views, education levels and expectations 

A great idea always beats an idea that’s merely Hispanic.

Many Hispanic marketers are afraid to admit this but, deep down, they know that an ad won’t necessarily work better because it was created with Latinos in mind. The idea must be superior. A bad “Hispanic idea” will perform worse than a good “universal idea” every time. Generate great Hispanic ideas.

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