Sept. 15 marks the start of Hispanic Heritage Month. As the month unfolds, I’ll be speaking with several leaders in the Hispanic advertising space and sharing some of their insights.
First up is Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, the chief Hispanic marketing strategist for agency Walton Isaacson. Newman-Carrasco has over 30 years of experience developing strategy and marketing initiatives for high-profile clients, including Lexus, Procter & Gamble, Jack in the Box, Warner Bros., and Macy’s.
What makes the U.S. Hispanic consumer unique, and why is it
important to focus on them specifically instead of on the “total market”?
I think we can agree that all consumers are unique. So the idea of “U.S. Hispanic or U.S. Latinx marketing” is just one way of aggregating very unique consumers based upon some very real commonalities, especially when viewed in contrast to non-Latinx communities.
More often than not, for example, even when U.S.-born, Latinx are the children (or grandchildren) of immigrants from Latin America, Mexico or the Caribbean -- and they are likely to still be connected to a crosscultural, global network of family and friends.
As individuals, they may or may not be Spanish speakers or may be bilingual to varying degrees, but Spanish still plays an important role community-wide. They may or may not have experienced overt racism, but the likelihood is that either because of skin color, or accent, or both, they have.
Cultural resilience often emerges from exclusionary and adverse realities, especially as social media serves as a platform for diverse communities to control their own narrative. Latinos are also significantly younger than non-Latinos. And the list goes on.
Again, lots of differences exist among Latinos, but significant cultural overlap exists as well. (And yes, I have deliberately used Hispanic, Latinx and Latino -- it’s not an oversight).
Now, as for total market, that’s a related but distinct conversation. At the end of the day, a so-called total-market approach should reflect society as a whole -- so it should be as inclusive as possible. Target marketing and total market don’t cancel each other out. They serve different purposes.
When the phrase “total market” entered the dictionary of advertising jargon it was meant to expand the pie for diverse communities, not shrink it. It was an opportunity for marketers to engage in targeted initiatives steeped in cultural specifics AND represent communities of color -- for example, in what keeps being called the “general market, which unfortunately has wound up becoming code for non-Hispanic white marketing.
Where many total-market initiatives fall short is in their reliance on casting as a visual proof-point of inclusion instead of on real cultural insights as a values-based proof-point.
What brands are presently doing a good job of catering to the needs of the Hispanic consumer?
I could list several brands, but I would rather underscore the need for brands to be more vocal about the abject neglect of Puerto Ricans after Hurricane Maria, the state of DACA students whose lives in the U.S. continue to hang by a thread, and the increase in hate crimes, as well as anti-Latino rhetoric.
And we can’t forget the ways in which unresolved family separations impact us all, Latino and non-Latino alike. I know there are brands engaging in some of these areas behind the scenes, but they could dial up the volume. Even the image of Latinos in Hollywood and in the media, which is often nonexistent or negative, requires the kind of attention that courageous corporate citizens could address.
Given your decades of experience in focusing on the U.S. Hispanic consumer, what’s one current trend you are paying attention to?
The rise of cultural innovators. For example, I look at the Mirandas -- not just Lin-Manuel but his community organizer parents, his lawyer wife, his family, his body of work and his creative community. I look at his Twitter feed and his Hamildrops. There are so many pieces of cultural narrative going on in that one ecosystem.
I would suggest that a trend to watch is the emergence of cultural creators who unapologetically center their authentic Latino identity and experiences, engaging in wide-ranging activism, and placing artistry over advertising. Authenticity and activism don’t always mix well with marketing. But when things work, the combination can be powerful.