Commentary

The Most Common Mistakes Brands Make When Targeting Hispanic Audiences

This Hispanic Heritage Month, I was privileged to have the chance to speak to four different heavyweights in the field of Hispanic marketing. You can find those interviews here. I asked each one of them what they felt was the most common mistake made by brands when attempting to reach out to Hispanic audiences. Here are their answers:

Michele Ruiz, Author, Entrepreneur and Public Speaker

The most common mistake brands make is to overgeneralize and think all Hispanics value the same things. The Hispanic demographic is made up of many diverse groups with differing preferences on everything from politics to values to religion and culture. Many brands don’t invest in obtaining the knowledge and right knowhow that they need in order to communicate authentically and effectively to Hispanics.

Antonio Tijerino, President and CEO of the Hispanic Heritage Foundation

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Lumping us all together as Latinos is a huge mistake.  It’s getting better, but brands still think of Latinos as monolithic. Latino communities contain so many nuances, between people who are Spanish-dominant, English-only speakers but culturally Latino, the many wonderful races that make up our community, or the difference between a Latino whose family has been here for five generations and recent arrivals to the country.

Think about it this way: someone of Cuban descent living in Miami is very different from a Cuban living in New Jersey. We obviously have a beautiful commonalities, which I believe have gotten stronger and stronger as Latinos in today’s environment -- but we deserve to be marketed to in the nuanced way a trillion-and-a-half buying-power population deserves.

Martha de la Torre, Co-founder and President of El Clasificado, EC Hispanic Media

The oversight that most brands make when reaching the Hispanic market is, they lack an understanding of each individual market they are trying to reach. Hispanic markets should never be looked at as one group with one language and one culture, but rather in segments with differences based on age, traditions, food cultures, educational backgrounds, buying traditions, and even the regions where they live.

For instance, just translating text from English to Spanish or not working to creatively develop campaigns for the targeted demo often leads to decreased responses to the campaign. In order to decrease this likelihood, advertisers can use proprietary local market research and online traffic data.

However, in case this [data] doesn’t exist, partnering up with Hispanic community organizations or even asking for consumer data from your selected advertising medium can help identify the predominant Latino cultures by region.

Another common mistake is underestimating the purchasing power of the Hispanic market, not understanding their buying behaviors, and not realizing that in 2018 many Latinos are college-educated with higher degrees.

Especially of note is that, as many Latinos achieve a higher income status, they still choose to live at home with their parents or close to home. This is contributing to the Latin gentrification of communities like East LA and Huntington Park in Los Angeles. Communities like these were once a haven for Spanish-only advertising. Now, depending on the age group being targeted, you need to have bilingual and bicultural campaigns.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco, Chief Hispanic Marketing Strategist, Walton Isaacson

Brands often outsource their relationships with the Latino community. Marketers who are not from the community -- aka: the majority of marketers -- seldom make the personal commitment to listen to and learn from a cross-section of U.S. Latinos. They don’t read literature by Latinos or spend time in the community with no other agenda than to appreciate a world outside of their own.

It’s not enough to attend an occasional focus group or event. Marketers should want to develop cultural intelligence and fluency. Relationships with the community should be meaningful, not just transactional. It’s hard to make culturally courageous decisions when you never develop your own cultural compass because you’ve delegated that role to someone else.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m a big fan of clients engaging agencies with deep and specific cultural expertise. No single individual or team-in-training could possibly have the depth of understanding one needs to cover this intergenerational, intersectional consumer segment.

So my issue with outsourcing isn’t meant to negate the absolute importance and value of specialized agency partners. Quite the opposite! Clients benefit from expert partners.

But these  agency partners also need to work with culturally aware clients: clients who respect Latino consumers enough to get beyond the basics. Without a solid cultural foundation, marketers tend to either play it too safe or lack commitment, stopping and starting Latino initiatives with no personal appreciation for the negative impact that their random, inconsistent decisions have on their brands in the long term.

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