Marketers Are Missing The Bidirectional Toggle

MarketingInsider has recently run posts about how artificially low Hispanic marketing budgets are, citing several reasons why that’s the case.

There’s another fundamental reason underlying everything that threatens the effectiveness and future of Hispanic marketing altogether: Marketers fail to account for the nature of influence and purchasing in a multigenerational family.

I say family instead of household because Hispanic families, in particular, live as if all generations are in the same household. The generations influence and support each other, so brand engagement along the purchase journey toggles between young and old, English and Spanish. 

At the center of the action is the ELF, English-language-first Latino, who was either born here (generation 2.0) or immigrated before the age of 10 (generation 1.5). Both of these generations are ELFs: bilingual, bicultural, and highly influential.

ELFs become Sherpas for foreign-born relatives at a very early age. They translate the language, interpret the U.S. ethos, inform brand and product purchases, and demystify new services and technologies. And as they mature, their sphere of influence expands and becomes culturally agnostic, incorporating non-Hispanic family, friends and colleagues.



Here’s how the toggle works in today’s multigenerational household, where the head of household is a first-generation, Spanish-language-first (SLF) immigrant. The parents ask a son/daughter to look up a product or service, which the son/daughter does online in English. Once they find what they are looking for, they’ll look for the content in Spanish or Google-translate the content for their parents. If the parent is pleased with what they’ve read, they will give their credit card to the son/daughter and ask him/her to purchase the product or sign-up for the service. The latter action occurs in English.

Guess who gets credit for the ecommerce transaction? The general market campaign, because the end action happened in English. So, the value of the Hispanic market is diminished, and budgets become neutralized or minimized because brands don’t see the “Hispanic market lift” they were expecting.

Without proof of adequate market lift, most marketers will find it hard to justify allocating the 19% census dictates to Hispanic marketing.

The solution is twofold. First, recognize the toggle and focus on the consumers at the controls: the ELFs, who represent 55% of the Hispanic population. They don’t stop playing Sherpa when they leave home; in fact, they get more active as their Spanish-speaking parents age. Advertise to them in English, but wink at them with auditory or visual cues in Spanish. Emphasize online, while advertising proportionally to their elder relatives in Spanish.

Second, tag all pages on your website across languages, so you can better discern an individual’s consumer journey. Don’t assume that if they landed on the Spanish site that’s the only area they stayed in, or vice versa. It’s essential to track not just where they go on your site and how long they engage with content, but in what languages did both content consumption and ecommerce transaction occur. Then you can accurately attribute purchases and understand purchase behavior.

2 comments about "Marketers Are Missing The Bidirectional Toggle".
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  1. Marcelo Salup from Iffective LLC, January 22, 2020 at 2:40 p.m.

    I wonder if we could see some data on the % of all Hispanic households that actually have a third generation living full time under the same roof (so a grandmother, for example) because from the reduction in HH size that I've seen, the number must be tiny; and then I wonder how that compares, for example, against African American and Asian segments.

    I totally support the idea of tagging all pages to measure the journey. I just wonder for how many the journey will be in Spanish. And, if the journey is not in Spanish, I wonder how much of an effect that will actually have? Because if I saw that people landed in my Spanish page but the actual buying was done in English, I would cut my traditional media in Spanish even more.

  2. Maria TWENA from 9th Wonder, January 23, 2020 at 5:59 p.m.

    Thanks for your question Marcelo. According to Pew Hispanic, multigenerational living has rebounded in recent decades.This type of household is defined as including two or more adult generaitons, or including grandparents and grandchildren younger than 25. According to 2016 ACS (IPUMS) 27% of Hispanic families live in multigenerational households vs. 16% for White population. Hope this helps.

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