In today's marketing landscape, it's no secret that the U.S. Hispanic population has been rapidly growing for well over 20 years. What some marketers may overlook is that this demographic is a significant growth driver for various sectors and brands, with increasing purchasing power and upward mobility.
In fact, a recent report by UCLA Center for the Study of Latino Health and Culture highlights that if the U.S. Latino population were its own nation, it would boast the world's fifth-largest GDP, surpassing countries like the United Kingdom, France, and India. What's more, the U.S. Latino GDP experienced the second-highest growth from 2020 to 2021, trailing only China.
So why do many clients and their agencies seem to neglect established best practices in Hispanic marketing, despite the increased focus on delivering authentic brand storytelling?
The answer lies in a misguided belief that, as the U.S. approaches a multicultural majority, broad-market campaigns with diverse casts are sufficient for multicultural marketing. Specifically, when it comes to Hispanic marketing, there's a misconception that the growing number of U.S.-born Hispanics (60% of the segment) results in a weaker connection to Latino culture and less affinity for Spanish-language content. However, Pew Research Center data contradicts this, revealing that 77% of Hispanics remain familiar with their cultural roots, with over half considering Latino culture central to their identity.
While greater diversity in mainstream campaigns is certainly commendable, this alone falls short in effectively engaging Hispanics and other multicultural audiences. Why? Because diverse cast members in these campaigns typically play generic roles, sometimes even portrayed in a polarizing or offensive manner. Winning over Hispanic consumers requires a deeper level of insightful and authentic storytelling that not only makes them feel seen and heard but also understood.
As we celebrate creative excellence during Hispanic Heritage Month, I challenge all marketers, both on the client and agency sides, to take a moment to assess their Hispanic marketing efforts and reaffirm their commitment to the following best practices:
Lead with Spanish while integrating English strategically. A majority (71%) of U.S. Latinos speak Spanish, and 66% are bilingual and proficient in both languages, according to Claritas. Speaking Spanish helps Latinos connect with their culture and heritage. Despite misconceptions, younger Latinos are increasingly choosing to reclaim the Spanish language, confidently and unapologetically.
Recognize growing diversity AND foundational commonalities. The U.S. Hispanic population is rapidly diversifying, representing 22 Spanish-speaking countries, including Puerto Rico and Equatorial Guinea, and encompassing various racial backgrounds. But we also share foundational commonalities that create bonds through their heritage, language, and cultural influences, fostering mutual understanding and support.
Invest in media and content with cultural resonance and consumer trust. Nielsen research shows that Hispanics trust content that resonates culturally and authentically with their experiences. Spanish-language media, which deeply resonates with Latino interests, values, and beliefs, is particularly trusted. Ignoring this could result in lukewarm brand connections and missed opportunities.
Customize strategies and creativity for strong brand connections. While the majority of Hispanics are bilingual and proficient in English, mainstream ads often fail to connect with them on a deep, emotional level. Quantitative studies consistently show that Spanish-language ads outperform English ads, appealing to Spanish-preferred Hispanics, bilinguals, and English-preferred individuals alike.
Brands that genuinely engage consumers on their terms, whether through language or culture, thrive. Ignoring these best practices and underestimating the power of culture does a disservice to both consumers and brands, leaving potential opportunities unexplored.