This means that, when marketers talk about "U.S. Latinos," they cannot simply fall back on images of first-generation, Spanish-speaking immigrants. The Hispanic population in the U.S. is assimilating and transforming much faster than the speed of stereotypes, acquiring complexity as it blends old and new.
But assumptions still have a habit of rearing their ugly heads when marketers and researchers are planning their Hispanic work, from strategy to surveys to advertising execution. Even subtle stereotypes can undermine the effectiveness of your efforts, and create a negative reputation for your company in this all-important community.
During this time of economic contraction, firms that can see beyond stereotypes have a chance to identify anew who and where the profitable Hispanic customers are -- and prioritize the most effective marketing efforts for reaching them. To make sure you do not fall prey to the assumption trap, you need to start with an understanding of the full spectrum of the Latino market. In short, your market research needs to be sound -- and that is harder to achieve than it might appear to be.
The Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Internet & American Life Project found that 56% of Spanish-speakers are not on the Internet and do not receive even occasional emails. This means that more than half of this important population is missing from essentially all Internet surveys; that is potentially a big "miss" for marketers trying to figure out how to make launch effective marketing campaigns targeting U.S. Latinos.
The problem, Pew found, was more lack of access than lack of interest. To provide an alternative, Knowledge Networks began giving laptops and Internet access to all Spanish- and English-speaking Latinos who were selected for our new online panel.
A recent survey of 2,970 members of KnowledgePanel Latino panel -- from across the spectrum of acculturation, income, and English/Spanish dominance -- provided some striking views on assimilation and culture. From these results, we can derive important lessons on how to market to Hispanics with sensitivity and efficiency:
With a respect for nuance and access to the right resources -- representative, accurate research being one of the essentials -- making wise bets in the Hispanic marketplace can offer a source of growth and profitability in difficult times. But failing to see this diverse community clearly, in all its variations, could be inviting disappointment for marketers and researchers alike.