In the last few years, we have witnessed growing in Hispanic marketing. This is sometimes a well developed plan and at other times it is something of a short-sided. In both cases, however, the definition of the Hispanic customer is often one dimensional. Even as we’ve witnessed the growth in interest on the part of marketers, we have also witnessed the Hispanic market rapidly maturing in multiple dimensions. Examples include a proliferation of ad campaigns targeting Spanish speakers and the continued growth of media sources geared toward consumption by the Hispanic market.
Interestingly, it is at the moment this market seems to have arrived that it is changing in ways that will again challenge businesses. It is precisely at the point where the Hispanic market has become large enough to warrant such interest that it is changing and becoming something altogether new.
The Emerging Biculturalism
Marketers obviously need to be well informed to successfully merchandise a brand to Hispanic consumers, but before they can take that step they must define what it is they mean by “Hispanic.” Identity and language are dynamic, and so how we perceive ourselves changes with our community at a given moment, allowing us multiple identities within a day. The same can be said for a brand as people internalize it. One extremely difficult but fundamentally important piece of information is coming to an understanding that “Hispanic” is a loaded term and changes meaning frequently. Because ethnic identity is fluid, it means people work within a set of roles that are created in social interaction with other people. As people change, so does the meaning of “Hispanic.”
A great deal has been written about levels of acculturation and the ongoing shift from Hispanic and/or ethnic dominant cultural patterns to bicultural cultural patterns. Material is continually being written about how this shift will reshape key issues in marketing, the role of language, and the continuation of aspirational advertising.
There are, as might be expected, individuals and companies conducting research to dispel the fact that language use and language preferences are changing. Of course, they have a vested interest in promoting a Spanish-language focus. On the other side, there are those who embrace the notion that English is playing an increasing role in the lives of Hispanics. The reality is that increasingly, the norm lies somewhere in between and that there are varying degrees of language loyalty on any given day. Considering this segment is growing at twice the rate of other Hispanic segments, it is a significant issue. They have more disposable income, higher levels of education, and a greater influence on popular culture at large. What this means for companies reaching out to Hispanics is that the would-be consumer target is in the process of becoming something entirely new. Targeting these evolving consumers will no doubt lead to increased awareness and profits, but understanding them, reaching them and deciding how they fit into a broader business strategy is decidedly complex and requires a subtle approach.
As the market matures and becomes a fixture of the larger American experience, the question is less about whether or not the Hispanic market is viable and a point of growth. Instead, it is about uncovering how we respond in the long term. Inevitably, as companies increase their presence in the Hispanic market, they invariably change its nature and help create something new. It is the companies who can think creatively and act quickly that will succeed in this newly developing conversation and approach to understanding.