Have Hispanic Heritage Month marked on your marketing editorial calendar? Good. Now cross it out. Because the best way to honor Hispanics is to think about them all year long.
Since the late 60s, Americans have designated Hispanic Heritage Month, from mid-September to mid-October, to celebrate our history, culture and contributions.
Considering the well-documented, dramatic spike in the Hispanic population — and that their buying power is projected to reach $2.6 trillion by 2025, representing a nearly 150% increase over the last decade, according to Nielsen — shouldn’t marketers commit to doing a better job of celebrating, representing and speaking to them all year long, not just for 30 days in the fall?
Americans under 35 could be a multicultural majority as early as next year, based on preliminary 2020 U.S. Census data. And yet too many marketers still think of Hispanics as a subset of the population rather than a market that is fully part of the mainstream.
As a Cuban-American, I believe there are several reasons for the continuing misperception and ongoing underrepresentation of Hispanics in brand outreach.
First, marketers must understand that Hispanics live in two worlds: the country of their heritage and the U.S.—and they are equally proud of both. Making sure that your brand aligns with all their values, with all their cultural touchpoints, is essential, free of the stereotypes we still see, unfortunately, in too many brand messages today.
Hispanics are not a monolith—we are a mosaic—and understanding that is the first step to developing a campaign that truly reflects who we are.
The U.S. is home to more than 3.8 million Afro-Latinos, representing 6.3% of Hispanics, while the Asian Latino population has grown by 28% over the past decade, per Nielsen. It would do well for marketers to remember that more than half of Hispanics 13-49 have quit a brand that has offended them or disrespected their values, according to the Hispanic Marketing Council. Truly understanding who they are is the first step toward accurately depicting them, communicating to them and serving them.
The problem, like so many problems, tends to start at the top.
In the U.S., 9 out of 10 chief executives and advertising, promotions, sales and marketing managers are non-Hispanic white, according to Kantar and Affectiva. Globally, the numbers aren’t much better, as data via Creative Equals from the U.K. indicates that there are very few people from underrepresented groups worldwide creating ads. Brands must do a better job of putting Hispanics in positions of marketing leadership, while agencies would better serve themselves and their constituencies by hiring more Hispanic creatives. And brands must work with agencies that are experts in the Hispanic market.
This isn’t about technology. This isn’t about data. This isn’t about metrics. This is about how people think about the communities they’re serving. And we have so much more to do to get there. In many markets, brand communications should be built around Hispanic audiences first and dare I say, only. Instead, campaigns are always developed for general market audiences in English and then in Spanish when warranted. Check. That is a travesty. More than that, it’s pathetic.
I’m going to stay positive that we’re going to continue to get there. But I don’t think that we can get there unless the CMO or the creatives represent the voice of the consumer. After all, it’s their job. So, more CMOs need to reflect the population, to be Hispanic, or Black, or Asian—someone who will say, “We cannot market to the public without thinking about everybody who is impacted.” And that’s not going to happen until we hire the right people, and put the right people in positions of authority.
Because Hispanics in positions of power in advertising are still lacking, too many brands, especially those that work with general-market ad agencies as opposed to those that specialize in reaching Hispanic audiences, are merely checking boxes when it comes to their multicultural campaigns—just as they check a box by celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month.
“Does our ad show a brown person?” Check.
“Do we show a grandmother cooking tortillas?” Check.
What these brands do not understand is that today’s acculturated Hispanics see right through that b*llsh*t. As Latinas, we know a snow job when we see it.
That said, the role of the all-important female force in the Hispanic household cannot be overlooked. On the contrary, to capture this market, marketers must first capture the heart of the matriarch — again, free of stereotypes. Let’s be clear: She’s not at home, cooking big family meals all day. Rather, working Hispanic mothers are struggling to achieve work-life balance every bit as much as non-Hispanic moms.
Latinas make up a potent and fast-growing share of the U.S. workforce. The number of Latinas in the workforce has swelled to 12.5 million, surpassing Black women, while they make up 16% of female employees, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Again, they are not a monolith, with Latinas of Mexican heritage making up the largest share, followed by those identifying as Puerto Rican and Cuban.
Labor force participation among Latinas has historically lagged that of other segments of the population but now stands at more than half—56%—in line with rates for all women. Representation among working Hispanic moms is also on the rise, at 63%, versus 71% among all working moms.
In my years in health and wellness advertising, I have learned much about the mindset of the Hispanic woman and mother—much of it from advertising campaigns. There is a recurring theme throughout, and that is that Hispanic women don’t tend to put themselves first.
For example, in lower income communities, Hispanic moms who were diabetic were prone to changing their own diets but not those of their family, as to not deprive them of their favorite traditional foods—no matter how unhealthy they were. Thus, unhealthy choices are passed down to the next generation. Meanwhile, Hispanic mothers tend to equate eating at home, as in dinner at home every night with the family, with healthy eating—even if the meals are fried and heavily salted—contributing to childhood obesity. And shockingly, many Latinas beyond childbearing age no longer feel the need to do breast or pelvic exams.
Clearly advertisers have a long way to go when it comes to educating this key demo.
So, how can you as a brand marketer better connect with Hispanic consumers, particularly Latina moms?
First, don’t try to “sell” her. Learn everything about her and her family, then connect with her through storytelling, and through emotion. And in doing so, by all means, avoid the stereotypes.
Also, again, brands need to ensure there are more Hispanics in decision making roles and that they work with agencies that specialize in the market, while agencies must do more to recruit Hispanic talent. Your creative talent must align with your target. How do you expect to reach your audience if your team is not speaking their language?
And for heaven’s sake, stop just checking the boxes.
The Hispanic market is here to stay. It’ll take more than a checked box—and more than just a month—to celebrate and speak to our duality, our culture and our values.