All Latinos are not the same. It is true that we all carry Latin American and/or Spanish heritage in our blood, but that is the only variable that won’t vary (some may say this is cutting us short, but let’s use this definition for the purposes of this discussion). As discussed in previous articles, there are certain cultural characteristics that you need to be aware of in order to better understand the Latino frame of mind:
- Degree of intimacy
- Level of interaction
- Social harmony
- Personal contact
- Respect for authority
These are extremely important and a great starting point for truly connecting with Hispanics. Then again, the Latino community is so diverse, that if you limit yourself to only these general characteristics, it will still be quite challenging to effectively and efficiently reach out to the market you specifically are trying to attract.
You also need to be aware of additional variables that influence Latinos, both as distinct groups and as individuals. Here, in no particular order, are some of the traits to consider when identifying the group (or groups) of Latinos on whom you will focus your marketing efforts in order to tailor a message that resonates with them:
- Country of Origin / Heritage: There are many differences between Hispanics, depending upon the person’s country of origin or heritage: Food and music preferences, as well as the Holidays they celebrate are some of the most obvious. The actual words they use to describe persons, places, actions and things can vary immensely as well.
- Language Preference: What is the actual language that your target group prefers? Do they usually speak and read in English or Spanish? Are they fully bilingual or closer to either end of the English-Spanish language spectrum? This is of utmost importance when developing your message. Will you talk to them exclusively in English or Spanish? Will you talk to them in both languages? Will you utilize Spanglish (code-switching)?
- Generation: A completely different worldview depends on how many generations away Hispanics are from their country of origin/heritage. First generation (foreign-born) Latinos have experienced life outside the U.S., have gone through the immigration experience, and to different degrees, have embraced or become acquainted with living in America. Second generation Latinos encounter a mixed experience, being born and growing up in the United States, but brought up by immigrants and thus heavily exposed and influenced by their parents’ culture. Finally, Latinos who are third generation and beyond are the sons and daughters of U.S.-born parents. They are very much influenced by the general market, but still connect to their roots through the values, traditions, and culture passed on by their parents and grandparents.
- Place of Residence: Latinos living in different parts of the country have completely different life experiences. It depends on the size of their city or town, its demographic composition, and how much or little interaction they have with fellow Latinos. Hispanics living in Los Angeles, Houston, Miami or New York have a vastly different experience and easier access to all things Hispanic than if they reside in Boise or Billings.
- Sociocultural Level: In most cases, foreign-born Latinos obtain a higher income level and greater buying power than they experienced in their home countries. Still, even while their wallets or bank accounts tell one story, their buying habits and overall lifestyles could tell a different story. Their mind-set may cause them to retain financial habits learned in the past, meaning they may be spending less than their buying power would indicate. In other cases, immigrants may arrive in the U.S. with a high sociocultural and economic level and broader world-view, which creates a completely different set of needs.
- Acculturation: How much have Hispanics modified or adapted their attitudes and behaviors as a result of contact with mainstream America? What new systems of thought, beliefs, emotions and communication systems have they embraced in order to exist in a new cultural environment without abandoning their heritage?
- Assimilation: While often used interchangeably with acculturation, this is actually the process of giving up a cultural heritage and becoming absorbed into the mainstream culture. How much has a Latino “forgotten” about their heritage in order to see him/herself as part of a larger national family?
- Income Level: In general terms, the higher a person’s income level (this applies to all people, not only Latinos) the likelier they will have their basic needs fulfilled. The wants and/or needs addressed in your targeted marketing message will need to take this into consideration.
As you can see, it is a combination of all these distinct variables that defines the Hispanic group (or groups) that you will focus on. A good way to understand the interaction between these variables is considering each as an element of a matrix, and the point of intersection of all these variables defines the part of the market you are trying to reach.
As mentioned before, this analysis could be executed down to an individual level, but for marketing purposes it is completely cost prohibitive and would deliver a dreadful ROI. The idea behind this explanation is that you need to perform your due diligence and understand where the majority of the people you are trying to reach land on this matrix, modifying your message according to this insight.