There is a growing necessity for brand marketers to provide culturally relevant content and messaging that specifically targets US Hispanics. In fact, Nielsen’s recent study, The Hispanic Market Imperative – clearly states that Hispanics are the largest immigrant group to exhibit significant sustainability of their culture and are not disappearing into the American melting pot. Now that we have confirmed that cultural sustainability matters to US Hispanics, companies must become more educated about the Latino community not just as consumers – but more importantly, as people and the identity we represent as a diverse community.They must recognize that Hispanics buy brands that empower their cultural relevancy.
“Studies show that embracing American culture does not strip Hispanics of their heritage or render them susceptible only to mainstream marketing influences,” says Armando Azarloza, president of The Axis Agency, a leading national multicultural marketing agency that focuses on the importance of tapping cultural movements. Hispanics in America are growing tired of being the target of new marketing campaigns by brands that are not creating cultural connectivity. In fact, Latinos are more likely to turn away from brands that are only interested in selling to them, rather than empowering their cultural relevancy. Hispanics are more inclined to build trustworthy relationships with people and companies that take the time to understand who we are and what we represent morally, ethically and culturally. The Hispanic market can no longer be viewed as a short-term expense, but rather should be approached as a strategic long-term investment.
The business case for organizations/brands to invest in the Hispanic consumer should no longer be a mystery. The recent announcement by ABC News that it plans to join forces with Univision News to create a multiplatform news, lifestyle and information programming aimed at U.S. Hispanics – says it all. If that doesn’t tell you where culturally relevant content is headed – the Nielsen study revealed that if US Hispanics were a standalone country, their market buying power would be one of the top twenty economies in the world. The bottom line is that brands continue to misunderstand the Hispanic market opportunity. They are taking a traditional/mainstream approach that focuses on selling features/benefits to gender-specific audiences whose purchasing habits have been known for decades. “The business case is simple, targeting Hispanic audiences with dedicated campaigns around cultural expression multiplies the entry points and opportunities for brands to establish meaningful connections that ultimately translate into sales,” continued Azarloza. Hispanics represent a new type of consumer who is connected to their own cultural nuances that support the needs of their family, their heritage and customs. The Hispanic consumer is looking to build loyalty with brands that properly represents their voices and authentic identity; and that empowers their heritage by effectively embedding their cultural characteristics in how a brand speaks to them. Cultural relevancy is a two-way conversation. This means marketers must allow the Hispanic consumer to influence how they brand their brands. “Marketers must sustain a dialogue rather than continue the stale monologues of the past. When you invite Hispanics to engage they will adopt the brand with their own characteristics and personal value,” commented Azarloza.
“Brands need to find new ways to engage with Hispanics,” says Monica Gil, Senior Vice President of Public Affairs and Government Relations at Nielsen. “It’s time for companies to understand the behaviors that drive Latinos to connect emotionally with their brands. Until they do, they are leaving revenue and market growth opportunities on the table.” Brands must empower the value of Hispanic Heritage in their messaging and communication strategies all year round – not just once a year when it is formally celebrated, September 15th – October 15th. Brand engagement with Hispanic consumers is about being able to show that your organization believes that their purchasing power and voice matter. This means that brands must measure ROI with a longer-term objective focused on helping the Hispanic community strengthen its voice across generations. Hispanics want you to earn the right to become a member of the family. This is how you build ultimate trust with Hispanic consumers. “To open this door, brands must identify and hone in on those unique and powerful cultural insights and triggers. These ultimately will form the foundation of a compelling campaign that will foster consumer desire, loyalty and relevancy and set it apart from its competitors,” says Azarloza.
With a median age of 28 years old, the timing is ripe for organizations/brands to make a firm commitment to the Hispanic consumer. It’s time to strengthen a consumer segment whose identity in America has been weakened by brands that attempt to force Hispanic loyalty using traditional mainstream marketing tactics rather than earning it by empowering cultural relevancy. “Corporations need to start feeling comfortable about being uncomfortable,” continued Gil. “Brands need to start putting the Hispanic demographic shift conversation into action by making a commitment to understand what it all means to their brand(s). Hispanics have a hunger for consumption, but prefer brands that speak their language and embrace their cultural heritage. Brands need to take more risks by sprinkling “Latinoness” into their mainstream ads (as Volkswagen did here), concludes Gil.
psychologists often describe culture as an iceberg. There are a few cultural traits that we can
see or feel from the surface, such as language, skin tone, body type, accent,
surname, and personal mannerisms. Yet
the more substantive aspects of culture are hidden in the water at various
depths just like the iceberg that sank the Titanic, and not knowing about them
can harm us. Finding ways to understand
those hidden aspects of culture can save your business deal or idea,
relationship, communication gone array, and most importantly it can teach you
things about yourself and those you interact with. When combined with the
“immigrant perspective” it can turn on a sixth sense that most people are
unaware of thus inspiring creativity.
At one point or another in our ancestry we were all immigrants, yet we are often not of the same fresh mindset of a person who recently immigrated to the United States or somewhere else. If you cannot think of a close first-generation relative who immigrated than you need to be reminded of the “immigrant perspective”. According to Center for Hispanic Leadership Founder, Glenn Llopis the “immigrant perspective” helps us to creatively see opportunities everywhere. Imagine a person who immigrated to the U.S. with only a few dollars in their pocket, developing English skills, and no friends or family; this person has a healthy curiosity, zeal to learn, and optimism about his or her new culture which can be a catalyst for business innovation and cross cultural collaboration.
No one owns culture, yours or anyone’s. Culture is adaptive, experiential, you can learn it, and it is ok if others seem to know your own culture better than you because the real question is do you know and learn from other peoples cultures? When you embrace the “immigrant perspective” you are forced to answer yes to this question. You are your culture no matter what, but your culture should evolve over time with many diverse socio-economic factors that are specific to you and no amount of words can accurately describe what you are - culturally and beyond. Yet this evolution is a type of change and change is hard for most people. The mere fact that you are or once were an immigrant means that you are or were open to new cultures and interpersonal risk, and that is ok and healthy in-conjunction with but not mutually exclusive to the world becoming more connected via social media, 24 hour news, smart phones and tablets, and high speed fiber optic cable. This allows more business outsourcing and global entrepreneurship, and according to a recent Forbes article, “40% Of the Largest U.S. Companies Founded by Immigrants or Their Children.”
Yet for all the technological and economic advancements provided by globalization -- many organizations and people still do not go deep enough into the waters surrounding the iceberg of culture. Like the captain of the Titanic, they float along on the surface and hope for the best not knowing what they don’t know. To melt the iceberg of culture you must look beneath the surface to discover the deeper meaning. After going deeper you will find clues about collectivism vs. individualism, gender, saving face vs. being correct, laissez-faire time orientation vs. punctual time orientation, eye contact, family structure, high context or low context communication, forms of acceptable social risks, dining etiquette, when to shake hands vs. hug or kiss, and much more. Even when observing these clues, when you are invited to a religious, community, medical, or matrimonial event you must act within and learn from the confines of the culture where you are not necessarily convert for life.Lastly, always embrace “your” immigrant perspective with authentic emotion as the emotion will help you feel the story behind your cultural evolution and it will give you a sense of unique pride with the vision to know you will never need to assimilate. This world is no more anyone else’s than it is yours and there is no true beauty or innovation without true diversity.
By Jeremy Swenson
Jeremy Swenson, MBA, is an experienced marketer, marketing manager, writer, sales person, and business analyst. He has extensive product marketing experience with financial products and retail electronics products (State Farm, U.S. Bank, and Intel at Best Buy). He additionally has experience enhancing software, and has also served on the social media committee of the MN AMA (Minnesota American Marketing Association) and is the current Marketing Chair of the Minneapolis St. Paul chapter of NSHMBA (National Society of Hispanic MBAs).
Connect with Jeremy at:
The 2012 U.S. Census revealed that Hispanic-owned small businesses are growing at nearly twice the rate of the national average with annual revenues at $350B (though many industry insiders believe this is a conservative estimate with the true figure being well-north of $600B). The U.S. Minority Business Development Agency reports that between 2002 and 2007, Hispanic owned businesses grew faster than the national average of 44 percent in 28 states. Clearly, the impact of the Hispanic population and the entrepreneurial spirit we bring with us is influencing the emergence of Hispanic-owned small businesses. – and with this rapid growth the need for Hispanic specific resources and support to help enable revenue generation and profitability is at an all-time high.
In a recent Fox Latino interview, Hector Barreto, the former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration under George W. Bush, said that there are many intangible factors inhibiting Hispanic small business growth. According to Mr. Barreto, Latino business owners are filled with uncertainty and lack confidence in the U.S. government.
I respect Mr. Barreto’s candor in identifying the challenges that both Hispanic (and non-Hispanic) small business owners are faced with in our current economic environment. However, for Hispanics in particular, the obstacles run much deeper and this is where the Presidential candidates and politicians across America are all missing the mark. Hispanics, perhaps more than any other community, are rich in diversity and self-identify with their culture. As such, they require tools, resources, government and educational programs that are culturally-relevant so that they can grow their business in ways they can identify with most naturally. This factor alone explains why Hispanic consumers (let alone Hispanic small business owners) represent the largest unbanked community in America.
Can you imagine the incremental impact of Hispanic-owned business revenue generation to the U.S. economy?
Many Hispanic-owned business owners are faced with the inability to consistently create and sustain relationships with Fortune 500 corporations. Revenue generating and job creation opportunities are not being seized fast enough. Hispanic business leaders are not at the forefront of supplier diversity programs at a time when corporations are looking to expand their business partnership outreach with the community.
To overcome this challenge, Hispanic-owned businesses must lead and operate with a strategic versus a tactical approach. There are many opportunities here, but for the purposes of this article, I can recommend two fundamental areas: leadership and operational excellence. Learning how to apply both of these factors within a small business is the difference between success and failure and both can be attained through one variable: executive education. Business owners must invest to educate themselves on how to be better leaders and, at the same time, better business operators. As a small business owner, you can’t do one without the other; this has been an unwritten rule amongst those who lead supplier diversity programs (which are quickly becoming the standard).
According to Luis Cuneo, Hispanic Segment and Channel Market Development Executive at IBM, “One of the most common questions I am asked by Chamber Executives is: ‘How can we help small businesses grow?’ ”
His reply: “Teach small business owners to run their company as an executive and the company will start to thrive. For the past seven years, I have been engaging with hundreds of small businesses across the U.S., and I have noticed the following leadership barriers that inhibit these companies from growing:
- The leadership style is Transactional.
- Unable to delegate and empower their team.
- Haven’t identified their successor.
- Haven’t created an exit strategy for both the owner and the company.”
In August 2012, a survey of Texas Hispanic-owned Businesses with Paid Employees was sponsored by The University of Texas at Austin, McCombs School of Business, and the Kauffman Foundation. Results from the survey suggest that Hispanic-owned businesses with paid employees need strategies that help them in two primary areas:
• increase business training in management and communication skills
• improve access to public- and private-sector customers
According to the survey, the following two critical findings revealed why Hispanic-owned businesses are performing behind mainstream businesses:
• Hispanics’ lower levels of assets and education, lower percentage of parents with business experience, and smaller networks than Caucasian business owners.
• Ineffective oral and written communication with customers, employees, and suppliers as well as limited access to procurement opportunities.
Think of the opportunities for job creation, economic growth and innovation if the majority of Hispanic-owned businesses increased their business training in management and communication skills – while improving their access to public- and private-sector customers?
Finally, Hispanic-owned small businesses must forge greater levels of relations with the banking and financial management community. One of the Small Business Administration’s top priorities is to provide access and opportunity to small business owners in traditionally underserved communities.
However, small business owners must minimize the risk profile for a potential SBA lender by showing them that their business is being managed and led with leadership and operational protocols that can be trusted. In today’s risk adverse climate, small businesses must operate with the same strategic due diligence and leadership principals as a mid-size / larger corporation.
Hispanic-owned small businesses can no longer be led through a tactical lens where the owners operate like an old-fashioned “mom and pop” shop. Leaders must become executives, and learn to trust their employees to assume the responsibilities that the owners used to be accountable for when the business was new. If small businesses are to steadily grow and mature, owners must begin leading and focus on developing the talent around them. When this happens productivity multiples, a workplace culture begins to take shape and a “real business” begins to blossom with operational guidelines, organizational structure and leadership that is being strategic versus tactical in its thinking, planning and execution.
In the end, Hispanic-owned businesses must focus on building infrastructure and systems to support growth and business scalability. This requires strategic thinking enabled by leadership and operational excellence that continuously matures to foster best practices and relationships so that you can see and seize the opportunities that matter most.
Hispanics in America influence the future of the US economy yet this conversation remains quiet as corporations grow more uncomfortable with this time-sensitive issue. The numbers speak for themselves. The lack of commitment in giving rise to the Hispanic community is so obvious that it is becoming irresponsible as the risk profile increases. Corporations know that Hispanics represent the fastest growing population (+$50MM) and workforce community in America. They are also aware that Hispanic-owned small businesses are growing at over twice the rate of the national average (est. +$350B revenue annually). On top of that, Latino purchasing power ($1.5T by 2015) is no mystery as there is growing tension in the boardroom with indecision about how to unlock this market segment. Regardless of the escalating “Latino factor” – corporations are not being proactive enough to engage with this valuable demographic that will represent 30% of America by 2050. As such, the US economy is weakening due to the lack of investment in the Hispanic Community that will soon dictate new business models and the ground rules for Wall Street analysts.
The following is intended to bring awareness to some of the tension points corporations can’t shake and that carry tremendous economic and societal implications if not solved immediately. The goal is to highlight a few trends that identify the opportunities that are being missed if US Hispanics continue to be viewed as a recurring expense rather than a strategic investment.
I. Hispanics Must Make Banking & Financial Planning a Priority
More than half of Hispanics expect to improve their financial situation over the next year, while little over a third of all Americans can say the same. Yet, when it comes to financial planning, or even every day banking and insurance needs, Hispanics are still in the minority.
For banks and other financial institutions, they must begin to recognize that conventional banking as we know it may not be part of the traditional Hispanic upbringing. This has led to a general mistrust of banks and, when coupled with a natural skepticism, would account for the $53 billion attributed to "unbanked" Latino households according to a study by a research arm of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business (download report: PERDIDO EN LA TRADUCCIÓN: The Opportunity in Financial Services for Latinos). Read More About This Topic Here
II. Hispanics Lead the Recovery by Occupying Walmart, not Wall Street
Hispanic growth is fueling an increase in buying power in this country that is yet to be seen in other economies. According to Nielsen’s recent study, The Hispanic Market Imperative – it revealed that if US Hispanics were a standalone country, their market buying power would be one of the top twenty economies in the world.
Given this knowledge, it's surprising that so few retailers have put much effort into learning about the Hispanic consumer and how to serve their needs. One very prominent exception is Walmart, which has been attracting increasing numbers of Hispanics to their stores by integrating them into all facets of its business, including merchandising, marketing, operations, and community outreach programs. One campaign called "The Best Heritage is a Good Education" addressed the need for higher learning while acknowledging the importance of culture - displaying a genuine understanding of what's important to the Hispanic community. Read More About This Topic Here
III. Media and Entertainment Through the Hispanic Lens Brings a Paradigm Shift
In the world of media and entertainment, we are finally starting to see a positive shift in the portrayal of Hispanics. Cultural stereotypes are giving way to cultural authenticity. The attention usually given to Spanish-speaking Hispanics is turning to the English-speaking majority born in the United States. New Generation Latinos (NGLs) are making waves and changing the conversation. Not only are NGLs influencing traditional media, they are making Hispanics the biggest and fastest growing users of online and interactive technology, mobile devices, and social media.
Hispanics represent a huge opportunity for the news media, entertainment programmers, advertisers, online content creators - you name it. But captivating this trendsetting and game changing audience will take a different approach, one the industry is just waking up to. Unlike previous generations, largely here through immigration, NGLs are not looking to quietly assimilate. They expect mainstream media and entertainment to embrace and reflect their authentic voice and culture. Read More About This Topic Here
Note: On May 7th, ABC News announced its plans to join forces with Univision News to create a multiplatform news, lifestyle and information programming aimed at U.S. Hispanics.
IV. Hispanics Buy Brands that Empower Their Cultural Relevancy
There is a growing necessity for brand marketers to provide culturally relevant content and messaging that specifically targets US Hispanics. In fact, Hispanics are the largest immigrant group to exhibit significant sustainability of their culture and are not disappearing into the American melting pot. Now that we have confirmed that cultural sustainability matters to US Hispanics, companies must become more educated about the Latino community not just as consumers – but more importantly, as people and the identity we represent as a diverse community. They must recognize that Hispanics buy brands that empower their cultural relevancy.
Hispanics in America are growing tired of being the target of new marketing campaigns by brands that are not creating cultural connectivity. In fact, Latinos are more likely to turn away from brands that are only interested in selling to them, rather than empowering their cultural relevancy. Hispanics are more inclined to build trustworthy relationships with people and companies that take the time to understand who we are and what we represent morally, ethically and culturally. Read More About This Topic Here
The United States economy is at risk if corporations ignore the impact of Hispanics in America. If not addressed immediately, severe economic and societal recovery woes will prevail. The rest of America must mature from being uncomfortable about a topic that has direct implications to their financial well-being and the future of their children. The US economy demands that we all become more educated about Hispanics as they will soon represent the core of our country. We must stop being in denial.
|"Adversity is very big when it is all you can see. But it is very small when in the presence of all else that surrounds you."|
|-- Glenn Llopis|
|Hispanic Business Development|
|Personal Employee Branding|