January 08, 2020

By Maria Amor

It seems like only yesterday that we (Hispanic marketers) were anxiously awaiting the findings from the 2010 census. We were confident that the numbers would reveal the strength of the marketplace and that brands would begin investing against this consumer. In a way, it did, but not to our expectations. During the past ten years, Hispanic media spend has grown from $6.3 billion to $9.4 billion according to AdAge’s Hispanic Fact Pack 2010 and 2019, respectively. However, this only represents 3.6 percent of advertising spend. It’s a fact that the Hispanic population will continue to grow and reaching this audience will evolve with acculturation, new technology, and social media channels. The changes that took place this decade (2010-2019) from a consumer and media standpoint are further proof that marketing to Latinos is a unique skill that requires cultural relevancy, insights, and commitment. In the spirit of the #10yearchallenge flooding social media pages, here’s an overview of the biggest shifts in Hispanic marketing during the past 10 years.

  1. Marketing to Latinos by translating mass market campaigns is NOT effective – there was a time, not long ago, where Hispanic marketing meant replicating what “general market” agencies did and simply translating the work to Spanish. Whether that resonated with consumers, or whether the audience saw themselves reflected in the ads, or whether the translation was accurate, was irrelevant. Brands were simply looking for ways to educate a growing population about their products, in a language they understood. However, as Hispanic consumers became savvier, and their spending power grew, they also became more demanding of brands, and we saw an evolution led by specialized agencies (La Comunidad, Latin Works, Alma, etc.) who created beautiful, award-winning campaigns anchored in true insights and cultural nuances that reflected the reality of Latinos living in the U.S. The effectiveness of these campaigns proved the importance of speaking to this audience in a unique way, leveraging humor, passion points and language to connect with them.
  2. The revolution and evolution of Hispanic agencies – as noted in the previous point, specialized agencies were instrumental in getting marketers to understand the importance of connecting with Latinos through culturally relevant content. They revolutionized the industry and created an opportunity for multicultural-focused agencies to get a sliver of a brand’s spending pie. In the last decade, we saw great agencies emerge such as Republica Havas, La Comunidad, Pinta, etc. and compete for the same brands, and same dollars year after year. However, during this decade, we also saw the evolution of some of these agencies that specialized in Hispanic or multicultural marketing rebrand their services and become generalist agencies; La Comunidad became The Community, LatinWorks is now known as Third Ear. While these changes reflect a blurring of Hispanic and “general market” practices, it is also an indication that for multicultural agencies to stay profitable, they had to look for business beyond Hispanic marketing.
  3. From influenced to influencers – another important shift in the last decade has been the impact of Latino culture in general U.S. population. In 2013, salsa became America’s #1 condiment, dethroning ketchup. While this may seem like news created by a PR agency, it nonetheless reflects the changing palates of Americans and the impact that Latino culture is having in our country. This trend is also visible across various industries including entertainment, film, politics, and culinary arts. Throughout this decade, Shakira and Jennifer Lopez made Forbes’ highest paid female entertainers list, Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became the second most talked about politician after President Trump, and Daniela Soto-Innes became the world’s best chef. Latinos have been and will continue reshaping mainstream culture as the population continues to grow and with it the pride in their Hispanic heritage.  
  4. Brand programs and experiences have become more interactive – with a median age of 28, it is no surprise that this generation of Latinos is digitally savvy, social, and better informed. This has created a need for marketers to evolve their campaigns from one-way communication (i.e. TV executions) to establishing an ongoing dialogue and engagement with the consumer. Digital influencers are impacting consumer’s purchasing decisions by raising awareness of products and services, which are then typically validated by family and friends. Once the consumer has formulated an opinion about the product, they will share their experience through reviews and comments online. This shift in consumer behavior is not unique to Hispanic audiences, but it does put marketers in a position where they need to be able to communicate with this audience in their language and platform of choice.
  5. Changes in the media landscape — from a PR perspective, one of the biggest changes we have seen this decade is the changing media landscape. Each year we have said adios to countless outlets such as Fox News Latino, NBC Latino, Huff Post Voces, while key publications such as Siempre Mujer and Latina shifted from print magazines to online only. Even though this is a result of ad spend (or lack thereof), it is also reflective of consumer’s media habits. Many Latino consumer, particularly millennials, are ambicultural (100% Hispanic and 100% American) and they choose where they get their information based on content, not language. This has resulted in the resurgence of outlets such as HipLatina, Pop Sugar Latina, etc. that focus on news that are culturally relevant and target the English-speaking Hispanic consumer. This is not to say there isn’t a need for Spanish-language media, on the contrary, today 71% of all Hispanics are speaking Spanish at home, according to Nielsen. This consumer will continue to seek media outlets that represent their values, passions and interests, from education, immigration, the economy, to mention a few.

Latinos have made great strides during this decade, but as Claudia Edelman recently shared in a speech, the Hispanic population is strong on paper, but we are weak when it comes to brand investment. If the past ten years have proven anything, it’s that Latinos are loyal consumer. When we see that a brand has taken the time to understand cultural nuances, to speak to Latino audiences in their language of choice (ojo, this does not mean Spanish), and empower the community to lead more fruitful lives, they will become a key growth segment for any industry. As we get ready for another Census year, my hope is that we don’t relive another #tbt moment in which brands don’t recognize the importance of spending against this consumer, and instead make the time and budget to genuinely connect with this audience.

About Author

Originally from Mexico City and currently residing in Miami, Maria Amor is vice president of Havas FORMULATIN, HPRA’s 2019 Agency of the Year. She has 16 years’ experience helping brands to connect with Latino audiences.


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