The years since I left the Silicon Valley to lead a company (Geoscape) providing data, analytics, research and technology have taught me quite a few lessons. My initial focus was international -- Latin America especially but also Europe and Asia -- and in the early 2000's we began to put all our energy into developing data analytics and technology platforms to facilitate use and action based on relevant data and techniques to help companies navigate the American cultural terrain. In the beginning I felt resistance on the part of marketers to embrace these analytic techniques yet over a period of time many companies embraced the approach, leading to hundreds of fruitful business relationships across industries.
One consistent theme among the many conversations, business meetings and conferences was the unrelenting demand for marketers to make the business case for embracing Hispanics as a path to growth for American businesses. The evidence was and is still overwhelming, that Hispanics represent the bulk of the growth in both population and spending. The question of WHY so many corporations failed to invest in proportion to the opportunity puzzled and frustrated many who were and still are in roles advising their clients in this regard.
Still today there are companies whose industry-growth is dominated by Hispanic spending yet lag in their investment despite their boardrooms' quest for growth. Those who have embraced Hispanics as a key segment have certainly reaped rewards for having done so. Among those rewards are growth in revenue, profits, market share and even brand appeal. Although there are many who have just dabbled -- with Hispanic imagery and messages and without the infrastructure follow-through -- many corporations have dared to do it right and I'm certain their investors have been grateful to how this appears in their financials.
These days, perhaps due in part to the odd political climate of making America "great" again, the role of Hispanic marketing seems a bit uncertain. While Hispanics continue to represent the bulk of population and spending growth, Latinos are increasingly bicultural -- living a life in both cultures and to different degrees depending on the context they find themselves in and the content they consume. For example, most Hispanics consume at least some Latino radio while not as many consume Hispanic television on a regular basis; due to the venn diagram of culture vs. language.
Television companies have struggled to satisfy a bicultural audience and for good reasons -- creating content or channels that appeal to a relatively Americanized consumer is distinct from content that appeals to an unacculturated consumer. However, it seems that this dichotomy is exacerbated by the way a company divides its marketing department and agencies. One handles Spanish and the other English, regardless of the culture of the target audience. So a Latino viewing English television is the audience of the "general market" and the Latino watching Spanish television appears on the Spanish side of the ledger. I'm sure there are exceptions to this artificial divide, but this is the general rule.
Hispanic marketers and their leadership must continue to endeavor into accounting for audiences that straddle languages and cultures. That is, the ability to measure Hispanic viewing, reading, listening and spending across English and Spanish properties is increasingly important to the accountability of the organization which must continue to focus on the growth, and that growth is increasingly bicultural. Without a good solution to this problem, Hispanic marketing is likely to either fade rapidly into a blended scenario where the general marketer and its agencies are responsible (and take credit) for a disproportionate share of the delivered audience.
Therefore, this is the key strategic challenge I see in the future of Hispanic marketers and their agencies: disentangling consumer viewing and purchase activity by the cultural segment and by the channels that led them to purchase. There are certainly tools, techniques and data that will enable this very exercise, for those willing to dive into the data that illuminates these complex relationships. The question is, who's up to the challenge?