June 01, 2019

By Cesar Melgoza - Founder & CEO of Geoscape

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?



Back in 2004 I started working for the New York Post who had just launched an "in-English, in-Culture" section called TEMPO to address/attract the 17% Latino readers of the paper with culturally relevant content. It was so difficult to sell space through Hispanic ad agencies which were fiercely devoted to the Spanish-only approach (while the very Hispanic executives making media plans did NOT consume Hispanic media). No one wanted to listen. I stopped going to the AHAA conferences (Association of Hispanic Ad Agencies). Then in 2006 - 2 years later, AHAA came out with The Latino Identity Study. Alas! MEMO TO ALL: Culture is at the HEART of the matter. But I had moved on...I have been working in the Diversity and Inclusion space for 11 years now, running my own business with a wonderful team and in a city that embraces everyone (Orlando, FL). URBANDER and our nonprofit SOS by Urbander work with WOKE corporate partners, elected officials and nonprofits that invest in workforce development and financial literacy in the most marginalized communities. This includes Spanish dominant Hispanics that are in a cycle of persistent urban poverty. This is the way I see it: Latinas are the Matriarchs of the New America. Today, one out of every four children under 18 years of age in the United States is Hispanic. And please let’s not get it twisted. I want to be clear about this – the Latina moms who are literally birthing a big chunk of the next generation of U.S. citizens are for the most part American citizens themselves. And when you take into account that the other three-quarters of the newborn U.S. population is a combination of all the other ethnic groups under the sun, we can point blank declare: America will soon be a brown nation, whether some folks like it or not. As a woman of color, I feel this huge responsibility upon my shoulders to instill in my kids all of those wonderful values that are embedded in our culture. They are transferred from generation to generation through the collective parenting of large extended families who are under the tough and vigilant rule of our matriarchs – las mamás. My favorite Hispanic culture value proposition is ‘mi casa es su casa’ because in these polarizing times it highlights our tradition of embracing others and our yearning to create a welcoming environment and sense of belonging – my home is your home. It’s a beautiful custom that permeates throughout Hispanic households, expressed by women and men alike, regardless of country of origin. But what really lifts my spirit is the promise of Latina entrepreneurs who are fearless as they juggle being the matriarchs of their families while also establishing viable businesses that favorably impact the economy. According to the U.S. Small Business Administration, Latinas are starting businesses at a rate six times faster than the population at large, and I’m not surprised. Why is this happening? I can only speak from experience. Here are the first five reasons that come to mind: 1. We realize that working for the corporate sector doesn’t pay off for most Latinas. A 2012 study by the American Association of University Women (AAUW) unveiled that Hispanic women earn on average 53 cents for each dollar earned by a White male to perform the same work. This is muy malo, and many of us get fed up and decide to invest our talents in launching our own businesses. Our agency focuses on developing leadership from the ground up. Not people like us who have access...the Spanish dominant recent arrivals. 2. We need to feed and take care of our babies. Let’s face it, when you are unemployed for a hot minute and realize that you have a better chance of generating more than the minimum wage while spending more time with your family by starting your own thing, entrepreneurship is a no brainer. Taking care of la familia es número uno, and business ownership allows us more flexibility to do what we want to do. 3. Because we can't sit and wait for the government and corporate sector to invest in us the way they should, we are becoming more able to help our extended families when they are in a pickle. There is this support system that you automatically have when you are part of a Latino network comprised of close friends and relatives, where you just know that everyone has each other’s back. In a moment of crisis, the rule of ‘hoy por ti, mañana por mi’ (today I help you, tomorrow you help me) always prevails. As a successful Latina business owner, you have the ability to tap into your resources to make things better for the people you care about. 4. We know that education is our passport to being recognized as an equal in mainstream America so we have invested time in obtaining our degrees and instilling in our children the notion that not going to college is NOT an option. Latina moms, abuelas, aunts, godmothers, neighbors, girlfriends literally pour themselves into the children in their lives. Childrearing is a collective experience and we rely on this sisterhood we have to get our kids to reach their fullest potential. As business owners we wind up mentoring and hiring the youth we are helping raise! 5. We are guided by our faith in a Higher Power and the wonderful sense of satisfaction after a good day of well-earned work. Lord knows that starting your own business is not for the faint of heart, and Latinas have a special confidence that they will succeed contra viento y marea – against all the odds; confidence that is sustained by a strong belief system and unwavering core values. A 2017 Nielsen report, entitled Latina 2.0: Fiscally Conscious, Culturally Influential & Familia Forward confirms some of my experiences. Some of the report highlights are that we are “Catalysts for Cultural Exchange”, “Part of the Entrepreneurship Boom”, “Large and Increasingly Matriarchal Families”, and “Continuing Educational Advancement”. As a business leader, I aim to hire, promote, retain and celebrate Hispanics as employees, customers and citizens. I do my best to exercise my influence in sharing and celebrating what Latinas bring to the table because it’s time to claim our truth: we are the matriarchs of a new America, birthing the next generation of U.S. citizens and birthing new businesses faster than anyone else. And this I pray…that the growing number of Hispanics in positions of leadership are able to make a positive impact across all industries. I pray they leverage what they have learned at home to help break the cycle of unfair practices and ensure that in the future the oppressed don’t become the oppressors.

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