By Carlos Diaz
Marketers have made strides in reaching Hispanics, but we’re still painting with too broad a brush. As a result, we’ve overlooked the largest Hispanic community: Mexican Americans.
Mexican Americans Are Overlooked, But the Data Is Compelling and So Is the Opportunity
Sixty-seven percent of all U.S. Hispanics, 42 million people, are of Mexican descent. That’s equal to the number of Black Americans, and double the number of Asians in the U.S. When talking about the broader U.S. Hispanic audience, US Congress data puts Latin purchasing power at $2.3 trillion. But Mexican Americans generate an estimated $1 trillion or more in that economic activity each year — $300 billion more than the GDP of the Netherlands!
From a brand marketing perspective, it’s also important to know that Mexican Americans make up the overwhelming majority of Hispanics in many U.S. cities, including LA (77 percent), Chicago (79 percent), Houston (73 percent), and Phoenix (88 percent). That means campaigns targeting Hispanics in some of the biggest American cities are overlooking roughly three-quarters of the Hispanics living in those communities.
Why are Mexican Americans Overlooked?
Culture is complicated, especially when in a multicultural society like the U.S. that has many different Hispanic cultures. So, while it’s tempting to look for easy explanations that fit Mexican Americans into a particular box, the reality is more complex. That said, it’s worth highlighting several reasons why Mexican Americans have been minimized in terms of visibility and seen their identities mischaracterized.
One reason is the fact that the Hispanic advertising industry isn’t headquartered in the Southwest, where Mexican Americans are most concentrated. As a result, broad labels like Hispanic tend to align more with Caribbean Hispanics on the east coast. Also, while corporate America has focused on inclusion and diversity in recent years, things aren’t changing in the C-suite. According to the ANA’s recent report on diversity in the advertising and marketing industry, only 12 percent of CMOs are diverse, and only 4 percent identify as Hispanic or Latin. How many are Mexican Americans? The data doesn’t say. But factors like geography and opportunity lead us to believe far fewer than 4 percent of U.S. Hispanic executives are Mexican Americans. That’s why many brand marketers and agency personnel don’t see Mexican American consumers when they think about Hispanics. Simply put, many Hispanic marketing efforts are developed through the eyes of creators who either aren’t Mexican American or aren’t accustomed to thinking about Mexican Americans because those communities aren’t represented in their lived experiences. This is a missed opportunity.
A second, more alarming reason for why Mexican Americans are marginalized and misconstrued is the constant negative news coverage. That coverage typically reduces Mexican Americans to a single issue — illegal immigration. The unfortunate result has been the creation of negative stereotypes and an inaccurate picture that Mexican Americans are Spanish-speaking migrant laborers with limited buying power. This is a huge misrepresentation that misses second-generation and third-generation Mexican Americans who are 100 percent American and 100 percent Mexican. Together, ambicultural cohorts account for more than 70 percent of Mexican Americans in the U.S.
Keys to Understanding Mexican American Culture
Marketers understand the need to speak to Hispanic communities in authentic, culturally fluent ways. But while Hispanics always appreciate seeing campaigns that celebrate the community, those campaigns miss the real opportunity to connect if they aren’t grounded in heritage. For example, if my fondest memories of home were Sunday dinners with my family listening to Vicente Fernandez, or watching Liga MX fútbol, then a campaign with a Latin Pop artist, or a Columbian soccer star, while appreciated, won’t connect with my culture because it doesn’t reflect my heritage, my experience. Hispanics are not monolithic; origin is key to heritage, traditions, and culture. Ignoring origin is like ignoring an appendage.
Marketers can speak directly to Mexican Americans and their heritage by leveraging two passions: music and sports. In music, Latin genres have received the lion’s share of attention and multicultural marketing dollars. But “Regional Mexican” — essentially Mexican country music — has largely been ignored, yet it’s the top format across terrestrial and digital radio in the U.S. Moreover, Mexican artists are big draws. Los Tigres del Norte broke Cardi B’s attendance record in Houston. When it comes to sports, soccer is king for Mexican Americans. But once again, fluency is everything. While MLS draws the bulk of soccer marketing dollars in the U.S., its popularity pales in comparison to Liga MX. In fact, Liga MX is the most-watched soccer league in the U.S and the Mexican National team is named America’s team with 60 million US supporters.
Mexican Americans are underrepresented in marketing. Addressing representation is not only the right thing to do, but all the data also suggests it’s an opportunity to connect with huge audiences and drive business growth. Mexican Americans don’t simply appreciate brands speaking to their heritage, they feel seen by those brands, and that recognition translates into loyalty. Lastly, we all have an important role to play in building the right, accurate representation by honoring and respecting an important part of our community.
About Author: Carlos Diaz is founder at Viva Más Live and chief revenue officer at Interticket USA.