A study last year by the Pew Hispanic Center and the Pew Forum on Religion revealed some surprises regarding Latinos and religion, including the growing number of Latinos leaving the Catholic Church and joining various evangelical movements.
This spiritual exodus dispels the naÃ¯ve yet popular marketing notion that Latinos are abnormally loyal consumers. This shift should force some brands to pay attention, as there are some lessons for them.
The reason most cited by Latino Evangelical converts is the desire to be closer to god, beginning with their experience at the church. One third of these converts describe the lack of excitement at Catholic masses as a deciding factor for their decision. This should be of specific interest to retailers who question if they have to change any aspect of their in-store experience to appeal to Hispanics in high-density Hispanic areas.
And those Catholics that are staying in the Catholic Church are redefining their churches, giving it a Latino makeover of sorts, including more lively music and a more natural embracement of the mystical. A growing majority of these Catholics refer to themselves as “Charismatic” and share with evangelicals the belief in God’s intervention in the everyday in the form of supernatural phenomena such as speaking in tongues, miraculous healings and relevations (and you thought selling SÃ¡bado Gigante to your client was tough).
Prosperity Gospel as Strategic Positioning
Perhaps a more important lesson for brands than the in-church experience is the overall evangelical stance regarding economic and social mobility. The prosperity gospel espoused by evangelical movements stresses the importance of perseverance in attaining financial and personal empowerment, something very attractive to Latinos. This positioning is a strong contrast to a traditional Catholic Church that has stressed resignation with one’s condition. As Latinos focus on getting ahead, the evangelical movements become their church in the US, another way of achieving the American dream.
The lessons and implications of the Latino religious shift from Catholicism to Evangelicalism are many. First and foremost, it signals a changing consumer mindset and personality towards self-realization. The evolution also challenges the notion of the loyal consumer. You have to keep up with their needs and update your positioning to reflect these wants and aspirations.
Finally, as the evangelical movements have done, your brand must also create an experience and a home for them. You must allow them to embrace and customize your brand, to be part of it. You must also go where they are. An important opportunity can be grassroots partnerships with some of the evangelical groups more open to engage marketers.
By doing these things you will start building a foundation for a dialogue so they can become brand ambassadors. And if you play your cards right, your marketing results might be of biblical proportions.
By Roberto Ramos, President/CEO & Co-Founder, The Vox Collective