We don’t care what you call Hispanic Heritage Month

Marina FIlippelli, CEO, Orcí
Marina FIlippelli, CEO, Orcí

We care that you “celebrate it” (and us) by doing something meaningful.

Just when you thought we’d said all there was to say about the term Latinx/Hispanic/Latinos, another poll recently confirmed that people of Latin American and/or Hispanic descent don’t really care about this terminology. 

So why are marketers having heated discussions over words, when the community is telling us they’d rather see action? 

The simplest but perhaps most uncomfortable answer is that names, terms and headlines give us a sense that we’re doing “something,” no matter what that something actually is. Calling this month “Hispanic Heritage Month” if people have moved on to the term “Latinx” risks your brand seeming out of touch. If you think “Latinx” hasn’t taken hold with “enough” people, or are concerned that it makes older, more traditional folks uncomfortable (it sometimes does), then you may not want to associate the term with your brand. 

And so it goes. We get caught in a circle of what to call something, rather than digging into what it really means in the first place.

Why do brands celebrate Hispanic (Latino/Latinx) Heritage Month? What do we hope to achieve by creating a campaign that says we’re proud to celebrate (insert preferred title here)? Is this heartfelt or a knee-jerk reaction? An attempt at pacifying? 

If 56% of Hispanics said they don’t feel that Hispanic culture is adequately represented in advertising according to a recent study, are we even getting it right to begin with?  

People care more about what your brand is doing to support their community than the lip service you may find time to offer. They care less about the terms used than the intent and what comes next. 

So before you ask yourself what to call us this year, think about why you want to talk to us at all. (Hint: you should totally want to talk to us…we’re a growing community with big spending power.) Ask yourself the following questions:

1. Do you understand what we need and what matters most to us? There are several issues that are important to the Hispanic community, so choose at least one and get behind it. Being a brand ally that focuses on something with significance can make a huge difference between consumers scrolling past your posts and stopping to take notice and even share (which, by the way, we’re really good at).

2. Do you understand how we feel about your brand? Do you understand how your brand story fits into Hispanic Heritage Month? The only thing worse than a campaign that consumers ignore is one that makes them call a brand out for being disingenuous or tone deaf. Learn from the past. Recall how brands were called out for crying out “Black Lives Matter” and then doing nothing to change their policies and communications, and dare yourself to do better.

3. Are you ready to do something meaningful to support this growing community? If you’re not, I encourage you to take the money and time you were setting aside for a Hispanic Heritage Month campaign and spend it thinking through your strategy for this important community. Then put it into action.  

Hopefully, by this time next year, more brands will have a sense of what matters to us not just during Hispanic Heritage Month, but year-round.

Marina Filippelli is CEO of Orci.

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