What ‘general market?’ Getting Hispanic marketing right is critical for US brands

With more than 60 million Hispanics and growing, the United States is undergoing a cultural shift brands cannot ignore.

What does a term like “general market” even mean in a country where so-called minority populations are driving national growth?

Hispanic people make up almost 19% of the U.S. population — amounting to more than 60 million people, according to the Census Bureau. By 2050, there will be 111 million Hispanics living in the U.S., according to Statista.

U.S. Hispanics are young, with a median age of 30, another data point that Gen Z is the most diverse generation in U.S. history. As this population grows, so does its spending power, which increased 133% faster than non-Hispanic groups last year, according to Hispanic media company H Code. The GDP of this population is $2.6 trillion and is growing 72% faster than the overall U.S. GDP.

Unfortunately, but not all that surprisingly, the marketing and media worlds are not catching up.

Hispanics still feel underrepresented by the media, and that brands don’t have a deep understanding of their culture, according to H Code. That’s led to a rise in media companies that cater to U.S. Hispanics, such as the aforementioned H Code, plus MituAxios LatinoHBO Max Pa’lante! and Univision’s PrendeTV. These publishers understand the nuances of being a U.S.-born Hispanic, a population that seamlessly and fluidly switches between Spanish and English, sometimes within the same sentence.

While 13% of the U.S. population speaks Spanish at home, and the U.S. has the second-largest population of Spanish speakers globally, most U.S.-born Hispanic youth predominantly speak English. That doesn’t, however, mean they don’t speak Spanish at all. According to Pew Research, six in 10 U.S.-born Hispanic youth speak Spanish frequently and are eager to stay close to the language and their culture.

Understanding which contexts make sense to reach this growing group of 200-percenters in the right language is key. And I shouldn’t have to say this, but copying and pasting an English-language campaign into Spanish is lazy and simply will not resonate.

Part of the challenge is brands’ tendency to overlook nuance and intersectionality. Marketers love to bucket groups of people into demographics, but lumping together a population of 60 million-plus people from different countries, nationalities, ethnicities and cultures, who speak different languages and dialects, is impossible.

The industry is, however, starting to pick up on the need to take a nuanced approach to Hispanic marketing, activity in the sector this past year would indicate.

Hispanic marketing and PR firms are going public or getting acquired by larger companies as the population becomes a bigger focus for “general market” brands, my colleague Sabrina Sanchez reported. To my earlier point, these agencies are increasingly focused on connecting with English-speaking and bilingual people.

Brands are catching on too. For instance PepsiCo, which in 2019 admitted it had just started embarking on a push to reach the U.S. Hispanic market, hired indie marketing firm Boden to steer a $50 million, multi year campaign to support Hispanic-owned businesses.

Giving back to the HIspanic community is a good place to start in connecting with the audience. Take UPS’ recent campaign with J Balvin highlighting Latinx small businesses that have struggled during the pandemic, or Hornitos Tequila’s activation with the League of United Latin American Citizens that encouraged the population to get vaccinated. Both tap into relevant brands or cultural figures and directly address issues facing the community.

As the country evolves, brands have a unique opportunity to get in front of a changing demographic. But it will require rewriting the playbook they have used to reach “multiculturals” for years, giving this population the weight it deserves and finding authentic, culturally relevant ways to connect.

After all, the “general market” is starting to look a lot more diverse. Get on board or get left behind. ¡Adelante!

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