Keeping up with the Gomezes: Why marketers should pay attention to the 'Latino Spring'

Latinos want to be represented in media, unlimited by stereotypes, says J. Walter Thompson's worldwide chairman and CEO

The entire world has been witnessing the media firestorm caused by the anti-Mexican — and consequently anti-Latino — comments made by Donald Trump just a few weeks ago.

CNN has dubbed the resulting pushback and powerful political mobilization by the Latino community the  "Latino Spring."

Let me be clear: I am not here to talk about politics. As J. Walter Thompson Company’s worldwide chairman and CEO and as a Hispanic/Latino, I recognize Latino Spring as a call to action for marketers: Latinos have a power that extends well beyond politics and Latino Spring speaks to the potential of a ripe and emerging demographic that requires a deep understanding and strategic approach from brands.

The proof is in the numbers. According to a Nielsen report, Latinos are set to hold $1.5 trillion in buying power in 2015. Hispanic households spend more per shopping trip than non-Hispanics.

Brands are making an effort to engage this group. A recent Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies report found that the top 500 US marketers had boosted their spending in Hispanic-targeted media by 63%. But what some are missing is the prerequisite understanding of the Latino market.

As an executive director of the Latino Donor Collaborative, an organization dedicated to reshaping the perception of Latinos as part of the American mainstream, I know that marketers still have a long way to go in reworking existing representations of Latinos in media to accommodate the reality of the modern Latino in America.

We want to be represented in media, yes, but we do not want our narratives to be limited by stereotypes. We are not just nannies, maids and busboys; we are entrepreneurs, business owners, CEOs and professors. And Latinos are very patriotic. Latinos enlist, fight and die for this country in the U.S. armed forces. Forty-three Latino servicemen have won the nation’s highest award, the Congressional Medal of Honor. Approximately 16% of newly enlisted, active-duty members of all branches of the military are Hispanic.

Above all else, they are Americans first and Latinos second … a close second, but still second. According to Pew Research, the Hispanic population topped 55 million in 2014, nearly six times the Hispanic population in 1970. Latinos are not only becoming America’s largest minority; according the United States Census Bureau, as of 2010, the second-largest Hispanic population lies in the US, second only to Mexico.

Latinos are a part of the cultural fabric that makes America what it is. Great marketing acknowledges that despite the traditions that make Latino culture distinct, we do not want to be represented as the "other."

Latinos are watching and listening to what brands have to say about them. According to Pew, 62% of Latino adults in the U.S. either speak English or are bilingual, while Nielsen reports that 77% of Latinos own a smartphone and 77% participate in social networks or social media.

So, my friends, the next time you take to the boardroom to figure out how to engage and how to represent this powerful demographic, remember that there are many more similarities than differences between the Gomezes and the Joneses they’re having dinner with. 

Gustavo Martinez is worldwide chairman and CEO of J. Walter Thompson. 

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