Adapting Brand Communication to Latino Culture

Before every exam he gave us, a professor of mine would repeat his mantra: “read the question, answer the question.” His intent was to remind us of the basics: When he wrote the question, he was looking for specific information. The question is designed to trigger a specific response, answer it in the context in which it is being asked.

When it comes to brand advertising there is no difference; everything is designed to generate the desired response from a targeted group. Respond to our request, buy our “widget”. When we refer to Latino advertising, the principal is identical, but the question/request must be formed with the cultural market segment in mind. The question or in this case the proposition has to be drafted differently to get the same expected response as the general market. My cousin from Texas, who owns a local Plano tree service company, understands this very well, hence his success in marketing his company.

Consider the beer market in which we are bombarded by ad messages regardless of the brand. How do we create meaning that can connect with the targeted Latino audience? Think about a TV ad you must have seen, remember the commercial in a Latino nursing home, a Latina old woman watching a Latino soap opera? You see her picking up a beer and the brand of it, she drinks it and after her grandson leaves, she turns young and starts dancing to Latino music. The context of the commercial is Latinized through Latin Americans celebrating, speaking in Spanish jargon and wearing Latino clothing, while you’re seeing the beer brand and its motto in Spanish at the center of the screen. The commercial symbolically recreated a magical moment, something called in Latin American literature “magic realism,” in which myth comes live. The commercial ends, with the old woman, now an attractive Latina saying “señorita, no señora” and holding the product: beer.

In one minute, the commercial captures the targeted audience by recreating a moment unique to Latinos through a mythical cultural experience which the consumer identifies with regardless of the country.

You see! The most successful ad campaigns identify the cultural segment to which the targeted audience belongs. They create promotional pieces that resonate with their market and encourage them to connect and engage with the offerings in their own cultural terms.

Adapt Brand Communication Strategy to Latino Culture

Reaching a targeted ethnic market doesn’t have to shake up your world. Existing strategies can be adapted to meet a market demand in various segments. It can be done from the product to the promotion mix in order to appeal to localized cultures. In this case, we’ll focus on the promotion mix to illustrate how a brand should communicate in a Latino market segment.

When we refer to cultural branding, we are addressing a consumer’s localized historical experience to connect within a defined group or society independently from another. The historical experience is a culture variable that will always change depending on who the targeted segment is regardless of culture and language. Now for the sake of making my point clear, we are not going to modify a brand’s design but the communication process as to how a brand should transmit its meaning and/or proposition while resonating with a Latino-targeted audience.

Latinos are accustomed to using most of their senses when evaluating an opportunity or simply celebrating. Consider two women, one Anglo American and the other one a Latina (female) consumer going to the produce section at the grocery store. Watermelon for lunch! What a perfect idea. The Anglo American woman realizes that the watermelon is big and green and buys it, while the Latina woman taps on it, holds it, looks for white spots on the surface, examines its coloring and lastly asks a clerk to cut out a piece for tasting. Once the Latina consumer has evaluated each stage of the purchase and is satisfied with the results, she buys it. The point to be made from this purchasing experience is that the typical Latina consumer relied on the sense of sound, touch, sight, and taste to make a decision, while the typical American consumer evaluated the opportunity only through the visual aspects of the watermelon.

Latino Branding: The Process

If a marketer wants to Latinize a brand, he/she will have to identify the consumer, the consumer’s nationality, cultural background, customs and thought process in relation to the place of origin (country).

Consumer

The process of identifying and determining who the targeted Latino consumer will be is no different than that used for the general market. However, two essential factors must be considered as part of the data collection among Latino consumers: nationality and respective cultural background.

Nationality

We can get by saying that, for the most part, Latin American consumers share a similar experience pre-independence. From that date forward, however, a unique identity emerges regarding the political and economic development of each country. The latter making a significant impact on demographic and socio-cultural characteristics which affect the thinking process of each individual.

Cultural Background

One of most relevant facts to unveil among Latinos is their cultural background as a factor of differentiation from one person to another depending on the country of origin.

This cultural background is influenced by localized environmental elements, such as:

  • Arts: music, literature, painting, dance, and cuisine
  • Myth: Folklore, legends, rituals, and celebrations
  • Language: Colloquial versus academic Spanish
  • Visuals: Colors, dressing codes, and symbols

This is what Latinos follow in their country of origin, which in marketing, we refer to as an “experience,” something of their own that can’t be replicated and/or blended with another Latin American society.

Cultural Elements in the Latino Consumer’s Branding Process (Diagram not included in this article). See bullets below.

  • Nationality
  • Cultural Background
  • Customs
  • Thought Process

Customs

Life is filled with customs and rituals, patterns of behavior and interaction that are learned and repeated, something historical that is passed from one generation to another. When Latinos immigrate to the US, they bring these customs with them. The most successful Marketers will learn how these customs vary from one Latino society to another and design promotional programs that resonate with each group. As stated in the example above, the Latino female consumer relied on a customary approach to buying watermelon in the grocery store. If the clerk at the store did not allow her to taste the product before purchasing it, she would likely have gone somewhere else to have her needs met. This is the very reason as to why US grocery stores have a Hispanic section, that is, retail marketers know that the evaluation and thought process for Latino consumers are determined by customs.

Thought Process

Latinos have a tendency to examine the big picture and are not focused on a particular detail until they take in the opportunity as a whole. This affects the deliberation process. As opposed to snap judgments in the general market, a decision process might take minutes, hours or days depending on the product or the nature of the offerings. Once again, consider the example of the watermelon purchase.

Collectivism

I have pointed out the different elements within the Latino culture, but as a consumer group, collectivism is also a key cultural factor to consider as Marketers construct the question for the desired response

A marketer must be cognizant of the fact that Latinos are group oriented and the thought process might be influenced by one or more participants in the decision-making process. This will most likely occur when an offering is intended to serve more than one individual in a family or group. Consider the banking and health care industry in which the services offered reach beyond a single person. When this happens, there will be a family/group discussion to evaluate the opportunity and make a final decision.

Conclusion

If you are a marketer interested in this growing market, take your time to learn who the targeted Latino consumer is all about. Design your proposition/questions focused on his/her localized experience. When these components consumer, nationality, cultural background, customs and thought process are blended into an advertising piece, then you will capture their attention. When you do, you can truly say that brand Latinization is taking place.

Get the Latino consumer to “read the right question within a targeted cultural context, and they will answer the question.” By doing so, your question (proposition) will get your desired response.

Acculturation Levels in the US Latino Consumer Marketplace

What Is Acculturation?

Acculturation is a process that an individual undergoes in a new subculture. When someone is new to an established system of life, he/she is exposed to foreign elements that are confusing for the first time, from meaningless things people say, to what they see in the environment, such as the city architecture, dressing codes, usage of colors, food, traffic, public transportation, pedestrian rules and traffic signs. What you and I take for granted is rare and unusual to them including social institutions such as the school system, media, government, and corporations. These are environmental elements and are all influential on how the individual assimilates information and decodes messages from the new society.

Is Acculturation Relevant In The Hispanic Consumer Market?

Of course, it is! Acculturation is relevant in all four stages of the process as it relates to branding strategies, un-acculturated, low-acculturated, mid-acculturated and acculturated. The Hispanic un-acculturated and low-acculturated segment of the consumer market is mostly structured by newly arrived Latinos and individuals living within Latino communities with minimal exposure to the U.S. sub-culture. As the low-end part of the Hispanic consumer market, these two segments will continue growing for as long as there is an influx of immigration. The upper part of the market, the mid-acculturated and acculturated Hispanic segment are mostly structured by foreign-born and U.S. born Latinos. These consumers navigate the U.S. system more efficiently as they have the capacity of relating and interacting with the U.S. society more effectively. In fact, U.S. born Latinos prefer English over Spanish as the vehicle of communication.

Un-Acculturated

When a Latin American arrives in the United States for the first time, everything is unfamiliar and relatively unknown. His/her natural reaction to everything he/she sees at first is mesmerizing because it is a new experience. They feel excitement and adventure and the individual is fascinated with the new sub-culture. At this point in the process, everything is magic, his/her cultural interpretation is rather shallow and superficial as he/she does not yet understand the intricacies of the new U.S. society.

Low-Acculturated

Once the time has passed and the individual has experienced the new subculture, he/she realizes that there are patterns of behavior, attitudes, values, norms, cultural concepts and meanings quite different from his/her costumes. At this point in the process, a degree of conflict and confusion arises. Day-to-day communications, including listening and decoding messages, speaking and reading are difficult, as the person struggles to interpret local meanings. The individual now feels inadequate and builds an antagonistic attitude toward the new subculture.

This antagonistic attitude leads the individual to reject standards that are part of the new society, things that are customary and essential for the ordinary living in the new subculture i.e. from paying taxes, having health insurance, consuming local food to something as simple as establishing a checking account. A cultural clash develops as the individual feels confined to the new cultural paradigm. The first sign of discomfort is manifested through language since he/she can’t interact properly. When this occurs, the person feels a loss of self-identity and rejects the new society.

Mid-Acculturated

Despite the strength of the home country’s cultural background, tolerance becomes possible when an individual develops an understanding of how the new sub-culture works and how individuals in the new society interact and relate to one another. At this stage in the process, English as a second language is more manageable and facilitates better communication with members of the new sub-culture. In fact, cultural interpretation deepens and integration has begun.

Acculturated

At this stage in the process, the individual understands in-depth local cultural meanings and behaviors and appreciates the new subculture. In addition, the person has become bilingual and bicultural having developed the capacity of separating two cultures and adjusting the thought process according to each one. The latter is very important as behavior is no longer influenced by the opposite culture; instead, the new sub-culture is valued for its positive qualities. When this takes place, adjustment to the new subculture is achieved. Now the individual fits and navigates in two worlds without a problem.

The Process Is Not Equal For Everyone

The process of acculturation is not equal for everyone as the individual’s age, education, socio-cultural and occupational background are influential factors for accelerating or slowing down the absorption of information. This is a grey area in the process in which is hard to estimate the length of time for someone to acculturate to a new sub-culture. For instance, a Latino child that is 6-12 years old will quickly assimilate and interpret information from the new sub-culture, while an adult 18-24 years old will take longer. The older you get the harder it is to learn a foreign language and it becomes harder to integrate into a new sub-culture.

Immigration Crisis – An Epidemic That Grips the World Now

The recent spates of killings & violence against Indian students in Australia are clear indicators of growing unrest among the native Australian citizens towards their immigrants. Not only in Australia, even many European countries witness growing number of racial & hate crimes as native citizens turn extremely hostile towards their immigrants. Immigration crisis is at an all-time high in almost every European country. Incidences of racial crimes, anti-immigrant processions, violence, and killing are rampant.

Immigration crisis is fast turning into a nightmare among developed countries, particularly in Europe & America. Administrators are increasingly concerned as the number of racial and hate crimes continue to increase in their territory. And the intensity of the hatred never seems to subside. The current economic crisis could further decrease the tolerance level among native citizens, as the sense of economic insecurity is cited as the prime reason that triggers ‘anti-immigrant’ feelings among the local population.

Neither the rampant hostility from native citizens nor the stringent immigration laws seem to discourage Immigrants from migrating to these countries in search of better economic opportunities and living conditions. The problem begins with the second or third generation immigrants, who refuse to accept that they are treated as mere “guests”, as they feel they are as much the members of the society as native citizens.

For the US, it had to combat the spate of illegal immigrants from Mexico. On one hand, US borders are porous to thousands of Latino immigrants who manage to slip into the country illegally each day. On the other hand, a tougher border crackdown would create a large problem for the country’s cheap labor resources.

There is a steady increase in the spate of violence and crimes in European countries as there is growing number of immigrants throng to these countries in search of greener pastures. According to experts, the situation might go out of control if a country has over 10% of the immigrant population. Though this percentage may vary from country to country, the recent turn of events indicates that most of the European countries have reached that tipping point.

In Germany, the situation is volatile with regard to growing Turkish immigrants. Post-war, Germany was more than willing to welcome Turks as construction workers, who at that time offered a cheap source of labor. Decades later, the country finds it difficult to accommodate them. Studies show that a steady increase in racist attacks and hate crimes against Turks and Greeks in Germany since 2001.

Greece, until 20 years ago was most homogenous in its ethnicity, with more than 98 percent of native Greek citizens. But now, one out of every ten residents in Greece is an immigrant. The vast majority though being Albanians, there is growing number of West Africans, Chinese, Pakistanis, and Arabs living there. Though Russia and Poland have fewer immigrants compared to other European countries, the signs of intolerance have already begun to surface. The economic debacle that grips Russia post-communist rule manifests itself in the worst form of violence, vandalism, and killing.

Post 07/07 bombing, the anti-immigrant feeling is at its all-time high now in the UK, particularly against Arabs and Asians. The country has laid stringent immigration laws and has proposed biometric identity cards for native citizens. France reports a striking rise in the number of racial attacks against the Moroccan immigrant community. It is important to note that majority of the attacks are reported to have happened in ‘Corsica’, the poorest region of France, which also has the second highest ratio of immigrants.

Excepting few countries like Fiji Islands and Srilanka, Asia is not largely affected by the immigrant issue. Though Srilanka being the worst has native citizens had to wage a war for over 30 years to establish their supremacy? We have reports of a clash between Tamil ethnic group revolting against Malaysian authorities about the alleged ill-treatment and neglect.

According to UN, in 1913, the richest countries on earth were 10 times wealthier than the poorest. But in 2000, the difference was 71 times. The demand for immigration from developing countries will continue to increase as the gap between the rich and poor countries is growing wider and wider.