In the beginning it was the language. That’s how marketing to Latinos started. And agencies and the media put the Latino consumer in a “language cage.” It was as if Latinos lived in a silo, connecting only with Spanish language and Spanish media.
Today’s Latino reality, with 70 percent self-defined as “bicultural,” is completely different. Data reveals a more complex and integrated Latino consumer, showing a bilingual behavior when it comes to language and media usage. Hispanics are leading smartphone adoption, social media engagement, and multi-screen entertainment. Actually, technology is putting Latinos on steroids rather than in a silo.
Yet brands don’t seem to have followed the transformation, and routinely fail to connect with Latinos. According to an Ethnodynamics study by Yahoo, 68 percent of Latinos believe advertising does not depict ethnic values at a deep level (aka “they don’t get me”). It seems that marketers get lost in translation when it comes to the language of culture.
Culture: A Language of Its Own
Latinos do nurture ethnicity, though it may play different roles depending on acculturation levels. First-generation Latino behavior is influenced by ethnicity for topics like news, entertainment, and food. For second-generation Latinos, ethnicity is more about outward expression. The former want Latino content, while the latter want mainstream content but with Latino flavor.
But all Latinos have one thing in common: they are very sensitive to how their ethnicity is portrayed in the media. Latinos don’t want to be perceived as followers but rather influencers. They want to be portrayed as both mainstream and unique when it comes to advertising.
When Time Magazine launched its first ever Spanish-language headline earlier this year, it created a lot of buzz. The “Yo decido” (“I decide”) cover was a great way of capturing the influential role that Latinos would play in choosing the next American president (actually, it helped Obama win his second term). The Latinosphere embraced the headline as a rallying cry, and the Time cover became the profile picture on Facebook for thousands of Hispanics. Latinos loved being portrayed as influencers by a mainstream magazine.
The Latino Twist
“Modern Family” actress Sofía Vergara and burritos are far from being the only stories of Latino influence on the mainstream.
Take, for example, Latino skater Paul Rodriguez, Jr. (son of the famous Latino comedian), who’s starring in the Nike 6.0 commercial, representing the new colors of American skaters.
And while on the subject of colors, for “Noche Latina,” the Chicago Bulls didn’t change the colors of their passion, but rather the language they used to express it. They became “Los Bulls” – a Spanglish rename – joining their NBA teams on this nice tribute to the Latino community.
Another recent example is Takis, the chili-pepper-and-lime-flavored corn snack from Mexico. Takis launched in the U.S. and is quickly catching up to established snacks. With more than 1.2 million fans on Facebook and a hip-hop video inspired by the product that has close to four million views on YouTube, the brand is showing that America has plenty of appetite for new Latin foods.
Bringing Down the Walls of Pop Culture
Rolling Stone is an American pop culture icon. Having a Spanish language cover for the first time in its history is a great tribute to the Latino population. But creating specific editorial content that addresses the growing influence of Latino artists in American culture…well, that’s even bigger.
At my company, we believe that being experts in understanding the Latino consumer is not enough. Our role is to help brands grow with emerging cultures by enabling the intersection of cultures: in this case, Latino and mainstream. The flip cover featuring Pitbull, in Spanish, is the perfect entry door for Latinos. They can browse content in both Spanish and English, all related to Latin music and artists. The “traditional” English cover, on the other hand, is the perfect access to American pop culture.
That’s why we are so excited about this partnership in creating the first-ever Rolling Stone issue with “Latino-infused” content. It’s the perfect metaphor for how Latinos interact with both Latino and mainstream culture, and in both Spanish and English languages.
The New Language of Culture
Marketing to emerging cultures is about connecting with deep cultural values. Brands that want to engage with Latinos (or other emerging cultures) need to create, not simply communicate. They need to embrace that culture and be part of it. Brands need to act as a cultural enabler, empowering people and amplifying the influential role that emerging cultures are playing.
In “Rain Over Me,” Pitbull raps: “Latin is the new majority, ya tú sabes [you already know]…Next step, la Casa Blanca [White House].”
There’s nothing like an artist to connect those stories (politics and pop culture, in this case). There’s no doubt Pitbull rightfully deserves to be on the cover of the first Latino-infused issue of Rolling Stone. #RockAhora