Last year, Hispanic purchasing power reached $1.6 trillion. By 2060, Hispanics are projected to make up 27 percent of the U.S. population. Speaking to Hispanic audiences is essential to every brand’s bottom line, yet according to a six-year ANA analysis, more than half of the top advertisers allocate less than 1 percent of their budget to multicultural.
The challenge isn’t just about budget. For marketers to win Hispanic customers, they first must understand that their audiences aren’t easily fit into a single box—rather, they are “ambicultural.”
Things like country of origin and geographic location within the U.S. highlight just two of the significant cultural differences among U.S. Hispanics. Messages that connect with Puerto Ricans in New York may not speak to Guatemalans in California or Mexicans living in Texas. Within a given community, there are significant cultural differences, such as age and whether you’re talking about first-generation immigrants or Hispanics who were born in the U.S.
Grappling with the nuances of acculturation, especially as that process intersects with the complexities of age, country of origin and local community, is how brands make themselves relevant. But to be relevant, marketers must think in ambicultural terms.
To be ambicultural is to live in multiple cultures at once. At home, food, language and media correlate strongly with heritage. But outside the home, that same person intersects with the broader culture, forging an ambicultural identity that’s greater than the sum of the cultures with which they identify. “Spanglish” provides one readily accessible example of ambicultural identity present in the broader culture. But what does ambiculturalism look like from the point of view of the intended audience?
Speak their language
To paraphrase George Bernard Shaw’s quote about how England and America are two countries separated by one language, U.S. Hispanics represent dozens of different cultures united by one language: Spanish. It’s difficult to quantify the number of ambicultural Hispanics in the U.S., but language provides the best indicator. According to Pew data, between 70 and 80 percent of first- and second-generation Hispanics prefer Spanish at home even though English proficiency is on the rise among those groups. Of the 59 million Hispanic consumers in the U.S., a great many are ambicultural. And that’s especially true for young Hispanics, a group that makes up nearly half of all U.S.-born Hispanics.
Speaking Spanish to U.S. Hispanics—even if they’re also fluent in English—can be especially powerful. According to a study by Magna Global, 79 percent of second-generation Hispanics and 84 percent of bilingual Hispanics feel their culture impacts who they are today. When ads convey culture, the same study found that Hispanics are 46 percent more likely to feel the brand represents their heritage.
For campaigns targeting Hispanics, the highest performing were in Spanish. U.S. Hispanic audiences are also incredibly savvy when it comes to digital media, thanks largely to the fact that these audiences skew so young.
But marketers may not have gotten this message just yet. As eMarketer points out, there’s an enduring perception that Hispanics aren’t as digitally savvy. In fact, the opposite is true—seven in 10 Hispanics own smartphones, and they average three hours per day on mobile (an hour more than non-Hispanics). Nielsen data looking at social media use among Latinas reinforces this point. Latinas used Snapchat at a rate 96 percent higher than non-Hispanic white women, Instagram at a rate 64 percent higher, Spotify at a rate 59 percent higher and Pandora at 58 percent higher.
What this means is that agencies and advertisers need to rethink their old assumptions about Hispanic audiences. Yes, Spanish-language print, radio and television still have their place in the Hispanic community, but as that community grows in size and becomes younger, it becomes more ambicultural, and as a result, is more likely to turn to digital media.
Brands that fail to understand ambiculturalism won’t be relevant. Just as individuals choose to meet the larger culture on its terms, advertisers must choose to reach audiences on their terms. To do that, marketers must be prepared to hire with an eye toward diversity—not just because it’s the right thing, but because it’s the relevant thing. Marketers also really need to spend time understanding these consumers and the data that shows how important they are to a brand growth. After all, who you hire and how you understand your audience speaks volumes about your commitment, not just as a data segment, but as people within overlapping cultures.