Not so Much 'Latinization' as Generalization

Cristina Benitez Tries to Break Down 44 Million Hispanics in 128 Pages

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The multibillion-dollar business opportunity presented by the growing U.S. Hispanic market has struck a chord with publishers. A flurry of research tools, academic studies and marketing books are hitting the shelves weekly, attempting to explain the complexities of the cultural fabric that defines Latin Americans.

Cristina Benitez's "Latinization: How Latino Culture is Transforming the U.S." is among the newest additions to this roster of professionals eager to deliver their take on how 44 million Latinos are transforming corporate America.

First-time author Benitez, a U.S.-born ad vet and president of branding shop Lazos Latinos, set out to help Latinos and non-Latinos alike better understand the community's contributions to the arts, politics, entertainment and business arenas stateside -- a tall order for a book only 128 pages in length.

With a foreword by Henry Cisneros, former president-CEO of Univision, "Latinization" features insights from 20 Latino experts, many from the Chicago area, who run the gamut of occupations: academics, museum directors -- even an Oklahoma-born chef specializing in Mexican food.

But despite a collective effort and Benitez's 20 years in the industry, the book fails to give marketers real insight beyond the basics retrievable with the simplest internet search. The author neglects to elaborate on her tips, offering generalizations without consideration for corporate concerns such as viewer numbers and financial strategy.

In referencing Latinos' passionate nature (pasión), the author dryly suggests "using celebrations [in ads], especially when marketing foods and telecommunications [for this] creates an emotional touchstone to our heritage," before skipping on to the next chapter.

The premise of "Latinization" -- that not all Latinos are created equal--is lost beneath a wave of anecdotal conclusions. ("Latinos tend to dress formally rather than comfortably. I never see gym shoes and suits on Latinas.") By the book's end, the reader is reduced to skimming a laundry list of victories and coups. (Miami has adopted the guayabera as its official city shirt! The tortilla industry is still booming!)

Benitez, a self-ascribed "retro-acculturated" Latina who founded her own shop in 1988, might have benefited readers by reflecting on her own experience over the last two decades. Many marketers already share her awareness of Latino nuances. Interest lies in learning specific challenges she's faced when targeting a complex, multicultural audience (budget allocations and media spending, for example).

For the uninitiated, I might recommend "Latinization" as a sort of Latino Marketing 101; that is, if the text weren't plagued by a host of typographical errors. Among the misspellings: Columbia (for Colombia, the country); Vincente Fox (for former Mexico president, Vicente Fox); and Gabriel Mistral (for Gabriela Mistral, the Chile-born winner of the 1945 Nobel Prize of Literature).

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Read more commentary from Laura Martinez daily at Mi Blog Es Tu Blog.
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