I thought about the books that had most influenced me early on and still to this day -- the classics and the cutting edge. My list matched several other lists already available online, including the Ad Age list from 2009.
Finding recommended reading lists is easy -- unless you're looking for a list that reflects the multicultural aspect of the industry. So I thought I would take a moment to share my recommended Hispanic marketing reading list. But then I realized that , although there are some very fine books that I would like to mention, learning something about the U.S. Hispanic market is less about required reading and more about "Required Living."
So here's a "Required Living" list that reflects just some of the many ways you can connect with Latino culture and tap into relevant insights, whether you're Latino or not. You'll not only learn more about the U.S. Hispanic Market and U.S. Hispanic Marketing, but you'll broaden your understanding of the world around you, and that 's always a good thing:
1. Latino Theater Companies
Go to the theater. Virtually every major city has strong Latino theater companies, providing an opportunity to connect culturally on many levels. Aside from the production itself, there's much to be gained by observing audiences and listening to conversations during intermission. Familiarize yourself with what Latino playwrights are writing and to talk to cast members. (And don't forget to go out to eat afterwards at a good local Latino restaurant or food truck.)
If you're in New York, don't miss the upcoming Latino Theater Festival, opening June 4 and launching with Lauren Velez' one woman show. If you can't get there, just reading the program descriptions is illuminating. And, of course, don't miss John Leguizamo -- one of the most important Latino storytellers -- in his work Ghetto Klown, winner of the Outer Critic Circle Award.
Chicago's Goodman Theater also holds a Latino Festival and produces work by emerging and influential Latino voices throughout the year, like an upcoming play set in Mexico but inspired by Chekov's "Cherry Orchard."
And the list goes on from Coast to Coast.
By the way, Latino Film Festivals are good too. Keep an eye out for those as well. And for non-Spanish speakers who want to immerse themselves in a Spanish language experience, film is helpful because it's subtitle-friendly. Hard to subtitle live theater (although operas have done a pretty good job).
2. The Immigrant Archive Project
Visit this website and spend some time listening to some of the most powerful expressions of cultural pride you will find anywhere. Just listen. And be moved. Then reflect on the commonality of the themes that run through these stories, regardless of country of origin or economic status. Then reflect on the differences that are also part of the diversity of these interviews, from a country-of -origin standpoint as well as from many others. The Immigrant Archive Projects is a compelling cultural resource overflowing with insights and inspiration.
3. Travel and Shop (Domestically and Internationally)
You can't really get to know Hispanic consumers (or any for that matter) from the confines of your office. Get out and visit high-density Latino areas and make sure that you visit retailers of all kinds (supermarkets, drug stores, mom-and-pops, chains, furniture stores, gift shops, music stores, etc.). If you're not Hispanic, allow yourself to experience what it feels like to be somewhat outside of your element. Use all of your senses and observe how you make purchasing decisions in stores that may carry things with which you're not entirely familiar. If you're Hispanic, go to a community that 's more reflective of a group you may have been less exposed to growing up. If you grew up in East Lost Angeles get to Miami. If you're from Miami, get to Dallas. Your personal Hispanic experience does not define the entire U.S. Hispanic experience, so make sure you educate yourself by exposing yourself to the similarities and differences of Latinos across the country, living in urban and rural segments, affluent and not, in Spanish and bilingually. Travel outside of the U.S., too. See how that compares and contrasts to what the U.S. Hispanic experience is all about. Get to Puerto Rico, Panama and Peru, and those are just some of the P's. Paraguay didn't make my list, but if you have the opportunity, go there too.
Understanding the breadth of Latino music genres and the draw of Latino musical artists is important to anyone interested in Hispanic marketing, Latino or not. Attend concerts, download music and study the history of the music and the performers that are influential today (For example check this out.) From the Latin Grammys and Latin Billboard awards to LAMC's Latin Alternative Music Conference coming to New York in July, there are a plethora of ways to take a musical journey and expand your marketing understanding. Again, as with any live events, learn not only from what is going on on the stage, but also from becoming a keen observer of audiences.
This is an invaluable way of really understanding the power of culture. It underscores that the Spanish language is only one tool for connecting culturally with consumers, but language alone is not enough. You see culture in action when you see an audience laugh in unison because of a joke that relates specifically to their perspective on some aspect of life, be it family, relationships, work, you name it. An English speaking comic, like George Lopez, Gabriel Iglesias, or a comedy troupe like Culture Clash, are perfectly examples of comic artists that can speak to both a universal truth or to a highly targeted truth that requires an in-culture appreciation of the reference. Spend time on YouTube or in comedy clubs across America getting familiar with how Latino comedians from across the country connect with their audiences and, through targeted communication, create one of the most powerful and most difficult human responses to elicit: laughter.
The blogosphere is bursting with Latinos and Latinas whose voices and perspective are rich with insights if you take the time to follow them on a regular basis. It's not just the work of the blogger that carries learning, but the conversations that are carried in reader replies and feedback. Following influential Latinos on Facebook and Twitter (and who isn't influential?) is important. As a starting point, here's a quick link to a random but relevant list.
The Korzenny's (google them) are about to have their second book on Hispanic marketing released and it is undoubtedly going to be a must-read, as was their first. Isabel Valdez is also the author of multiple works that shouldn't be missed. Other names of note include Cartagena, Soto, Faura, Morse and Benitez (google them too). And don't forget relevant reading that isn't advertising specific, but speaks to the Latino experience and consumer mindset. Make sure to spend time with books written by top Latino talent, from Gabriel Garcia Marquez to Isabel Allende and many, many more. Experience literary styles that are often associated with Latino writers, like "magical realism" and appreciate their possible connection to storytelling for your brand. Here's a high school reading list that offers a nice place to start regardless of how far out of high school you might be.
8. Black in Latin America
This PBS series, covers the all-too-often ignored or oversimplified territory related to the black Hispanic experience. For those who bucket all "people of color" under the catch-phrase "multicultural" and who continue to believe that Black America and Black Hispanic America are one in the same, this is a must-see. Actually, it's a must see for everyone -- Hispanic and non-Hispanic alike.
From the greats to graffiti, make it a point to visit museums and art galleries featuring work from U.S. and non-U.S. Latino creative communities, past and present. And speaking of Latino museums, find out more about efforts to create a Washington-based Latino museum that captures the story of Latinos in America.
Even before you could read, way back in kindergarten, when everything was new, you were curious about life -- your life and the lives of others. How others spoke, what others ate, how their families did things that were different from what you experienced at home. And even if you thought things were "weird" or "different," you were still open to learning new things every day. So stay curious and open your eyes (and your ears) every chance you can.