Ten Thought Starters for the Hispanic Market

Pivotal Things to Keep Your Eye on in 2010

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Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Somehow it's already the middle of February. I'm not sure how that happened, but it did. Perhaps even more startling to me is that it is most definitely already 2010.

When you've been focused on the U.S. Hispanic market for three decades as I have, 2010 is one of those presentation benchmarks that always made one feel like a futurist. You got to predict the future while thinking you probably wouldn't be held accountable when 2010 actually arrived. Then one day, you realize that 2010 is no longer about predictions. It's about the present.

The following is my list of 10 pivotal "things to watch" or "things to actually do something with" as you pursue Hispanic marketing initiatives at the start of a new decade.

1. U.S. Census

Hispanic agencies are well aware that whenever new Census data starts to be released, CEOs inevitably send articles to their marketing executives asking, "What are we doing about this?" This sets off a scramble in terms of agency searches, research requests and, to some degree, budget increases (or at least budget allocations where there may have been none before). Census 2010 has already seen commentary about Hispanic "reverse immigration" (From those who would have you believe it's a fact to those who would dispute it). There has also been a lot reported on potential boycotts as well as the always popular undercount.

Dedicated Spanish language websites, bilingual educational videos (including a Puerto Rican version) and Spanish-language television are only a fraction of the targeted work being done to bring the Census to the attention of the Spanish-dependent and Spanish-dominant segments of the U.S. Hispanic population, as these are among the segments who remain the least aware of the process and the value of participation.

A Profiles of America Road Tour is in progress and is using Twitter to do exactly what I'm not sure. The site I looked at was not generating much of a community, but rather served as a cyber bulletin board for the Census to speak to itself. With Twitter entries like "Did you know? For the 2010 Census we have printed 200 million questionnaires. This would fill nearly 425 tractor-trailer trucks!" they may be adding fuel to the fire of those who believe multilingual forms are costing taxpayers unnecessarily, not to mention annoying environmentalists at the same time. I also learned that April 1, 2010, is Census Day, which seems like an unfortunate choice of date for something you want people to take seriously. Nonetheless, the use of on-the-ground experiential engagement and on-the-web social media interaction, a one-two punch that didn't exist a decade ago, reflects a massive marketing endeavor that may be easy to poke fun at but is no easy feat to pull off. It is in all of our best interests if it produces results in the form of accurately completed forms across all demographics.

The numbers will be what they will be. There is no doubt that the Hispanic population will demonstrate impressive growth no matter how you dice it or slice it. The data will prompt further discussions about foreign born and US born segments. There will be those who classify racially as white or black in combination with their ethnic identity of Hispanic or Latino, reinforcing the importance of allowing consumers to self-identify or identify in ways that are more diverse than the U.S. construct of race and ethnicity would suggest. The Spanish language and its role in the lives of first and second generation Hispanics will be overemphasized by some and underemphasized by others. As with previous Census, this "national tracking study" will serve to fuel many a conversation about the value of in-language and/or in-culture U.S. Hispanic marketing initiatives for at least the next decade to come.

The more you educate yourself on what Census data does and does not provide, as well as the inherent strengths and weaknesses of the methodology, the more actionable it will become as you apply it to major and minor marketing decision-making.

2. FIFA World Cup

Another Hispanic marketing staple, the FIFA World Cup, dates back about 80 years. Historically, the Hispanic involvement skewed almost exclusively to South America, but changes in the last two decades had a positive affect on North American teams, including the U.S. and Mexico. In spite of its lack of popularity among U.S. non-Latino audiences, it must be noted that World Cup is the most widely viewed sporting event in the world, with an estimated 715.1 million people watching the 2006 final. This year's games will be held in South Africa and in 2014 it's off to Brazil.

Advertising initiatives for the 2010 World Cup have already begun to some degree, but there is much more to come as we get closer to the games themselves. Coca-Cola has an expansive global initiative and their World Cup tour anthem, "Waving Flag," by Somalian-Canadian artist K'Naan has already been covered by a Mexican-American K'Naan fan. It's worth a listen not only for its artistic merit but for its authenticity in reflecting the "soundtrack" of a bilingual, bicultural life in young Latino America.

Between this year's African influence and that of Brazil in the next four years, I'm struck by the great opportunity for marketers to

  • Celebrate the African influences that are so much a part of Hispanic music, dance and history; and
  • Be more inclusive of Afro-Latino influences, voices, and cultural pride, since the Black Latino story is so rarely reflected in the visuals or narrative of US Hispanic market advertising. (Which is not to say that one should wait until a World Cup in Africa to do this, but in the spirit of better late than never, now is as good a time as any to challenge the misguided notion that Hispanics and Blacks share no common bonds).

3. Bicentennials of Mexico, Chile and Argentina

In contrast to the two mentioned Hispanic marketing staples, virtually no attention has been given to the upcoming bicentennials of Mexico and other Latin American countries. It remains to be seen how the U.S. marketing community will engage in these historic celebrations. However, since Mexico's Sept. 16 is already part of most marketing calendars, it's probable that companies will dial up the volume for this all-important bicentennial milestone. In terms of Mexico specifically, there are two major events that will be celebrated by Mexicans on both sides of the border: the 200th anniversary of the Mexican Independence and the 100th Anniversary of the Mexican Revolution. I was intrigued by a website called Arkansas Celebrates Mexico 2010, only to discover that Little Rock and Pachuca are sister-cities. Who knew?

Two other countries with Bicentennials in 2010 are Chile and Argentina, who may not have as many U.S. residents as Mexico, but who certainly has strong representation within the U.S. Hispanic advertising community.

One final note, while I'm on the subject of Bicentennials, is that of the relationship between Haiti and Latin America, and why South American countries in particular were beneficiaries of Haiti's valuable contributions to their very existence. It is widely accepted that Simon Bolivar received significant financial and political assistance from Haiti during his attempts to liberate what today are countries like Colombia, Peru, Bolivia and others from Spain. Thus, it was heartwarming to see the support Univision's Haiti Fundraiser generated and that has come from throughout the Latino community; not only because as citizens of the world we can't just look away, but also because of the truly important role that Haiti plays in Latin American history, not to mention its geographic connection to the Dominican Republic

As for items 4-10, I might as well save them for a rainy blogging day. As reference, however, here is the rest of the list that's currently on my mind:

  • 4. Social-media sophistication
  • 5. Marketing to the multi-ethnic/multi-racial consumer
  • 6. The importance of cable
  • 7. Random acts of Spanish.
  • 8. Better branded content
  • 9. Southern and Midwestern Hispanics (Do I see a Latino Wizard of Oz in our future?)
  • 10. Agency Blur

What's on your mind for the decade ahead?

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