Afro-Latino Youth Can Be Gateway for Marketers

The Right Effort Can Reach Two Markets and Then Some

By Published on . 6

Rudy Duthil Rudy Duthil
I had the pleasure of waking up to an e-mail from a friend containing a piece from the uber-liberal Village Voice. The article had to do with a trend among young Latinos (mainly of Dominican, Puerto Rican and Cuban descent) in the New York City area who lead highly acculturated lives that identify very intimately with African-American culture due to their Afro-Latino backgrounds. This intense acculturation has had a profound effect on many different facets of their young Afro-Latino lifestyles, spanning from their wardrobes down to the way they communicate.

Much like their African-American counterparts, Afro-Latinos have the ability to set trends for other cultures as well as their own.

If you take a deeper look into the Afro-Latino culture of New York, you would be able to see that many of today's youth, both multicultural and general market, take cues on their overall style from the Afro-Latino authority figures in these communities.

A few names that come to mind when I think of Afro-Latino icons in New York:
  • Mainstream rap artist Jim Jones, aka Joseph Guillermo Jones II. He's of African-American and Puerto Rican descent. He's also a member of Harlem rap quartet The Diplomats.
  • Rap artist AZ, aka Anthony Cruz. He's of African-American and Dominican descent.
  • Multi-platinum-selling rap artist Fabolous, aka John Jackson, of African-American and Dominican descent.
I believe these men have been able to have such a profound impact on America's multicultural youth, both African-American and Hispanic, because they can relate to both sides of the spectrum. This target demo embraces its Latino roots, but also identifies strongly with the African-American culture here in the U.S. It is reflected by their circle of friends, which will almost always include both Hispanics and African Americans. They also share their culture with their friends through conversation, food and other cultural experiences such as nationalistic pride festivals/parades and musical events.

They have the ability to identify with your average African-American teenager, as well as their Hispanic counterparts, because they are and should be considered cultural hybrids.

They take their Hispanic backgrounds and put their own twists on the other half of their culture, AA, and produce trends that are all their own; mix that in with the influence that hip-hop has on a global scale, and you have the youths flocking in droves to whatever trend this group sets.

If you take a ride through almost any Hispanic or African-American neighborhood in the Northeast, from Philadelphia to Boston, you may happen to see kids of all Hispanic and AA backgrounds running around with skull belt buckles, wallet chains hanging from their back pockets to their front belt loops, and skull-and-crossbone prints all over their T-shirts and hoodies. This is the trend that was started by Jim Jones and his Diplomat friends, and once they began to appear in recent rap videos with this attire, all of a sudden clothing designers began to send out their lines of apparel with the skull-and-crossbone print on them to major retailers.

These cultural hybrids possess the power to mold American culture. It is already happening in key urban pockets. Keep an eye out -- it will be spreading very quickly.

Note to marketers: Molding American culture is a capability that more companies should take notice of, especially in these tough economic times. The Afro-Latino has the power to affect two cultures at once (and then some). So marketers that go after this target demo will in essence be "killing two birds with one stone" in terms of reach. This would make them the ideal target consumer for those clients seeking to launch campaigns against a Hispanic target that can have some legs and then carry over into either an African-American or general-market-targeted program, all the while using the same creative concept.
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