Ad Age is marking Hispanic Heritage Month 2023 with our Honoring Creative Excellence package, in which members of the Hispanic community revisit some of their favorite creative projects. (Read the introduction here.) Today, in our concluding essay, guest editor Pedro Lerma turns the spotlight to Claudia Romo Edelman, founder of We Are All Human Foundation.
Hispanic Heritage Month is drawing to a close. It’s a time many of us insiders jokingly refer to as “Hispanic Hysteria Month,” characterized by the rush to elevate our voices and stories within this allotted time.
In truth, we are delighted to have the spotlight on us for a sustained period of time, and this series in Ad Age has been shining a light on some great initiatives and campaigns, people and companies that are making a difference in the Latino community. Our voices are becoming more prominent, our stories more visible and our community more united.
I’ve spent my career as a marketer for social causes, bringing about change from the ground up. My work often pairs me with agencies and brands, serving as the bridge that connects community needs and priorities with corporate goals. I look back in pride at our work in UNICEF with partners including Unilever and P&G, the teamwork between the UN Refugee Agency and Nike, and the collective effort of PRODUCT (RED) with leading partners such as Apple. Every campaign had a shared goal: to create a positive change that benefits everyone involved—the community, the consumer and the company. Community engagement as grassroots marketing generates trust and builds lasting relationships.
When I started getting involved in this world, companies would invite me to their Hispanic Heritage Month event. Most of the time that meant they would host a half-hour of bad margaritas and consider the “Hispanic engagement” box checked. It was a nod to culture but lacked a genuine engagement to understand and invest in the community.
When I moved to the U.S. it was the first time in my life I learned I was a “Hispanic.” I had lived my entire life as a happy Mexican and I never heard the Hispanic label before. But I am a “factivist” by nature, and the more I learned, the more I realized that being Latino often meant being stereotyped and sidelined. The more I dug into understanding my newfound community, the more I realized the problem to solve involved invisibility and inclusion.
I also knew what I had to do. Under the banner of the We Are All Human Foundation, I launched the Hispanic Star initiative. I wanted to create a symbol that would unify us, develop a central platform to showcase the incredible contributions Hispanics make to this country and address our fragmentation through our shared desire for progress.
I knew that it would be critical to activate the corporate world as the key partner to generate systemic change for Latinos. Companies are desperate to engage genuinely with Latinos, and the best and most authentic way to generate connections is by investing and engaging in our community needs. Social change to create positive change for Latinos will build long-lasting relationships with companies and their brands. That is what I call purpose-led campaigns, social or grassroots marketing.
For our foundation, that is clearly the way forward—it’s the right model for the Latino community, where family and community have such an enormous presence. If you want to market to Latinos, don’t go for our wallet, go for our hearts. Go for our future and, even more so, for our children’s future. They are, after all, your future consumers. That is how trust is fostered, how long-lasting relationships are built and loyalty established.
We visualized Hispanic Star as a star and a tilde, a melding of American and Spanish symbols, a perfect harmony of our dual identity. The Hispanic Star brand is gaining usage and is designed to have the same identifying and unifying power as the rainbow does for the LGBTQ+ community. Early data is positive, with high levels of likeability.
But Hispanic Star is much more than a symbol. We connect it to action through the Hispanic Star Fund. We are the bridge between community needs and corporate objectives. Case in point: During the pandemic, we saw that so many health care workers are Latino, but only a small percentage are nurses. We also knew that a global shortage of nurses is looming. We launched a partnership with a major health care organization that gave nursing scholarships to Latinos. With this program, we improved the future of Latinos, helped meet the societal need for more nurses and also built trust and loyalty with a brand. Win-win-win.
Two ongoing projects extend our work and address other critical needs. The first is our children’s book series, Hispanic Star Heroes, which is correcting the lack of role models for our children. We all know that children have to see it to be it. These are great biographies, a new tool for teachers, published in English and Spanish for widest distribution. Six books are out already: Roberto Clemente, Celia Cruz, Selena Gomez, Sylvia Rivera, Ellen Ochoa and Justice Sonia Sotomayor. Many corporations are buying these in volume—they make great corporate gifts to employees, local libraries and schools. (We are more than happy to help you!)
In a similar vein, Hispanic Star just launched a podcast: “A La Latina: The Playbook to Succeed Being Your Authentic Self.” This addresses another need, which is the lack of representation of Latinas in the senior ranks of the corporate world. Only 2% of Latinas are corporate executives, and we know the obstacles. Latinas do not have role models at work. They don’t have the networks. And they don’t have a playbook. We hope hearing the stories of successful Latinas will help women learn and thrive. Inspire, inform, instruct.
Hispanic Star is my most personal marketing campaign and, because of that, the one of which I am most proud. We are seeing the needle move. There is so much more to do but we have momentum now.
Together, we can unleash tectonic change that benefits Latinos, the companies that support our growth and ultimately society. We are committed to keep going and going until all Latinos are seen, heard and valued. Hispanic progress is American progress.