New Data Repaints Demographic Picture of U.S. Hispanics

At the ANA: Latest Findings of Latino Identity Project

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LOS ANGELES ( -- U.S. marketers are not effectively reaching the burgeoning population of U.S. Hispanics because, according to Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies Chairman Carl Kravetz, most marketers "are not speaking" that demographic's language -- but he made clear he was not talking about Spanish.

New picture
In an address yesterday to the Association of National Advertisers' Multicultural Marketing Conference in Los Angeles, Mr. Kravetz hammered home the findings of a market study, "What Makes a Latino, Latino?" that paints a much more sophisticated, multifaceted and nuanced picture of the country's broad Hispanic community.

"The work of this Latino Identity Project has resulted in a profound shift in the way we look at the things that make us us," he told the more than 300 attendees at his talk at the Fairmont Miramar Hotel. The multicultural marketing event is the ANA's second-largest annual conference.

'What makes us different'
"It's not so much what unites Latinos that's important as what makes us different from non-Latinos," Mr. Kravetz said of the data.

He said AHAA's in-depth Latino Identity Project research found that traditional demographic markers such as Spanish-language usage, country of origin and length of time in the U.S. are becoming much less relevant as the number of bilingual, bicultural households grows quickly.

"There are two parts to our new hypothesis of Latino Cultural Identity -- a heart, and a set of contextual factors that interact with and continuously reshape the heart," he said. "If the heart is the core of Latino Identity, then the four chambers responsible for its functioning are interpersonal orientation, time and space perception, spirituality and gender perception."

Radically different
"Interpersonal orientation is the way we live our relationships with other people, and is ... radically different from non-Latinos," he said. For instance, individualism is important to Anglos, whereas Latinos have a collectivist culture that favors cooperation, and values family needs over those of the individual.

For marketers, Mr. Kravetz said, that means understanding the family as a unit, including group decision making, and avoiding conflict between individual needs and group expectations.

The way Latinos perceive time and space is also very different. Mr. Kravetz drew a laugh when he described time commitments for Latinos as "more of a goal than real commitments." They also change plans easily, are more present- and past-oriented and value friends and family more than privacy. In contrast, non-Hispanics are future-oriented, have a rigid sense of space and privacy, and focus on results, he said.

Religion and spirituality affect how Latinos see the world, imparting both a sense of fatalism and a love of rituals and celebrations.

Gender roles
Gender roles are also radically different in the Latino world. Machismo is about protecting and providing for the family, and can cause aggression or shame among men who feel they can't live up to that role.

There are also contextual factors -- things that make each person individually unique -- that interact with the heart's chambers, Mr. Kravetz said.

"Think about what happens to a Latino's interpersonal orientation when it comes in contact with differing levels of acculturation," he said. "What are the consequences of a past and present orientation interconnecting with fatalism when you're discussing health care ... or insurance?

"This new hypothesis of Latino Identity is a threshold moment for the Hispanic marketing industry because it not only tells us how Latinos are, it begins to explain why we are the way we are," he said. "And this is very, very significant."

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