With an Ever-Growing Population of 'Fusionistas,' Consistency Is Key

Young-Adult Latinos in the U.S. Are Moving Seamlessly Between Their Two Worlds

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"It's a blend between two tastes, a blend between two cultures, and a blend between today and her heritage," said Luis Miguel Messianu, president and chief creative officer of Alma DDB, McDonald's U.S. Hispanic agency.

That description also pretty much defines U.S. Hispanic millennials, who are often bicultural and bilingual, and make up 21% of America's millennial generation of 18-to-34-year-olds.

Two spots for the Passat TDI feature the same family, shot in both English and Spanish.
Two spots for the Passat TDI feature the same family, shot in both English and Spanish.
"We refer to them as "fusionistas.' They see themselves as 100% Latino and 100% American. They're perfectly comfortable navigating both worlds. They have a sense of pride from back home even if they're born in the U.S."

There are 14 million Hispanic millennials -- 28.3% of the total U.S. Hispanic population. Of those millennials, 15.6% are U.S.-born and 12.7% are foreign-born. And they are more like their general-market counterparts than other generations, said Andy Hasselwander, VP-professional service and product development for Latinum, a business network that helps brands reach Hispanics. "Most immigrants are coming over for work, so most recent immigrants are millennials, and that 's why the group is so diverse," he said.

In the 18-to-34-year-old demographic they belong to, the number of U.S.-born Hispanics is growing about 5% a year while the number of foreign-born Hispanics is dropping almost 3%, Mr. Hasselwander said. By 2020, U.S.-born Hispanics in that age group will outnumber immigrants almost 2 to 1.

"It's a diverse segment in the middle of the media landscape, and people struggle with how to get at it," said David Wellisch, Latinum's co-founder.

Whichever language or media they use, marketers should keep their messages consistent, because millennial consumers are often navigating both English and Spanish-language media.

That's why Volkswagen's two spots for the Passat TDI feature the same family, shot in both English and Spanish versions. In one spot, a little girl asks her parents, from the backseat, where babies come from and they nervously try to distract her by talking about the car's features, like GPS -- "Look, we're almost there!"

"When you see the same cast, it's an additional nice way of getting the target to identify because they also live in both worlds," said Daniel Marrero, founder of Creative on Demand, Volkwagen's Hispanic agency. "They're bilingual, too. When targeting millennials, it's another way of making it relatable."

"They eat tamales and burgers, and watch football and futbol," said Graciela Eleta, senior VP-brand solutions at Univision Communications. "It's a la carte acculturation, they pick and choose which part of Latino culture they get to keep. It's less about language fluency and more about cultural fluency."

"Because of technology, Spanish-language media and travel back [to home countries], and sheer critical mass -- that linear journey to full assimilation -- is no longer taking place."

Even young Hispanics born in the U.S. tend to identify themselves by where their families are from. In research by the Pew Hispanic Center, 52% described themselves by their families' country of origin, 24% as American, and 20% as Hispanic or Latino. And when Hispanic millennials have children, their interest in Latino culture, and sometimes language, deepens. Yankelovich Hispanic Monitor 2010 found 79% of respondents said that Spanish was more important to them than it was five years ago.

"Because they're living in two languages and completely plugged in digitally, messages will resonate. It's a stretch strategy [for marketers],"said Mr. Hasselwander. They sit between groups of very different people and messages travel."

Latino habits are increasingly being introduced to the larger market. For instance, in Mexico, limes are often added to beer, paving the way for Miller Chelada (Chill) and Bud Light Lime in the U.S. And Nestlé this summer introduced Aguas Frescas, keeping the Spanish name for waters in traditional flavors such as tamarind and hibiscus. "It's completely millennial and-cross cultural," Ms. Eleta said.

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