Fighting the Status Quo in the Hispanic Matrix

Agencies and Marketers Need to Embrace New-Generation Latinos

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Chiqui Cartagena
Chiqui Cartagena
PepsiCo Chief Engagement Officer Frank Cooper opened his remarks at the New Generation Latino Consortium Conference with a clip from "The Matrix," in which Laurence Fishburne offers Keanu Reeves a choice between the blue pill and the red pill. Taking the blue pill meant going back to his "life" in the Matrix as if nothing had happened. Taking the red pill meant "going down the rabbit hole" and uncovering the truth about the Matrix.

Mr. Cooper told the sold-out audience in New York's Harvard Club that marketers today are "trapped in the status quo of brand marketing" and that we all face a similar choice: Continue doing the same old brand marketing that we have in the past or embrace the post-advertising age and change the way we do everything in order to engage consumers with brands. "Consumer needs are evolving and new needs are emerging, and marketing must change too," urged Copper.

A lot of the discussion at the NGLC conference centered on what we already know but somehow keep tuning out: that the Hispanic community is not this monolithic Spanish-speaking-only, one-size-fits-all community. The reality is that the Hispanic market is being transformed very rapidly by a new generation of Latinos that are more bilingual and English-dominant.

By acknowledging that a large and growing swath of younger Latinos are consuming media in both English and Spanish we are not giving way to "assimilation to the general market" as some in the community would be quick to say. The reality is that today, one can be 100% Latino and 100% American at the same time. And that our identities are much more complex than how we are defined by simple demographics or language usage.

And while it is true that some smart marketers and agencies are slowly starting to embrace this newer generation of Latinos and realizing that these Latinos can be effectively reached in English through culturally relevant media options (such as SiTV, MTV3 and Mun2) as well as through new social-media platforms (such as, the sad reality is that far too many marketers and agencies continue to stick to the status quo and continue to define the Hispanic marketing efforts by language and exclusively using the traditional channels of Spanish-language media to get their brand messages out.

Don't get me wrong, Spanish-language media continues to play an important role in marketing to Hispanics in the U.S. In fact, as The Miami Herald recently reported, Spanish-language TV networks are actually thriving, with three new players (MegaTV, EstrellaTV and V-me) aggressively entering the Hispanic TV landscape in the past five years alone. But by focusing only on the Spanish-dominant media sector, marketers are limiting their message to only part of the community.

For the past decade, when these figures about second generation Latinos first started emerging, the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies has been saying "Hispanic marketing is not an either/or proposition, it should be done in both Spanish and English." A message that was repeated again last week, but the reality is that 90% of the Hispanic ad budgets are still going only to Spanish-language media. And here I blame both agencies and clients who seem to be wearing blinders about the changing face of the Hispanic market.

To the credit of David Chitel, the conference organizer and founder of the NGLC conference, open and frank discussion about this new Hispanic reality needs to continue take place and NGLC provided a forum for the handful of marketers who have been doing campaigns targeting the bilingual Latinos to share experiences and best practices. The pity is that it still remains just a handful of brands that are being pioneers in this area, although I know there are many more marketers wanting to do more in this space.

Pepsi, Unilever, Moët Hennessy, Subway and Hewlett Packard all shared reasons why they are focusing on New Generation Latinos. The bottom-line is that they are too important to ignore when you think of the total market. Researchers have been saying this for a while, but again, not many seem to be listening.

In its 2003 study, "The Rise of the Second Generation Latino" the Pew Hispanic Center warned of this seismic change. "The composition of the Hispanic population is undergoing a fundamental change: Births in the United States are outpacing immigration as the key source of growth. Over the next 20 years this will produce an important shift in the makeup of the Hispanic population with second-generation Latinos -- the U.S.-born children of immigrants -- emerging as the largest component of that population."

Furthermore, according to this same study, the impact of second-generation Latinos will affect everything from schools to the composition of the labor force, which in turn should affect the marketing of virtually every product category, from CPG to apparel, from automotive to financial. If you weren't listening before, I suggest you tune in, quickly. Here's a bit more of what the Pew study had to say:

"The rise of the second generation will have immediate consequences for the nation's schools. The number of second-generation Latinos aged 5 to 19 years old is projected to more than double from 2000 to 2020, growing from 4.4 million to 9.0 million people. About one-in-seven of the new students enrolling in U.S. schools over these 20 years will be a second-generation Latino.

"Second generation growth will be felt just as powerfully in the economy. The non-Hispanic labor force has effectively stopped growing as the number of workers reaching retirement age or passing away is in rough balance with the number of new entrants. Thus from 2000 to 2020 the non-Hispanic labor force is projected to increase by 9%. Meanwhile, the Latino labor force is projected to increase by 77% through a combination of immigration and native-born youth reaching working age."

As professionals in the marketing and advertising industry, that means you need to wake up and smell the McCafé. Adding new generation Latinos to your marketing efforts should not be that difficult. It all comes down to basic marketing principles and a willingness to push your agencies beyond the status quo. If you are ready, I've got a few red pills to share ...

Chiqui Cartagena is the senior VP of multicultural marketing at Story Worldwide. She is also the author of Latino Boom!: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business in the U.S. Hispanic Market.
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