The Pew Hispanic Center recently released a compelling study entitled “When Labels Don't Fit: Hispanics and Their Views of Identity.” This respected think-tank's findings confirm what I've always personally believed and preached about our complex diaspora.
Pew reports that 51% of us identify with our family's country of origin. So what does this tell us? For example, in my case, my parents were both born in Cuba, and although I was born in the US, ever since I was a child I've proudly self-identified as Cuban-American. That's the case with my closest friends, no matter if they're Mexican, Colombian, Peruvian, etc.
For years, there have been countless conversations about using the monikers Hispanic or Latino. Personally, I'm not offended by either, and just like with my name, I've been interchanging them for as long as I can remember. Like me, the report confirms that 51% don't have a preference for either term; but when asked specifically, Hispanic was predominantly preferred over Latino, 33% vs.14%.
Pew also validates that connecting with Hispanics is not one-dimensional. It's crucial for brands to have a conversation with us in both languages. The report ratifies that 82% of us speak en español. You read correctly, si, 82%! Also, important to note is that 87% of us feel that immigrants must learn English in order to succeed in this country. If media buyers, PR professionals, and CMOs believe that they're reaching Latino consumers solely with English-language messaging, they're missing the boat. And if they think that this is a fad and things will change in the future, think again. The US Census Bureau just reported that for the first time in history, minorities have surpassed non-Hispanic white births, welcoming 1 million Latino babies in the last year alone. A whopping 95% of Pew respondents confirmed that it's important for these future generations to also speak Spanish.
So what does this all mean? As I mentioned in my previous post, we live comfortably in two worlds. We're reading The New York Times and La Opinión. We're enthralled by the National Football League and by fútbol (soccer). That said, many marketers still feel that they can reach both José in Denver and Charles in Austin in the same exact way.
I can understand why engaging us may sometimes seem like a daunting task. The good news is that CMOs have started to realize that Hispanic America is where their opportunity lies for growth in market share. Many companies do already get it. They understand that when you speak to us in a language with cultural relevance, the ROI can be extraordinary.
Given that major cities and states across America – from San Diego to North Carolina – are becoming more and more Latino, brands are realizing that the lines have blurred. Many companies are selecting cross-cultural shops to handle communications for all audiences and I can understand why. I think this works because we are that American consumer, but we have that extra dose of cafecito running through our veins, giving us an edge on how to effectively reach José and Charles.
Jorge Plasencia is chairman and CEO of República, a cross-cultural advertising and communications agency based in Miami.