This past summer, the entire world stopped as Bad Bunny (Benito Antonio Martínez Ocasio) was catapulted into a stratosphere of global superstardom that has probably not been seen since The Beatles. When asked about his meteoric rise, he said he “owes” his success to “hardworking Latinos who have helped make the country what it is today.”
With Latinos contributing more than $2.8 trillion to the country’s GDP and exceeding 50% of the country’s growth, there is no question that he is right, but more importantly, that his success is telling.
“While Bad Bunny is driving the conversation around the increasing influence that Latinos, particularly Latino youth, are having at home and worldwide, this movement is much bigger than him. The viability of many brands will depend on their successful engagement of this audience,” said Hispanic Public Relations Association president Sonia V. Diaz.
Here are four lessons we can take from the Year of Benito to create successful Hispanic engagement in 2023.
Authenticity is king
“Staying true to myself is just who I’ve always been. I’ve always had that instilled in me that no matter what I end up doing in my future I will do it being who I am and not what someone else tells me I have to be.” — Bad Bunny
Bad Bunny broke the mold of the machismo of reggaeton and embraced his Latinidad, and audiences rewarded him for it. He believed his message would resonate and reach the masses through his authentic voice. Your brand should do the same. Whether you are seeking to tap into the Hispanic consumer or diversify your marketing team, people are increasingly focused on a brand’s values and are looking to hold them accountable for walking the talk with their talent and their pocketbooks.
Latinos are the voice of the new generation.
"For his fans, his unabashed pride for Latino communities and the Spanish language, defiance of traditional gender norms and push for justice on a range of social issues, also makes him a de facto political icon.” — Washington Post
Bad Bunny has been able to establish a special relationship with his audience, where they feel like he understands them and personally cares about them, a trait that the LatinX generation is also seeking in brands. The LatinX population is the fastest growing in the U.S., with one in four youth identifying as Latino and more than half being under the age of 18, according to the 2020 U.S. Census. Will that actually translate into dollars? The data would suggest so. In 2022, Latino artists dominated the music scene, with eight featured in the top 25 of the Bloomberg Pop Star Power Rankings and 22 acts accounting for the 200 biggest tours in the world. It is safe to say that Bad Bunny is not an anomaly, he is the face of the future.
Spanish is the preferred language of self expression
“No te entendi,” Bad Bunny responded after a slight pause. “I don’t understand what you say.” — 2021 American Music Awards
Language and culture play a significant role in how Latino youth identify as individuals. So much so that when Bad Bunny spoke Spanish on the red carpet at the American Music Awards with an English-language reporter, the Twittersphere erupted with applause. While more than 75% of Latinos are English dominant or bilingual, studies have shown that they are increasingly committed to retaining their culture and their language and passing it down to their children. The success of Latino crossover artists is proof of that. Remember, in four years time, the World Cup will be hosted in North America; its fútbol, not soccer.
Think globally, act locally
“Scholars and teenage TikTokers alike express a sense of intimacy with [Bad Bunny’s] music, which speaks to us as only a local can.” — HuffPost
By keeping his music and voice anchored to his roots and tapping into the sensibilities of his own community, Bad Bunny created an army of followers who later became the global ambassadors for his message. Too often, when developing their multicultural marketing and PR strategy, brands try to be too much for too many people. Tactics like prioritizing large national outlets with broad messages over targeting local and regional media with a tailored message aimed at key audiences often do more harm than good. In an effort to try and reach everyone, you capture no one instead. Go the extra mile and tell stories that connect with the unique composition of local Hispanic communities you are trying to reach. The rest will follow.
Marketers must by give the Latino market the importance it deserves in order to drive business growth and foster long-term mutually beneficial relationships.
“Bad Bunny is not just a global music superstar, he is the symbol of the sleeping giant that has been discussed for more than 25 years,” stated Diaz. “The future is now and brands must start prioritizing the role that smart and meaningful communications strategies play in connecting to the Latino community.”
While resources, adequate budget allocations and market understanding are daunting hurdles for many brands, engaging real industry experts with a proven track record who can help you develop powerful strategies, avoid pitfalls and execute programs based on cultural insights that connect with this very important and influential audience, is a vital component to achieving a positive business impact.
Andy Checo is MD, public relations and social media at New York-based full-service agency d expósito & Partners.