Marketers Failing to Communicate with Latinos

Discussion
Nov 15, 2006

By George Anderson


“What we’ve got here is failure to communicate. Some men you just can’t reach…”


– Captain, Road Prison 36 (played by Strother Martin) from Cool Hand Luke


The men (and women) in this case that can’t be reached are Latinos and the reason behind the communication failure, according to Carl Kravetz, chairman of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA), is that marketers are not speaking in a language these consumers understand.


The language, Mr. Kravetz told an audience at the Association of National Advertisers’ Multicultural Marketing Conference in Los Angeles, has nothing to do with Spanish or English.


Instead, it has to do with crafting messages that speak to the Latino identity.


Presenting the results of a study conducted by AHAA’s Latino Identity Project, What Makes Latino, Latino?, Mr. Kravetz said the Spanish language no longer defines what it means to be a member of this group. Other factors, such as acculturation, are also not sufficient to understanding Latinos.


In an article on AdAge.com, Mr. Kravetz was quoted as telling conference attendees, “It’s not so much what unites Latinos that’s important as what makes us different from non-Latinos.”


According to Mr. Kravetz, “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. 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.”


The differences between Latinos and non-Latinos can be quite striking, according to the study’s results.


“Interpersonal orientation is the way we live our relationships with other people, and is … radically different from non-Latinos,” he said. While individualism is important to Anglos, Latinos have a collectivist culture that puts family needs over those of an individual.


When it comes to time and space, Latinos tend to be less worried than Anglos on both counts. Time commitments, Mr. Kravetz said half-jokingly, are viewed as “more of a goal than real commitments” by many Latinos. When it comes to space, the collective nature of Latino culture means there is less value placed on privacy than in non-Latino groups.


Religion, primarily Catholicism for Latinos, plays heavily into a cultural love of rituals. It also, he contends, contributes to the sense of fatalism shared by many.


The role gender plays is also quite different when comparing Latinos to Anglos. Machismo in Latino cultures is about “protecting and providing for the family.” Men often feel shame and sometimes exhibit aggression when they fail to live up to the cultural role assigned to them.


“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.”


Discussion Question: What do the findings of the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies’ research mean for brand manufacturers and retailers marketing
to Latinos?

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10 Comments on "Marketers Failing to Communicate with Latinos"


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Ryan Mathews
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

Kravetz has created another stereotype — this one inherently more dangerous than many. The whole notion of a “Latino” identity ignores the very significant differences between Spanish speaking peoples and generations. Arguing that this Latino worldsoul transcends acculturation is saying there is a genetic or physical difference between “Latinos” and “non-Latinos” that is immune from culture. Also while Kravetz is right about things like Catholicism being dominant today, he’s missing the dramatic growth of Pentecostalism in Mexico and throughout Latin America. If people can change religions in large numbers, it’s hard to believe they can’t change across generations.

Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
Guest
Rochelle Newman-Carrasco
15 years 6 months ago

First of all, the question isn’t well stated. It should not be about picking which is most important for Hispanics. These different areas of identity co-exist. They are part of the whole and are not meant to be picked from. Additionally, this is no more stereotypical than any of the other efforts at aggregating consumer behavior and defining it by shades of behaviors and cultural attitudes. There is much more to this discussion that should be explored prior to deciding its impact. This is just the beginning of a conversation about Latino identity that has been going on for generations and will continue to do so.

Len Lewis
Guest
Len Lewis
15 years 6 months ago

If you follow the article, then everyone in retailing should have a Latino sociologist and psychologist on staff. Failing that, my suggestion is simply to provide the best quality products you can at the best value in a comfortable, friendly environment.

If that doesn’t work, maybe you should ask your Latino customers what pushes their buttons.

Stephan Kouzomis
Guest
Stephan Kouzomis
15 years 6 months ago

We voted not sure because the issue/need/opportunity lies with finding the right advertising agency – Hispanic, of course, to create the on-target message, and communicate through the right media and promote in family settings.

Basic, but simple solution. Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm

Kai Clarke
Guest
15 years 6 months ago

I agree with the author that many manufacturers are failing to differentiate their markets and segment their messages. This leads to a failure in communications and decreases the appeal of products to different segments. However, especially in the mass market, segment marketing is not necessarily a desirable end result. Many target market segments are trying to become more westernized and identify with the image a particular product has, not the “new” image which might be created.

This week’s announcement by Kentucky Fried Chicken to go back to their original branding, slogan and identity stresses the importance of a brand’s core image and identity. We have seen this in other very American brands, from Levi’s to Hummer. The appeal in these products is that they are American and to identify with their products is uniquely so. Groups seek to align themselves with this image, rather than vice versa.

Eva A. May
Guest
Eva A. May
15 years 6 months ago
We have also seen a shift for many clients towards the alignment of marketing campaigns. In the past, many clients were excited about the creation of a free-standing Hispanic market program that truly reflected the insights of the Hispanic market target, and was completely relevant to a Hispanic target consumer. However, more and more frequently, a client has a TOTAL market campaign look, tone, and feel, and is not willing to create a free-standing Hispanic market program. We have found that in many cases, a relevant Hispanic market program can still be created, that keeps the look, tone, and feel of the total market campaign/brand identity. Clients need to be willing to allow the creative message, product mix, and images/photos to vary if and where needed to reflect Hispanic market insights and culture. And agencies need to be willing to work WITH a total market campaign/brand identity rather than insisting on a free-standing one. We believe that this is the way that smart national companies will market in the future – one corporate identity with… Read more »
Don Delzell
Guest
Don Delzell
15 years 6 months ago
Understanding the psychological constructs which serve as the context in which purchase decisions are made is a worthwhile effort. In fact, it should be done regularly, to avoid the mistake of keeping as “fact” an interpretation which worked once, but may no longer be true. The risk involved in working with synopsis or summaries of this type of research is that it tells you what the majority of respondents appear as, and this majority turns into an average, and then this average turns into an actual consumer segment. It is not. It is a statistical calculation of a variety of responses, synthesized into sound bites. And as such, it runs the risk of being over simplified generalization. A client of mine, Latino, spoke with me recently about this entire concept of marketing to “Latinos.” While much of what is noted above came up in the conversation, much did not. And as a simple data point, this client would not identify any more with the stereotypes in the article than he would or would not with… Read more »
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
Guest
Roger Selbert, Ph.D.
15 years 6 months ago
The United States is becoming a multi-ethnic society; there are 35 million foreign-born residents in the US (12% of the total population). Hispanics are the largest ethnic group and growing rapidly: in raw numbers, 50 million Hispanic Americans by 2015; in population share, one out of every 4 Americans by 2050; in economic clout, $1 trillion in spending power by 2010. One cannot separate the future of America from the future of Hispanic America, but the Hispanic American population is itself diverse and changing. Hispanics are assimilating and acculturating at different rates, and are retaining much of their cultural heritage even as they change the American mainstream in the process. The US Hispanic future will be forged by the US born and educated, English-competent and comfortable, second and third generations that will swell the ranks of US Latinos in the coming decades. In other words, there is no one Hispanic market; there are several Hispanic markets. I have been fortunate through the years to be working with one of the best and fastest-growing Hispanic marketing… Read more »
Robert Leppan
Guest
Robert Leppan
15 years 6 months ago
Many of us involved in Hispanic marketing have known for years that Spanish language doesn’t define Latino identity nor is language alone sufficient to effectively communicate and connect with Latinos. As Carl Kravetz and the AHAA research demonstrates, a wide array of factors impacts and defines what it means to be Latino growing up and living in the U.S. Hispanic marketing and advertising professionals also know that behavior, customs and attitudes for Latinos are markedly different than those of a general market (Anglo) audience. The four factors that Kravetz highlights are some of the key differences. Marketers who want to craft a brand message that resonates with Latino consumers will take the time to: a.) know what makes their Latino target “tick” (i.e. beliefs, aspirations, cultural touch points) and, b.) create a brand campaign/message that is on target culturally and gets to “the heart” of their audience. The AHAA research and keynote speech also is about convincing manufacturers and marketers to employ agency partners (i.e. AHAA member agencies) that know and understand the cultural contexts… Read more »
Carl Kravetz
Guest
Carl Kravetz
15 years 6 months ago

I am grateful to your readers who have taken the time to think about and respond to the Advertising Age article. I would caution them, however, that the article did not reflect the entire content of my remarks or of the Latino Identity Project’s work. What we are after is far from the creation of another stereotype.

The hypothesis we are exploring is as follows: “Latino Cultural Identity is NOT confined to language and acculturation. Rather, at the heart of Latino Cultural Identity is set of complex, adaptable, intricate and interrelated values that change through time according to the environment and external stimuli.”

We are cautioning marketers to avoid oversimplifying and to recognize that Hispanic consumers are as diverse and complex as the General Market. Market opportunity lies precisely in the interplay between core values and contextual factors.

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