Tuesday, June 14, 2016

Guilt as a Powerful Cultural Motivator

Reducing guilt a bit at a time can be brand strategy. Here I first explore the origins and dynamics of guilt and then move to explore ways to apply this insight as a cultural positioning approach.

Feelings of guilt are internalized ways of reacting to one’s actions or inactions.  Developmental psychologists (for example Justin Aronfreed) have found that parents who raise their children by references to feelings about their children’s behavior or “induction” are more likely to have children who internalize guilt.  On the other hand, parents who raise children by asserting their power or “sensitization” are more likely to have kids who are concerned about avoiding external punishment.

The difference between kids who internalize guilt and those who are more concerned with external consequences is important.  In the first case these children develop what is commonly referred to as conscience regarding their behavior, while in the second case the kids are more oriented to whether they are going to be discovered or caught.

“Inductive” parents talk to their children about how they feel when the kids misbehave.  They use expressions like “you hurt me when you do that.”  “Sensitizing” or externally oriented parents are more likely to use physical force to guide behavior.

While these two types of parents exist in all cultures some are more prevalent in some cultures than in others.  Jewish mothers are well known for inducing guilt in their kids and use expressions like “you make me suffer with your actions.” Interestingly many Latin American cultures share that as a common orientation.  It may be because the mother in these cultures is so extremely revered that she has a very strong influence.  Hispanic kids are extremely careful not to offend or disappoint their mothers.  Latino mothers are also likely to talk to their children about how they feel about their behaviors.

Again, it is not that one culture is completely one way or another but that there are tendencies that are more prevalent in one or the other.  Let’s look at guilt learning and experience among Hispanics.

Anyone who has viewed a “Telenovela” or a Latin American “Soap Opera,” can clearly identify the suffering that mothers experience and the way they induce guilt in their children. The suffering mother is a constant theme.  “Telenovelas” are important tools of cultural learning for Latinos.  They remind viewers of their own experience but also reinforce guilt oriented behaviors.  

Anthropologists (for example Ruth Benedict) have also classified cultures as guilt or shame oriented.  Guilt oriented cultures tend to share more of the Judeo-Christian orientation towards internalizing a sense of feeling bad for transgressing while Eastern cultures tend to be more oriented towards a sense of shame for not conforming to the group.

When marketing to Latinos in the US, it is important to keep these cultural tendencies in mind.  For example:

Mothers coming to the US from Latin America are likely to feel that they do not do enough for their families and experience guilt.  Clearly there are products and services that can be positioned as guilt reducing elements in the lives of these consumers.

Insurance:  Reduce guilt by protecting the family as much as one can.

Preventive health care:  Reducing guilt by doing more to avoid illness.

Consumer products:  Reducing guilt by giving kids what parents could not afford before.

Technology:  Reducing guilt by re-establishing contact with loved ones.

This is one example of how cultural insights when properly understood can help communicate legitimate products and services in ways that are culturally compatible.  Cultural insights need to be studied by looking at cultural trends in the literature, and also need to be explored via qualitative research.

Qualitative research, when well done can uncover deep rooted common trends that can help a brand distinguish itself from a cultural point of view.  Qualitative research is frequently misunderstood as pro forma interviewing and that is not it.  In-depth qualitative research can dig up important trends that marketers and service providers can use to the benefit of consumers and of their services and brands.

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Multiple Screens in a Multicultural Society: What the Future Can Bring

David Deutsch in his notable book "The Beginning of Infinity" talks about how science progresses. He argues that scientific progress has been mostly achieved through conjecture and criticism.  These are the two tasks I am engaging in here in talking about the digital future of a multicultural society.

Many organizations have been concerned lately with the implications of the increased and prolonged use of multiple screens by young and also older people.  The Kaiser family foundation, Ipsos, The Pew Research Center, and others have conducted studies in which they have found that the access to smartphones in particular has increased dramatically.  Also, that infants use tablets and smartphones even when watching television.  Many report fatigue and other strain related issues.  And as we know some run into walls and have accidents when driving, biking, etc. while texting or doing some other activity on their mobile devices.  

Many eschew direct social contact to favor technology.  A New Yorker cartoon recently showed two teenage girls talking while looking at their smartphones and one stated that it should be a special boy that is the one that she first looks directly in the eyes.  Families sitting at tables in restaurants are many times found busily looking at their smartphones as opposed to engaging in interpersonal face to face interactions.  Many look at their different social media accounts while watching television or doing almost anything else.

What has the world come to?!
The world has experienced many important revolutions, evolutions, and discontinuities.  The digital era has brought about a challenging environment that in some ways divides old from young, and those technologically connected and those that are not yet.  

Clearly, some of the negative implications, which are more easily drawn, include:

  1. Social dysfunction and lack of interpersonal skills
  2. Isolation and daunting individualism
  3. Obesity and ill health due to lack of physical activity
  4. Life span decreasing and quality of life deteriorating
  5. Illiteracy because of lack of reading and writing in grammatically accepted ways
  6. Increased selective exposure to materials that agree with one’s points of view, thus polarizing society further
  7. Formal education becoming less important and attractive to young people

These are just some of the potential ills that our new society may witness evolving over the next years.  But, like most things in life, there may be different effects as well.  As Jon Stewart found when he used to consult with his “senior speculators” many perspectives and alternative futures may materialize.

What if what we are witnessing now in terms of technology impact is just a transitional phase leading us to a more interesting and challenging future?  What if alternative realities materialize?

Think for example, that looking at screens is just a temporary phase in the evolution of technology.  We know that soon there will be technology increasingly present in our eyeglasses, earpieces, clothing, accessories, and perhaps even implanted in our brains.  The emergence of virtual reality and other technological evolutions will change our behavior and probably enhance our skills as well.

Also, who will be best prepared to take on the evolutionary turns that technology will bring? As we have seen in multiple pieces of research including my own, Hispanics, Blacks, and Asians have outpaced non-Hispanic Whites in their use of new technologies.  Does that mean they will be better prepared for the future? Will social classes flip so that the “have-nots” of today become the “haves” of tomorrow. Will the agents of change be the minorities of today?

What consequences may current and future technologies bring?

  1. Brain transformations that allow for increased multitasking and multiple brain operations at once thus making us more versatile in our dealings with people and objects
  2. Increased and constant social interaction by dramatically increasing and diversifying our social networks to extents never possible before
  3. Increased physical activity as technology will allow for exercise while being virtually connected literally “on the run”
  4. Integration of virtual and physical networks to extents never imagined so that people with common interests can navigate between virtual and physical worlds fluidly
  5. Electronic propinquity” or virtual personal nearness will allow for intimacy with distant people who are dear to us and allow for relationships that go beyond what we have known as a relationship
  6. Education will become more challenging and interesting as lectures and formal settings become a thing of the past and experiential learning becomes more prevalent
  7. Images and sounds will become the new literacy as our brains become more capable of comprehending the world in more complicated symbolic forms
  8. Linear literacy will be replaced with immersion literacy, in which one experiences symbols
  9. By being connected with distant multiple and diverse others our ability to empathize and understand differences will increase
  10. Life spans will continue to increase as exercise and healthy habits are reinforced by new technologies

Alternative worlds can be envisioned and contemplated. Multiculturalism may become more of a reality and also a benefit as humans interconnect at more levels. Members of current minorities may have an edge because of their earlier immersion in the “tech” code of doing things.

The moral of the story is:  Alternative futures may surprise you!

Wednesday, September 2, 2015

Hispanic Millennials: Implications for Marketing

The discourse on Latino Millennials, both in the online and in the offline literature, suggests that there is a great amount of similarity among those Hispanics born between 1980 and 2000. Also, that there is similarity between Hispanic and non-Hispanic Millennials.  While the exact years of birth vary by source, most of them are close to the 1980 - 2000 range.  From my point of view there is a fallacy involved in classifying Hispanics born in this age range as sharing a high degree of similarity both among themselves and when compared with non-Hispanics.  According to the Bureau of the Census about 37% of US Hispanics were born between 1980 and 2000.  That is a very substantive number of people. Are they similar in many ways?

The generational aggregation of people into assumed homogeneous populations is arbitrary at best.  Among Latinos this is even more arbitrary.  Let me explain.

In theory, for example, what makes “Baby Boomers” unique is that they are the post war generation.  It is understandable that those born in the US did have a large amount of shared experience as a consequence of being born at the end of the war.  But think about the case of Latinos.  Those born after the war in Latin America did not share the American experience.  Still they are referred to as “Baby Boomers.”  The same logical error applies to “Millennials.”  A large majority of them were born in Latin America and had very different experiences from those in the US.  

The history of the majority of Latinos born between 1980 and 2000 is greatly influenced by what was happening in their country of origin, their socio-economic circumstances, life-stage, etc. As many readers know most Hispanics in the US are of Mexican origin.  Also, a great majority of this subset were brought by their parents in search of a better life in the US. They were mostly subsistence farmers and blue collar workers earning very little money.  That is very different from the experience of the American middle class. 

And as Randy Stockdale emphasizes "The age range is so wide, that by the time they get to the end of the spectrum (those born in '80) they have gone through 2-3 life stages. And this may differ by gender - Hispanic females likely married with kids, yet many men likely not." REFERENCE

What makes Hispanics ages 15 to about 35 somewhat similar is a history of seeing their parents strive to make the life of their children better.  A life of decreasing deprivation.  It has been a life of ambition and achievement.  Latino youth are not the kids that went back to their parents’ homes because of 9/11 or the downturn of 2008.  Many of these Latino kids never left the home of their parents but not because they were depending on them but because they were contributing to the economy of a traditional household.  A household that enjoys keeping the kids around as long as possible.  A current example of trends among Hispanic youth is in the following video: .

As one can see the young Latino has a unique perspective on the world shaped by many diverse experiences.  Clearly, Latinos are also tech savvy, multitaskers, collectivist, etc. but that has been a characteristic of Hispanics in general not just young people.

The lessons are:

  1. Generational groupings and generalizations are tricky and many times inaccurate
  2. Latinos have not gone through the same experiences as their non-Hispanic counterparts, thus generalizing to them can be misleading
  3. Young Hispanics come in many types and with diverse backgrounds.  Still, there are central tendencies based on experience, socio-economic background, and country of origin
  4. Marketers need to pay attention to the subtleties of different segments of the population and avoid costly mistakes by assuming homogeneity
  5. The “New Latino” is an important synergistic identity of not being from here or there, but shaped by the common experience of being different...  
  6. Marketers and market researchers will benefit from researching this new Latino identity and behavior
  7. Using giant clusters such as "Millennials" is not a segmentation approach but a way to avoid looking at important differences that can be used for effective targeting and communication

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Hispanics & Retirement Planning: A Marketing Perspective

Financial services companies in the United States have been lured by the promise of the growing Latino market.  Many have tried to engage Hispanic consumers with different financial services offerings.  Few have succeeded and it is likely that lack of historical and cultural knowledge have contributed to a patchy track record.

Retirement and the family
According to a 2014 study by Prudential 53% of Hispanics compared with 62% of the rest of the US population say that saving for retirement is an important priority. Retirement is a culturally derived concept.  Many Latinos still hold on to the value that retirement is a step in life in which they will be supported by the children they raised with so much care. They expect these children to be there for them.  Many anticipate retirement as a part of family life during which they will help take care of grandchildren and enjoy their “golden” years in a family environment.

It would never occur to many Latinos that their kids would place them in an institution.  The feeling of reciprocity for all they have done for the children is an important element of family trust.  This way of thinking is derived from Latin American tradition.  As one gets older new generations take over and assume responsibility for their elders. Thus retirement is not really a completely separate phase in the life of Latinos but a continuation of a way of life.

As Hispanics have generally helped support their children and many relatives and friends during their productive years, they believe these people will do the same for them in their old age.  Some are right but many are not as cultural and social norms evolve in the US.

Retirement and country of origin
Many Hispanics have immigrated to the US with the intention of returning “home” to rejoin family and friends.  They save for building a home back “home.”  Their intentions are to return but the dreams of return often become frustrated by the difficulties back “home,” and by their children’s integration in their new society.  The dream of going back “home” turns out to be a dream after all.  Many of these US born children share partly in the love for the country of origin of their parents but feel mostly at home in the US.  This is a struggle of generations and of frustrated dreams. Retirement back home is elusive.
Retirement and debt
It is generally known that Latinos are averse to debt.  This tendency has deep cultural roots that may trace its origin to the Arabic belief that lending and debt are taboos. The notion of only spending what you have is deeply embedded in the culture.  Only buying what you have the money for appears to still be prevalent among many.

This tendency stands in the way of saving for retirement as many Latinos prefer to spend their current assets as opposed to using them in the future. If these Hispanics believe that buying retirement is an important immediate goal, then they may be willing to accumulate savings for their future retirement. The incentive, however, for saving for retirement is not strong as long as they believe their family and friends will be there for them when they need it.

Retirement and saving behaviors
The Prudential study referred to above documents that pension plans and savings in general are less popular among Hispanics than among the rest of the population. For example 19% of Hispanics report having an Individual Retirement Account compared to 39% for the rest of the population.  

Lack of savings and participation in pension/retirement plans has to do with lack of resources, lack of education and information, and mistrust in these plans and programs.  As the affluence of Hispanics increases over time, their participation in savings and retirement related products will increase but they need to be educated and informed about these plans.  They must trust the institutions and those who sell the products.

What can marketers do?
As we indicate in our book “Hispanic Marketing: Connecting with the New Latino Consumer” sales personnel who understand the culture and are proactive in reaching out to Hispanics are likely to succeed.  These sales people or agents can have a powerful influence in how future generations of Latino retirees fare in their advanced years.

  1. Agents must become aware of the cultural barriers and sincerely involved in the Hispanic community in order to establish trust and engagement. If Hispanic consumers feel they have a true ally they will be willing to listen and purchase a savings product.  Not only that but these consumers are likely to spread the word among their friends and relatives about the quality of the agent.
  2. Agents need to be more personally involved in establishing relationships, going to homes, spending time with families, listening to needs, and genuinely trying to solve felt problems of their Latino customers.
  3. Agents need to spend time understanding the cultural nuances of these consumers and attempting to learn basic concepts in Spanish.  While the Spanish language may not be as fundamental for communication now as it was a few years ago, it still has strong emotional connotations that will more readily communicate the importance of savings and how life is changing for Latinos in the US.  The agent is as good as s/he can empathize with the Latino consumer.

Overall, there is ample opportunity for marketers of financial services to serve the Hispanic population.  The opportunity will only grow.  Establishing a foothold in the community is fundamental for future product and brand growth, but more importantly to assist Latinos with their retirement needs.  These needs will only grow as the population ages.

The moral of the story is:  Cultural knowledge and trust lead to success.

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

I am going to start believing this... Thank you!

Faculty, Students and Top Marketing Professionals To Honor the Lifetime Accomplishments of Hispanic Marketing Pioneer Dr. Felipe Korzenny

fsu1.gifFaculty and students at Florida State University and top marketing executives on the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication’s Advisory Board will honor the lifetime achievements of Dr. Felipe Korzenny at the Hispanic Media and Marketers Gala Dinner on Feb. 20.

Dr. Korzenny is an internationally recognized marketing research practitioner, social scientist, researcher, author and professor. In 2004, he founded The Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication (The Center) at FSU. His groundbreaking research, both in academia and business, helped revolutionize marketing practices geared toward Hispanics and other multicultural consumers. He is one of the most respected pioneers in the realm of Hispanic and multicultural marketing.
“As a researcher and as a teacher, no one has had been more influential in my life than Dr. Korzenny,” says Dr. Sindy Chapa, Associate Director of the Center and Assistant Professor at FSU. “He revolutionized our field. He is for most of us the greatest mind in consumer research, and I will gladly spend my career following in his footsteps.”
Dr. Korzenny’s most important accomplishment may be the way he has inspired students. He has groomed countless successful professionals and brought the best out of many young minds.

“I wouldn’t be where I’m at today without Dr. Korzenny,” says Katherine Cook, M.S., 2014. “I was stuck in a job that I didn’t like and where I wasn’t using either of my majors. After reading his book I was completely inspired. I knew that I had to work with him and Betty Ann (his wife.) So I packed up and moved to Tallahassee. I’m humbled by his dedication to mentor his students and to provide them with the opportunities to not only learn but to excel. Dr. Korzenny has been a true inspiration.”

Dr. Korzenny is not only revered by academics and students but by business and marketing leaders as well. The Center’s Advisory Board has always included a who’s who of industry leaders  including executives from Google, Coca-Cola, Netflix and the country’s top multicultural advertising and marketing agencies.
The gala, part of the 2015 Hispanic/Latino Media & Marketing International Conference, will begin at7:00 p.m., on Feb. 20, at the Donald Tucker Civic Center. All donations received will contribute to an endowment benefiting The Center and its students.

Dr. Felipe Korzenny
In the Fall of 2003, Dr. Korzenny, became Professor of Advertising and Integrated Marketing and Management Communication at FSU. In 2004 he founded and directed The Center. He holds degrees from the Universidad Iberoamericana in Mexico City and Michigan State University (MSU). Prior to joining FSU, Dr. Korzenny founded Hispanic & Asian Marketing Communication Research (H&AMCR) to help Fortune 1000 companies open doors to culturally diverse markets. H&AMCR was one of the first companies in the U.S. to explore multicultural market research. In 1999, H&AMCR merged with Cheskin.

Dr. Korzenny is co-author with wife Betty Ann of Hispanic Marketing: A Cultural Perspective and Hispanic Marketing, 2nd Edition: Connecting with the New Latino Consumer. He has authored almost 100 research publications dealing with communication and culture. He is an Outstanding and also a Distinguished Alumni of MSU. He is the first recipient of the Hill Library HispanSource Award for Outstanding Achievement in Hispanic Marketing Research. He is a prominent speaker at nationwide symposiums and conferences on Hispanic markets. 

Hispanic/Latino Media & Marketing 2015 International Conference
The 2015 Hispanic/Latino Media & Marketing International Conference is a platform where global scholars present their research, findings and theories on the dynamics of the Hispanic/Latino media and markets in the United States, Latin America and Spain. It is the largest such meeting of academics, media professionals, and students worldwide. It includes top scholars and practitioners from Spain, Colombia, Mexico, Puerto Rico and the United States.

The 2015 Conference will take place February 19-21 in Tallahassee, Florida at the Donald Tucker Civic Center, 505 West Pensacola Street. It is hosted by the FSU College of Communication & Information’s Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication.

For more information, visit

The Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication
The Center, founded by Dr. Felipe Korzenny in 2004, is devoted to educating students and professionals and to advancing knowledge in Hispanic and multicultural marketing. The Center is the first of its kind in the United States and is widely recognized as the nations’ premier education and research institute in the field. The Center’s programs are housed in FSU’s School of Communication.

Faculty and students working with the Center conduct groundbreaking research, produce publications that further the understanding of Hispanic consumer behavior, and serve as an innovative source of knowledge for the Hispanic marketing industry. The Center is lead by Founder and Director, Dr. Felipe Korzenny; Associate Director and Assistant Professor, Dr. Sindy Chapa; and Co-Founder and Senior Advisor, Dr. Betty Ann Korzenny, as well as by an Advisory Board comprising of top leaders in the industry.
For more information on The Center, visit 

Sunday, February 8, 2015

Tenth Anniversary Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, Florida State University, and International Media and Marketing Conference - February 19 - 21, 2015

Florida State University’s Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication celebrates its 10th anniversary and honors the pioneering leadership of founder Felipe Korzenny during the fifth annual International Conference on Hispanic/Latino Media and Marketing, which brings together marketing professionals and scholars from across the United States, Spain, and Latin America. The Center’s Board of Advisors, the FSU community and industry leaders will honor Dr. Korzenny at a special gala February, 2015.

“We are confident that business leaders from different industries will come together to support and celebrate Felipe, a pillar of Hispanic marketing and communications,” said Mark Lopez, head of U.S. Hispanic audience at Google and member of the Center’s Advisory Board.

In 2005 Korzenny founded FSU’s Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, the preeminent academic program focused on training students and professionals in the field of U.S. Hispanic marketing and advertising.
“Dr. Korzenny and the Center have prepared hundreds of students and professionals who have demonstrated a passion for the trillion dollar Hispanic market and the opportunities it presents for companies, organizations and government institutions that need to connect with this market segment,” said Lawrence C. Dennis, dean of the School of Communication and Information. “In the decade since Dr. Korzenny started the program, faculty and students have worked tirelessly to conduct ground-breaking research and serve as an innovative resource for the Hispanic marketing industry.”

The gala honoring Korzenny’s career is scheduled for Friday, Feb. 20, from 7:00 -10:00 p.m. The conference will be hosted from Thursday, Feb. 19 to Saturday Feb. 21. The purpose of the conference is to educate and promote topics related to Hispanic marketing and Spanish media.  The conference will bring together leaders to share knowledge, increase awareness of trends, exchange ideas, and facilitate the collaboration between academia and industry.

“We look forward to gathering Hispanic marketing industry peers to celebrate Dr. Korzenny’s contributions, as well as sponsorship support to cultivate Korzenny’s vision while helping sustain the Center’s research, academic and scholarships programs,” said Sindy Chapa, associate director of the FSU Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication.  

For more information on the Korzenny Tribute weekend and the conference, contact: Mafé Brooks, director of development,

About The FSU Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication:
The Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication at Florida State University was founded by Dr. Felipe Korzenny in 2004. The Center’s programs are housed in the FSU School of Communication. The Center is the first of its kind in the United States devoted to educating students and professionals in the field. Faculty and students working with the Center are conducting ground-breaking research and serving as an innovative resource for the Hispanic marketing industry.

Recognizing the immediate need for professionals trained in Hispanic Marketing Communication, the Center’s goals focus on educating students to serve the Hispanic marketing industry; training professionals who currently serve the Hispanic market in the U.S.; conducting relevant research to further the understanding of the Hispanic market; and serving as a source of knowledge about the Hispanic market for industry professionals.

Friday, January 23, 2015

Please join us at the International Conference of Hispanic Media & Marketing at Florida State University this February

This February 19 - 21, Florida State University is hosting the International 2015 Conference of Hispanic/Latino Media & Marketing.  Dr. Sindy Chapa has been organizing this event in collaboration with a committee from academia and industry. The Conference will have panels and presentations in Spanish and English by many renowned scholars and marketing executives. It promises to be a grand event that links theory and practice and honors the importance of US Hispanics and Latin Americans.

During the conference my colleagues and students are having a gala dinner honoring my contributions to academia and industry. This is truly humbling. Still, it makes me very happy to know that the proceeds from attending the conference, the gala dinner, and any gifts to a new endowment in my name will go for the support of students and the research activities of the Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication. This is a Center which I founded ten years ago to promote the study, research, and the practice of marketing to US Hispanics.  Please go to for more details on the event.

I am very pleased to leave the Center in the capable hands of Dr. Sindy Chapa as I retire from Florida State University in the near future. That does not mean I will stop supporting the Center in any way I can.  Also it does not mean that I will stop writing, consulting and doing research for organizations interested in connecting with US Latinos.

Please join us either in person or virtually.

the Center For Hispanic Marketing Communication, Florida State University

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Cultural Marketing, Total Market, How and Why?

This has been the year of the debate over the “Total Market” approach.  The idea is to find a common denominator that different cultural groups can all relate to.  That makes some sense at first glance. After all, most people love their children, enjoy being free, enjoy food and other good things of life.

So, finding an insight that would resonate with most people is possible. But let us think again about the nature of marketing and advertising. What brands want is to establish deep connections with consumers, at a level that the consumer feels like the brand understands them uniquely.

So, while the notion of finding a common denominator may be appealing for the good reason of realizing economies of scale and having a great reach, the brand connection may be lost. Why? Because while we all love our children, the meaning is different across cultural groups. It would be trivial to say that because children are generally loved by their parents, life insurance, for example, could be sold across the board for the sake of the love “you have for your children.” This positioning would not be ownable. And even if it were, the specifics of how Hispanic parents think of their children or their future compared with African Americans, Asians and non-Hispanic Whites would be more powerful than a more general approach. To mind comes the example of the insurance company that had a picture of a girl in her “quinceañera” dress as a reminder of the dreams the parents have for her. That is a very culturally specific message that would not cut across cultures, but that would be more powerful than a general message in reaching Latinos.

Cultural marketing is about connecting the consumer at the level of their cultural traditions and archetypes. Culture is more than interesting idiosyncrasies. Culture is the passed on set of tools for living that humans have found to work in different social contexts. Even when these tools cease to be effective, we humans tend to keep them close to our heart as they are the elements which define who we are. So, for example, fatalism. In a better organized and more predictable society fatalism would not be an effective way of coping with life. Nevertheless, it stays with members of a culture for generations regardless of their geographic and social movement over time.

Cultural marketing consists in understanding those tools for living that are mostly implicit in people's heads and that dictate how they view the world. Ethnographic and other qualitative studies can uncover many of these regularities that marketers can use to better communicate their products, brands, and services. Finding a powerful cultural cue can establish a deep relationship with consumers over many generations. Consider “sonrisas Colgate” or the Colgate toothpaste smiles that have transcended from Latin America to the United States following the descendents of Latinos. The popularity of Colgate toothpaste among Hispanics continues to be strong and much of it has been passed on from generation to generation.

A “total market” approach should not be an excuse for not attempting to establish a strong long lasting link with culturally diverse consumers. It can be detrimental. Cultural marketing is the new marketing. It goes beyond ethnicity to encompass the many different lifestyles that consumers hold dear.

For the keynote presentation on this topic at the Multicultural Health National Conference on October 15, Atlanta Georgia PLEASE CLICK HERE. Please quote the source and reference when using this copyrighted content.

Friday, July 4, 2014

Spanish and English Use by Hispanics: Implications for Marketers

The US Census Bureau collects data from a very large sample every year (about 3 million people) to better understand changes in the US population.  This used to be the long form of the regular census taken every ten years. This is one of the most comprehensive and accessible databases about US residents and it is called the American Community Survey or ACS.

Since the publication of our book “Hispanic Marketing: Connecting with the New Latino Consumer” in 2012 new data from the ACS has been made available.  When writing the book we only had access to the 2009 ACS data. Now there is ACS data available online for 2012.

I wanted to see how the use of English and Spanish among Latinos had changed, if at all, since 2009. To my surprise, changes have been relatively small. Actually, changes have been small since 2005. While the US Hispanic population has grown substantially since then, the use of language has remained relatively constant among Hispanics 5 years of age and older. The questionnaire asks for each member of the household if they speak a language other than English at home.  If they say yes, they indicate which language, and then get asked about how well that person speaks English.  The table below summarizes the ACS data for 2012.

2012 Hispanics 5 years of age and older


Speak only English

Speak Spanish:
Of these 73.96%
Speak English "very well"

Speak English "well"

Speak English "not well"

Speak English "not at all"

Speak other language

It is impressive that almost 26% of the respondents are said to speak only English at home, and even more surprising is that almost 74% continue to speak at least some Spanish at home. Given nativity trends one would have expected that proportion to go down recently because the majority of Latinos in the US are now US born. Perhaps most informative is the distribution of English proficiency among those who speak at least some Spanish at home, as can be seen in the chart below:

An amazing 74% of Latinos are said to Speak English well or very well besides speaking at least some Spanish at home.  Consequently, when you add the 25% who speak only English, to the approximately 55% of the total who are said to speak English very well or well, you have that almost 80% of Hispanics should be able to communicate in and understand English quite readily.

It is no surprise then that Latinos in the US are dividing their media and social media time among a multiplicity of channels regardless of language.  That is because they can generally choose the content they wish to be exposed to.  Media plans need to reflect this freedom of selection.

Is the Spanish language still important for marketers?  I believe it is because Spanish continues to be pervasive with 74% of Latinos being said to speak at least some of it at home. Also, the language of the home is likely to be linked to deep seated emotions. Spanish should continue to be considered a connection point with Latinos.

The issue now is that freedom to select content pervades the majority of the Hispanic population. So instead of asking what language to use, we need to ask what is the content relevant to Latinos?  We now need to better understand lifestyles, motivations, aspirations and values, not just language usage. A key question to ask these days is: How is Latino culture evolving in the US?

Using at least some Spanish will likely continue to help strengthen the connection with this important and growing segment. But now marketers need to understand more.