Way back when I had just started this blog, one of the articles that caught my eye and I still have a link to it in the left-hand sidebar, under “Hispanic Advertising & Marketing” was “Hispanic Advertising Trends – 2004”, by San Antonio, TX based advertising agency García360°. Soon after sending them a message about it, I was contacted by Erika Prosper, the agency’s Director of Account Planning and Research.
Erika is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin, holds a BA in Plan II Liberal Arts, and a BS in Advertising. She obtained her Masters from the Annenberg School of Communications at the University of Pennsylvania.
Erika has a full plate on her hands. Besides working closely with the creative communications team crafting branding strategies and messaging for all agency campaigns, she oversees and manages all primary and secondary outside consumer research efforts, including focus groups, surveys, personal/telephone interviews, and on-line work.
With ten years of work and educational experience in advertising and marketing operations, Erika has a strong expertise in the Hispanic and youth markets. She has worked with various clients including, the Puerto Rico Federal Affairs Administration, Fannie Mae, Dial Corp., Transamerica, Anheuser-Busch, Audi of America, Home Depot, Providian Financial, Infinity Insurance, Minute Maid, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and the San Antonio Public Library.
After making her acquaintance we’ve corresponded a couple times, but I’ve got to know her much better through her discerning, straightforward, and “picante” articles, most of which I’ve shared with you through this website. I just had to feature her as a “Wonder Mujer OnHispanics”, which she truly is. She graciously accepted my invitation.
As with all her past articles, she’s clever and insightful…
Hispanic Trending: What trends are you observing on the Hispanic market growth?
Erika Prosper: I am seeing three main sources of Latino consumer growth in this country. The first and most obvious one is the continued influx of Latin American immigrants into the United States. Secondly, as reported recently in Marketing y Medios, we are also witnessing a new Latino baby boom, especially as second and third generation Hispanics increase their education and household income and can more readily afford to produce and care for more offspring. Finally, I also see a resurgence of cultural pride adding more Hispanics to our count, as people of “mixed” or Latin descent self identify themselves more openly about their ethnicity ala Rachel Welch. The invisible Latinos finally come out of the closet and are counted, so to speak.
How do you refer to the largest minority in the country, Latino or Hispanic? Why?
I tend to interchange Latino and Hispanic when speaking of the population, mostly because I have read and have done studies for clients where this is a tough question to get a straight answer on. However, I have seen that more people are using Latino in the press lately, and suspect that this will soon become the moniker of choice among the Hispanic population. One client I have once wrote “Hispanic/Latino” in all documentation so as to not offend people's preferences. I though that was a nice sensitivity, and I suspect many other companies probably fret about this too.
What language should be utilized when marketing to Latinos…Spanish, English, or Spanglish? Why?
I love this question. Let me go on the record and say that I do not think there is such a thing as a true bilingual Latino. Yes, there are people who can speak and write and read both languages, but everyone has a preference as to what language they want to use in their home. You either prefer to speak English or you prefer Spanish. This does not mean you do not use both, as I did growing up, speaking Spanish to my mother and English to my sisters, but at the end of the day, I preferred English-just like some of my friends preferred Spanish.
Instead of using English dominant, bilingual or Spanish dominant, I suggest to all marketers and media to begin using Spanish dominant, Bilingual Spanish preferred, Bilingual English preferred and Spanish Dominant.
As far as Spanglish in concerned, I think it’s right for some brands but not for others. I have had consumers tell me that for financial services, they are looking for professionals that can speak and write in good Spanish because they rely on them to translate services and if they use Spanglish, the consumer gets nervous, thinking that maybe this person is misrepresenting or misunderstanding the contract.
How would you identify the acculturation stages newly-arrived Hispanics go through? How can this knowledge be used to better market to Latinos?
Acculturation is another one of those words I have come to hate. The truth is, I do not think Latinos acculturate in the traditional sense anymore, where as the years go by they become so Americanized that they bury their culture and can be rolled into the general market.
My theory is that Hispanics today are on a cultural continuum and their level of “acculturation” depends on context. In other words, they can choose when to be more Latino (like at a tio’s birthday party) or more “Acculturated” (like at a business meeting). The beauty of Hispanics is that we can be whoever, whenever we want and that’s not acculturation.
What diversity, if any, do you notice among Hispanics? What would be the main differences among the Hispanic sub-cultures? How do you segment the Latino market?
I segment based on country of origin. While I know that there are many similarities that as marketers we try to impose on the Latino population, experience has taught me that a Peruvian is Peruvian first and a Latino second, and the same goes for Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Cubans, etc. But that does not mean that they will not listen to a message meant to appeal to the one universal Marketing thread that binds them together: consumerism. If there is market need, then you should consider that need first in your message and then use country of origin as a means to help you determine the channels you will use.
Which source of information would you recommend to someone interested in learning more about the Latino Market?
I say there are five main sources everyone should read to get familiar with Hispanics. First, the U.S. Census Hispanic briefs which are available online at www.census.gov. Second Latino Cultural Citizenship by Flores and Benmayor. Great book about Hispanic identity. Third, the American Communities Project website, which is chockfull of already analyzed census data by MSA [Metro Survey Area]. Fourth, the controversial book, The Education of Richard Rodriguez, by Richard Rodriguez, which gives you a different perspective on the Latino lifestyle. Finally, I recommend people re-screen El Norte to understand the immigrant mentality a bit better. It was a great film the first time around, but now that I study consumers, I find great insights in the movie I never noticed before.
Hispanics family values vs. Non-Hispanic whites family values… How would you say they differ?
I do not think family values differ that much between Non-Hispanic and Hispanics families. Respect, appreciation, politeness-all these are part of the family structure regardless of ethnicity. But I do think that Latino families tend to be more expressive of their feelings toward one another in public and value that show of expression. I remember one boyfriend of mine freaked out when my aunt went to kiss him on the cheek the first time she met him. That much physical contact was strange to him. I also think that Latinos tend to get the whole family involved in matters even if they are not the ones affected by the decision or outcome, where as there is a more “See no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil” mentality in some non-Hispanic households-or maybe that was just my family!
What should non-Latino businesses do to effectively cater to Hispanics? In what industries would you say Hispanics are being underserved… do you have an idea/opinion why is that and what could be done (or needs to be done) about it?
I think Latinos are underserved in homeownership, medical insurance, mental health services and small business support. I know exactly what needs to be done to help these industries better target and serve Hispanics, but since that’s what I get paid to do, I will leave you hanging!
Should businesses have a multicultural /bilingual staff?
Yes. Somewhere out there, someone just lost a sale because they put a customer on hold to find someone who could speak to that customer in Spanish. A man just walked out of a store because he could not read any signs pointing him in the direction of the product he was looking for and no one stopped to help him. A woman just turned down a retailer’s credit card because she could not truly understand how the offer was beneficial to her and the man behind the counter could not either. Companies loose money everyday due to this simple yet overlooked gaffe.
Which are the most usual misconceptions, bad assumptions and mistakes that you have encountered made by non-Hispanics about Latinos?
The misconceptions usually lie in one of two places: creative and budget. Companies that are not used to marketing to Latinos tend to want creative that is more “Latin,” meaning colorful, spicier, using stereotypical icons. Usually, they get to understand why we suggest otherwise when needed. The other misconception is that Hispanics have no money to buy high end products. My sister has been waiting for her Spanish language Pottery Barn catalog for a while.
How do different Hispanic groups (according to their country of origin) interact with each other?
There are tensions at times from populations outside of Mexico. Can you blame them? Most creative is targeted at Mexican consumers, leaving the South Americans and Caribbean Latino populations feeling a bit resentful. But for the most part, I think there is a camaraderie that forms among Latinos from different populations working together, at least in the ad industry. I think it’s because they help one another understand a fuller picture of what it means to be a Hispanic in the U.S.
What is your perception regarding Hispanics and their use of general market/English media?
Not only do they watch it, they are willing to pay to watch it. Look at cable numbers for Latinos. They are rising fast as are satellite subscribers. Again, Latinos are not isolated.