This article was updated in July 2021.
Maria Twena is the Global Head of Consumer X at 9thWonder, a multinational, independent marketing agency.
The Hispanic market has undergone a significant metamorphosis in recent decades, somewhat of a renaissance, if you will. The stereotypes of past decades: foreign-born, Spanish-only, poor, uneducated, Univision watchers (exclusively), machista, etc., have been replaced by new ones.
According to the LA Times, Latinos make up the leading group of prospective freshmen accepted to the University of California this fall. And it’s not just the academic achievements that are changing the face of today’s Latinx. Multiple variables have driven these changes, nativity being a key one. Moreover the 2010 Census clearly depicted that the growth of the Hispanic population in the U.S was being propelled by immigrant births and not immigration itself.
Understanding these consumers is key for all brands. Along with immigrant children who come to the U.S. in early childhood, they are today’s and tomorrow’s Hispanic market.
The Hispanic Market, by Generation
Over half (55%) of today’s Hispanic market is comprised of what’s known as 1.5 and 2.0 generation immigrants. Understanding immigrant generational definitions and behaviors/preferences is critical to discerning and acquiring the Hispanic market.
The 1.0 generation immigrant is the immigrant that comes to the U.S. at the age of 10 years or older. In the case of Hispanics, this group typically prefers to consume content in Spanish Language First (SLF). They’re also culturally much closer to the Hispanic ethos of collectivism than to the American culture of independence and self-reliance. Today the 1.0 generation represents 28% of the Hispanic population.
The 1.5 generation is represented by the immigrant that comes to the U.S. at the age of 10 years or younger.
Their primary socialization takes place in the U.S. They are bilingual and bicultural, and prefer to consume content in English. They’re our English Language First (ELF) Latinx. They have been unaccounted for in previous decades because population data cuts were strictly by nativity.
The 2.0 generation is a U.S.-born son or daughter of at least one immigrant parent. Their primary socialization also takes place in the U.S. They too are bilingual and bicultural, preferring to consume English-language content. Together, the 1.5 generation and their 2.0 generation brethren comprise 55% of the Hispanic market.
The 3.0 generation is U.S. born with at least one parent that is a 2.0 generation immigrant. The 3.0+ generations represent 17% of the Hispanic population. In the U.S., 17% of the Hispanic population is generation 3.0 or greater. Depending on their DMA (designated market area) these individuals will lean either more bicultural or more American.
English Language First Consumers
Marketers are now focusing on the English Language First (generations 1.5 and 2.0) for a couple of reasons. These consumers are now the largest cohort. But more importantly they serve as guides for their foreign-born relatives from a very early age. They interpret the U.S. ethos, translate the language, inform brand and product purchases, and demystify new services and technologies. Furthermore, as they mature, their sphere of influence becomes culturally agnostic. In other words they are influencing both their Spanish-dominant relatives and friends as well as their ‘American’ friends and family.
Influencing behavior doesn’t diminish with age or disappear when one becomes an adult; it stays with you throughout your lifetime. Understanding this consumer is the key to the Hispanic market. As ambassadors, if you will, for their foreign-born, Spanish-dominant relatives, they are highly respected. In addition, their relatives seek out their advice often, including in childhood.
Discerning their hybridity and duality is paramount. They are not your typical ‘general market’ consumer nor are they your SLF consumer. Their dual languages are obvious, their cultural pluralism less evident, but ever present.
Biculturalism requires the blending of two distinct cultures. In the case of bicultural Hispanics, it requires the blending of the American ethos (disciplined, frugal, self-reliant, and morally upright) with that of the Hispanic ethos (collectivist, family/community-centered, selfless, and morally upright).
Growing the Market
For example, a purely collectivist consumer will purchase attire that makes him or her look good. Appearances are paramount because they are part of a collective society. What others think really matters. A self-reliant consumer will dress less for appearances and more so for comfort. They are less interested in what society thinks about how they look. They have a much stronger sense of self as an individual, apart from the collective.
The bicultural, English Language First Hispanic’s socialization has been informed by both of these. They want to look good but feeling comfortable is also important. Understanding how to message and market to the Hispanic market across acculturation levels is key to being successful.
Next time you want to engage the Hispanic market, consider the following: language preference; acculturation level; and messaging. And if you are engaging the ELF, empower him/her with the tools to share content across media and language. With the guide’s recommendation, growing the Hispanic market will occur both more efficiently and more effectively.
Photo by PxHere