Best Practices

Best Practices Targeting Bilingual/Bicultural Hispanics

MariaLopez-KnowlesAbout 8 years ago while putting up groceries, my husband, Steve, remarked: “Do you ever buy the same brand of anything? I thought Hispanics were supposed to be brand loyal?”

I pondered the query for a while and responded: “No. I guess I don’t.”  That simple question led me on a different career path because he was right. I didn’t buy the same brand of practically anything, consistently.  Why wasn’t I brand loyal? And why was my mother so very brand loyal? Some brands were sacred to her: Goya; Café Bustelo; even Clorox.

As a U.S born, second-generation Hispanic, I’m not brand loyal because I don’t find a lot of brands going out of their way to connect with me – affectively. Ads don’t resonate with me – they are either too Hispanic or too American. And the reality is that as a U.S. born, Cuban-Spanish American, I live a plurality that few really understand. I’m 100% bilingual and bicultural.  I take different aspects of my cultural multiplicity wherever I go.

For my Hispanic family, I’ve very ‘American’ to many. And a little too self-reliant (which gets confused with selfishness for them).  For my American friends and family, a little too collectivist at times (my social bubble is very small) – hugging and touching while speaking is more than okay. And for my bilingual/bicultural friends and family, I’m absolutely normal.

I can speak English perfectly (and read and write it), but Spanish a little less so. I speak it extremely well; albeit, I do get lost with some word translations. I can read it well, but don’t ask me to write it. The accents alone are too confusing. So I’m not completely biliterate in Spanish – similar to a lot of 2.0-generations I know. I learned conversational Spanish while growing up. And that’s what I’m most comfortable with. And though I could have gotten straight A’s taking Spanish in high school, I took French. I didn’t want to be Hispanic or different (growing up in the 60s in the deep South, and being Hispanic was not a badge of honor).

But I retro-acculturated, as most of us 2.0s do (regardless of country of origin; retro-acculturation is not solely a Hispanic phenomenon). I found my roots again, and, more importantly, my voice. Today, I embrace all of my diversity; it’s a benefit.

Marketers who know me and my 2.0 brothers and sisters, know that we are influencers. At an early age: interpreting, translating, and informing family decisions. We had mastered the English language and culture that my parents, as foreign-born, 1.0-generation immigrants, had not. Unlike them, we were born into it. We were and remain the Sherpas in our collectivist communities. We still guide, translate and interpret – more than half a century after my parents immigrated, in my case.

If a brand reaches and touches me with their ads, I will co-brand the message for my sphere of influence and drive a greater ROI. How does a brand do that? Market to me as if you really care. Don’t assume that because I’m English language dominant, general market ads do the trick.  Yes, they reach me. But the ads don’t touch me. You have permission to speak to me as I speak to my bilingual/bicultural friends – primarily in English, but peppered with Spanish (remember we’re not all biliterate; a little Spanish is all you need). Our world isn’t black and white; but rather multiple shades of gray.

And you have our permission to reflect our cultural duality in your ads. They speak to me.

When it comes to digital, don’t fear offending the general market with your work, because the beauty of digital is that if you target me correctly, I’ll be the only one seeing your ads.

Discerning the key levels of acculturation when it comes to Hispanic marketing is the Holy Grail. Knowing them is imperative, but then making them actionable, via best practices, will drive greater awareness, engagement and ultimately – advocacy.

Pulpo Media’s Chief Marketing Officer, Maria Lopez-Knowles, is an accomplished industry leader, having received an AdColor Innovator Award for her groundbreaking multicultural segmentation work with English-language dominant Hispanics.

Prior to Pulpo Media, Maria served as President of GlobalHue Latino. Previous to her tenure at GlobalHue, Lopez-Knowles founded and led MRM Worldwide’s (McCann Worldgroup) practice targeting the über-acculturated Hispanic via direct/digital marketing, with a keen focus on brand influencers. 

  • theo trapalis

    So many light-bulb moments for brands here. Few brands know the nuances of brand loyalty and how it relates to the phenomenon of retro-acculturation.