Mindful Messaging

 Mindful Messaging

Authenticity gains traction for brands in culturally diverse communities.

The First Lady’s choice of words in her speech last July to celebrate the Hispanic community in San Antonio was an unfortunate faux pas that brought public criticism by organizations such as the National Association of Hispanic Journalists. Regardless of her intention, this gaffe served as a reminder of the power of cultural nuances, sometimes overlooked or misunderstood, when engaging with ever-growing and changing diverse communities.

Comparing Hispanics to breakfast tacos reflects carelessness in understanding the community and developing a compelling message designed to resonate with its intended target audience. A speech highlighting the administration’s efforts to improve the quality of life and recognize the top issues for Hispanic families was unnecessarily overshadowed by tacos. The real intention of the message became lost in unnecessary controversy.

Messaging should be delivered with clarity, grace, and purpose. It should also be simple, helping the intended audience immediately and effortlessly understand what you are trying to say. Although most marketers, advertisers, and communications professionals know this rule, engaging with culturally diverse communities can, at times, be an afterthought. In these cases, messages are usually centered around stale messaging, cliché imagery, stereotypes, or lazy translations using the Google Translate service.

Messaging should be tailored to resonate and have cohesiveness with the cultural nuances of the intended target audience, such as Hispanic or other culturally diverse communities. 

To illustrate the importance of care in crafting culturally diverse messages, consider that in the United States, Hispanics account for about 25 percent of the population under age 25, according to the Pew Research Center. As early as 2023, multicultural Americans are projected to become a majority, with Hispanics being a driving force in population shifts.

According to the 2020 US Census, Hispanics comprise more than 62 million people in the US, with ethnic backgrounds in countries that include Spain and those in Latin America. Culture, traditions, and language differ by region and country; cultural plurality is commonplace among Hispanics. Examples include someone who is Mexican sharing common roots but being different from someone whose background is from the Caribbean, or someone of Mexican-American descent who might identify first as a Tejano or a Chicano. Not to mention, there’s also the longstanding debate about the preference for identifying as either Hispanic or Latino and the rapidly evolving effort by a younger generation to make identifiers more inclusive and gender neutral with the adoption of Latinx and Latine.

Hispanic consumer buying power is rapidly growing, increasing by 150 percent in the last decade to a projected $2.6 trillion, according to the Hispanic Marketing Council. Yet only 6 percent of the $111 billion spent on advertising was geared toward the Hispanic community. On average, one million Hispanic citizens turn 18 each year and become eligible to vote, adding to the already growing estimated 32 million eligible Latinx voters, according to UnidosUS.

When connecting with the Hispanic community in meaningful ways, gains can be bountiful for a community looking to flex its financial and political power and for those taking steps to attract and win the Hispanic market.

Hispanics comprise more than 62 MILLION people in the US, with ethnic backgrounds in countries that include Spain and those in Latin America.

With emerging purchasing and political powers, purposeful and meaningful efforts should be made to build stronger relationships. Brands that successfully win the hearts of the Hispanic community look beyond superficiality and take steps to build a conversation and trust. Those brands gain deeper insights into the cultural nuances: multidimensional differences and similarities that transcend generations of people from different countries with their own identity drivers, uses, and preferences of language and motivators, and aspirations that make up the collective concept of the Hispanic-American identity.

Hispanics, in many ways, represent a new type of consumer. Their community actively seeks to connect with products, services, and brands in alignment with their cultural nuances that support their and their family’s needs, heritage, and overall identity. 

 The average Hispanic consumer is more conscious than ever of building loyalty with brands that properly represent their voices and provide a sense of empowerment by effectively speaking directly to them. Brand engagement with Hispanic consumers has evolved into a conversation rooted in the principle that their political and purchasing power and voices matter. 

Like other culturally diverse communities, the Hispanic market should not be viewed as a short-term expense or a low-hanging target audience, but rather as a long-term strategic investment in growth.

By authentically embracing an inclusive cultural view from the strategic planning stage, brands can provide a genuinely multicultural marketing strategy that will help keep them relevant in an ever-growing competitive marketplace. This can be achieved by proactively including and maintaining top-of-mind multicultural consumers or intended target audiences in the entire strategic process, including assessments of market growth opportunities, insight development, and execution. Most importantly, brands must understand that multicultural marketing and general marketing are not mutually exclusive; instead, multicultural marketing should be considered an integral component of any brand’s overarching marketing strategy and investment.

Be aware that Hispanics in the US are divided into three main groups based on acculturation level and language use, usually defined by the predominant generation in the family: English only (usually third and younger generations), English and Spanish in equal parts (second generation), or Spanish dominant/Spanish only (first and older generations). In any case, when marketing to Hispanics, the strategy and the messaging should be rooted in both language and culture.

Hispanic consumer buying power is rapidly growing, increasing by 150 percent in the last decade to a projected $2.6 TRILLION.

It is important to have clear insights into who you are talking to and develop your campaign (and your media distribution) based on their particular consumer insight as a differentiator and in their preferred language.

Brands need to assess their position in multicultural markets and do the necessary background work to understand how they are perceived and defined within these communities. Brands should also leverage localization and understand how regions influence language, stories, and cultural nuances to integrate them into effective messaging and creative strategies that build on authenticity.

Lastly, brands should genuinely embrace diversity and inclusion within their internal and external support team, ensuring that all voices are represented. Brands should be aware of any risks or threats that could erode authenticity by tokenization or stereotyping.

A clear sense of purpose for engaging multicultural communities will yield more effective marketing and communications strategies that will lead to a greater return on investment, maximizing the potential to gain greater market share and strengthen a brand’s reputation and position. Being authentic and aware of cultural nuances in multicultural marketing will lead to trust, a clear sense of purpose, and defined goals.

Carlos de León

Carlos de León has worked in public affairs, communications, and economic development in south Texas for more than a decade. He leads the San Antonio office of the Romph Pou Agency, a national marketing and advertising firm. Prior to agency work, de León worked for a binational think tank focused on US-Mexico relations. He recently joined the University of the Incarnate Word School of Professional Studies, where he teaches undergraduate business courses.

Rafa Juárez

Rafa Juárez is an award-winning creative director in the US Hispanic advertising and communications industry. For over 20 years, he has worked at top multicultural agencies with well-known brands. He owns a creative and production company in San Antonio and provides communications services to agencies and direct clients. Juárez is also the marketing manager for the nonprofit organization Southside First Economic Development Council.

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