Bicultural Hispanics: Who Are They and Why Should Marketers Be Paying Attention? - eMarketer
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Bicultural Hispanics: Who Are They and Why Should Marketers Be Paying Attention?

December 24, 2015 | Advertising & Marketing | Demographics


Aleena Roeschley
Research Director and Multicultural Expert
Communicus

Hispanics are a rapidly growing segment of the US consumer base, with buying power expected to surpass $1.6 billion by 2019, based on forecasts from the Selig Center for Economic Growth. Within the US Hispanic population sits a subset of bicultural Hispanics—first- or second-generation citizens who grew up in the US, according to Aleena Roeschley, research director and multicultural expert at advertising research firm Communicus. Roeschley spoke with eMarketer's Alison McCarthy about who these bicultural Hispanics are and what opportunities they offer marketers.

eMarketer: You’ve done a lot of research on bicultural Hispanics in the US. Can you talk about who these bicultural Hispanics are?

Aleena Roeschley: At Communicus, we typically define bicultural Hispanics as first- or second-generation, and sometimes even third-generation, US citizens who grew up here. This group has parents who immigrated to the US and were raised in either a purely Spanish-speaking or bilingual household and spent the majority of their life going to US public schools. They’ve grown up around American customs and the English language since an early age, but they’ve maintained their Hispanic heritage and culture from their home life.

eMarketer: What are the most important things advertisers should keep in mind when targeting bicultural Hispanics?

Roeschley: Because the majority of Hispanics identify themselves as bicultural vs. unacculturated or highly acculturated, they offer a huge opportunity for marketers. However, more than any other Hispanic acculturation group, biculturals see through inauthenticity and artificiality. They know when you’re trying to sell them something vs. trying to connect with them. It is important to be transparent, create a strong, consistent voice, and stand for something.

“Biculturals see through inauthenticity and artificiality. They know when you’re trying to sell them something vs. trying to connect with them.”

eMarketer: What’s the most important thing advertisers should know about biculturals?

Roeschley: Advertisers need to show them that they’re genuinely interested in who they are—that means their respective generation, region and acculturation level. Something that’s culturally relevant to a 70-year-old Hispanic woman who has lived in the US for 20 to 30 years is not culturally relevant to a 25-year-old Hispanic woman who has lived here for her entire life.

There’s a fine line between knowing what’s culturally relevant and being stereotypical or even offensive. It’s important to be aware of what you’re trying to get across and how the message is executed.

eMarketer: How can advertisers overcome the challenge of trying to reach Hispanics across different geographic regions, which have vast cultural and ethnic differences?

Roeschley: Advertisers initially make the mistake of assuming that Hispanics from, for example, Cuba, Mexico or El Salvador are all in the same. Of course, that’s not true at all. Each region has its own subculture within itself. It’s important to do your homework on the specific nuances within each region. Marketers need to get to know their audiences, the phrases they use and the behaviors of each region and culture.

eMarketer: How much does the use of English vs. Spanish matter in advertising targeted at bicultural Hispanics?

Roeschley: This particular group does not put more importance on Spanish vs. English media. They tend to engage with both, which some advertisers forget.

Instead of focusing on language, advertisers need to ensure that there’s consistent brand messaging throughout the two language channels. If the English- and Spanish-language campaigns are in separate siloes, consumers will get confused. It boils down to how strong and consistent the creative is.

“Instead of focusing on language, advertisers need to ensure that there’s consistent brand messaging throughout the two language channels.”

eMarketer: What’s an example of a brand that’s been successful at using cultural nuances in messaging for Hispanic biculturals?

Roeschley: McDonald’s has done a lot of legwork to understand this audience. They did an excellent job in one particular ad which used a popular Spanish-language song from the 1980s called “Vamos a La Playa.” It’s a song that young Hispanics have heard their entire lives through their parents, even if they’ve lived in the US since birth. The playful, cultural nuance catches the audiences’ attention right away, and it’s a great example of finding a common denominator across generations.

eMarketer: What are the most common myths or stereotypes that advertisers have about Hispanics?

Roeschley: Brands make the mistake of slapping on certain signifiers, such as Hispanic music, slang words or sexy females, in advertising geared toward male Hispanics. Focusing on these things alone most likely isn’t going to resonate with audiences. If they’re going to be used, they need to be integrated into the storytelling.

eMarketer: What’s one key takeaway you have for marketers who want to reach US Hispanics?

Roeschley: Do you homework. Knowing exactly who you’re trying to reach, where you want to reach them and what you want to tell them is key in cultivating a successful campaign.

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