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Are Latinas the most powerful US consumers?

Macala Wright

Jun 20, 2015

Location United States

In 2013, US Hispanic females had a combined spending power of $1.2 trillion. As their roles at home, in society and in business change, this group’s influence is only set to increase. How can brands use language, cultural heritage and sentiment to succeed with these Latinas?

Highlights & Data


·Latin American women living in the US are growing in number and power, changing how brands and businesses develop products and campaigns

·Brands are facing a challenge as standard ‘ethnic’ marketing tactics have become ineffective due to increased education among this group

·The global financial downturn afforded Latinas new opportunities, allowing more of them to become the heads of their households

·Latina women take great pride in their cultural history and their families, regularly reconnecting at communal events

·Bilingual ad campaigns are effective at engaging young and old Hispanic populations, but should be specifically tailored in each language to avoid bad translations

·There are 54 million Hispanics living in the US – approximately 17% of the total population

·Latina spending power in 2013 reached $1.2 trillion

·Between 1980 and 2005, the proportion of Hispanic households with women as heads of household rose from 27% to 43%

·Hispanic Gen Yers are receptive to in-store marketing; 47% of 18- to 29-year-olds refer to in-store samples and 46% to store brochures

·60% of adult Hispanics speak English or are bilingual

·80% of Latinas use social media to keep in touch with family and friends, 82% use it as a way to receive coupons, and 77% to gather information about products

There are 54 million Hispanics living in the US, making up the nation's largest ethnic minority. By 2060, that figure is expected to grow to just under 130 million, comprising 31% of the US population. [1] With its rising numbers, this group is already altering how marketers, beauty companies and filmmakers target and develop their products and campaigns.

But it's the women that are really making moves. Latina women had buying power worth $1.2 trillion in 2013, and are expected to represent 30% of the total female population by 2060. [2]

When it comes to successfully capturing these consumers, brands are facing a big challenge as standard ‘ethnic’ marketing tactics have become ineffective due to increased ad awareness and education among this group. Developing brand affinity and maintaining loyalty is becoming the Holy Grail as Hispanic women are recognised as the connected, tech-savvy consumer demographic that research reveals them to be.

How are companies taking on this challenge? For many, the answer seems to lie in appealing to family values and cultural heritage, using them to empower and entertain. Bilingual campaigns have also proven effective, but is there a single solution to reaching a group that will only diversify as it grows?

Changing household roles
In 1980, just 27% of Hispanic households had women as the primary financial providers. By 2005, that proportion rose to 43%, the largest growth for any ethnic group in the US. [3] Ten years on from the collection of those stats, there’s little doubt that Latina women have developed greater authority in the home.

“In 2005, many Latino men lost their jobs and Latinas had to step up to the plate in terms of earning money,” says Nely Galán, founder of The Adelante Movement. “They had to support their husbands and their children in the economic downturn.” [4] According to Galán, this is when the US saw a drastic shift in the role and power of Latin American women; economic conditions propelled them into roles that they’d never tried before. By 2011, these circumstances made them the fastest growing entrepreneurial group in America.

Considering that 63% of Hispanic families have children under age 18, companies can appreciate why understanding and catering to Latina family values is key. [5] Generationally, many Hispanic mothers are classified as Gen Y, so companies that don’t market to them between the ages of 17 and 20 risk losing them. [6]


Empowered and educated
As they have grown into their leading roles in households, Latina women between the ages of 20 and 40 have become entrepreneurial and want empowerment. To this end, Latina Gen Yers are making significant strides in developing their careers and obtaining better education. In 2014, for the first time in US history, Latinas exceeded non-Hispanic females in college enrolment. A record 73% of Hispanic female high school graduates are enrolling in college, 11% ahead of Hispanic males. [2]

However, it can be tough for Hispanics to make an impact in companies post-education. Nely Galán encourages companies to think about how Latinas are represented in their organisations; “Do we have Latinas working for us? Are we recruiting them? Are we training them?,” she says. [4] If not, she suggests that they develop training and enrichment programs to diversify company culture, obtaining higher awareness among the consumer group.

According to Amy Taylor, vice president of marketing at Red Bull, this is exactly what her company advocates. “Cultural diversity is the key to Red Bull’s overall success strategy, not just its content,” says Taylor. “Your staff, artists, athletes and engineers should be reflective of your target audience.” [7] By ensuring that Latin American women are fully integrated in company culture, Taylor says that companies can see more meaningful action from their efforts.


Socialising in the real world
Latina women, as overall family caretakers, take great pride in their cultural history and their families. The Hispanic community encourages regular gatherings to connect with families, and because of this, brands are experiencing a resurgence in the success of local and grassroots events. “It’s no secret that living hyperconnected lives has been the catalyst for consumers to try more in-person experiences,” says Galán. “Malls, music festivals and other ‘local-centric’ events provide great communal spaces for people to speak, interact and connect with like-minded individuals.” [4]

The communal aspect of these events bring fresh opportunities for marketers to connect with attendees and shoppers. Hispanic Gen Yers are very receptive to in-store marketing, with 18- to 29-year-olds most likely to refer to in-store samples (47%), store brochures (46%), and department signs (45%). [8]

It’s no secret that living hyperconnected lives has been the catalyst for consumers to try more in-person experiences. Malls, festivals and other ‘local-centric’ events provide great spaces for people to speak and connect with like-minded individuals Nely Galán, founder of The Adelante Movement

Macy’s used this knowledge as part of it ‘Los Influyentes’ campaign that took place in key Latina-centric markets to drive in-store event attendance and website traffic. [9] The campaign featured partnerships with pop icon Jasmine V, fashion blogger Sincerely Jules and beauty expert Kika Rocha, specifically appealing to Gen Y consumers. Event participants were invited to join the trio for a discussion on what being Latina means to them, their influences and their style.

Alongside real-world events, sponsorships and affiliations that allow brands to take a physical presence can help them connect with customers over a shared interest or experience. Event sponsorship also provides research opportunities, allowing brands to learn first hand what the consumers value. For example, the average Latina consumer spends $72 on live music events each summer. By maintaining a presence at music festivals, brands have more opportunities to reach this particular demographic. [10]


Bilingual branding
Around 60% of adult Hispanics speak English or are bilingual. Latinos in the US break down into three groups when it comes to language; 36% are bilingual, 25% mainly use English and 38% mainly use Spanish. Amongst those who mostly speak English, 59% are bilingual. [11]

The modern Latina is also ambicultural, able to pivot from English to Spanish. [2] “Being able to speak to their values in both English and Spanish will help brands resonate with mothers even more,” says Galán. “Latina women are used to both across all age spectrums. All women have immigrant relatives that don't speak English and they serve as translators in order to figure out how to make money and understand the American system.” [4]

According to Joe Gutierrez, managing director at Pinta NYC, Hispanic marketing is not just an exercise in translation. “When consolidating all of your advertising, stay committed to effectively connecting with Hispanics via dedicated campaigns to reap the rewards in the long run," he says. [12] While bilingual campaigns can largely rely on English to engage Latin Americans – particularly with younger generations – bespoke Spanish-language marketing can help capture a more complete Hispanic audience.


Digital diversity
Latin American consumers are hungry for content. To date, Hispanic programming has been dominated by large broadcast companies despite the digital adeptness of this group. In order to fill this void and subvert traditional media, creators turned to digital channels.In 2012, Latino-focused content producers launched MiTú, a multi-channel YouTube network, which has gained massive traction with online viewers.

“The Hispanic media industry is dominated by broadcast that dwells on certain types of content like novellas, news, and game shows,” says Roy Burstin, CEO and co-founder of MiTú. “But the younger demographics are migrating to the web in droves. We saw a lot of white space and opportunity to do different kinds of content like DIY shows, cooking shows, fashion, beauty, comedy and tech.” [13] Using this knowledge, MiTú has raised over $15 million in funding, racking up 12 billion views and representing 1,300 YouTube channels. [14]

The Hispanic media industry is dominated by broadcast that dwells on certain types of content like novellas, news, and game shows. But the younger demographics are migrating to the web in droves Roy Burstin, CEO and co-founder of MiTú A study conducted by ShareThis found that Hispanic consumers share digital content via social media five times more often than non-Hispanic users. What’s more, the content they share is 35% more likely to be clicked on than content shared by the non-Hispanic population. [15] “Brands have an opportunity to create meaningful content that speaks to the Hispanic audience in a relatively untapped space,” writes Nonie Carson, a marketing specialist at Performics. “More so than language, one of the most important factors in reaching digital Hispanics is connecting advertising content to culture.” [16]

Connecting with family is high on the list of reasons to use social media for Latinas. But it’s also a way to keep up with brands and current events, according to a study by Latina Media Ventures. More than eight in ten say “keeping in touch with family and friends” was an important reason for using these sites. But they also use social media to connect with brands; 82% use social networks as a way to receive coupons and discounts, and 77% use them to gather information about products. [17]

Hulu has been capitalising this group’s social and digital savvy since 2013 with Hulu Latino. The specialist service partners with 85 content providers to reach more than one million unique Hispanic viewers a month. Consumption of Hulu Latino has seen double-digit growth each month since its launch. “The audience is most focused and attracted to high-quality content that appeals to them,” says Rodrigo Mazon, content acquisition director for Hulu, adding that Latinos “not only consume a wide variety of this Latino content on Hulu, they are consuming just as much English language general-market content.” [18]


Insights and opportunities
Pam Kaufman, CMO of Nickelodeon, suggests that brands should subdivide their marketing into two groups – ages 17-25 and 25-34 – as Gen Y and older generations have very different value systems. [19] Target successfully reached Latin American consumers in these two age groups when it placed the Hispanic community at the centre of its marketing efforts in 2015. The supermarket’s #SinTraducción campaign – “without translation” – used the terms arrullo, sobremesa and estrenar to encapsulate moments, traditions and emotions treasured in Latino culture. For example, sobremesa refers to the period after dinner that friends and family linger at the table to spend quality time together. All three ‘untranslatable’ terms are intended to develop an emotional connection.

“With this campaign, we wanted to recognise and embrace the bicultural reality that many of our guests experience every day in a way that feels warm and familiar,” says Rick Gomez, senior vice president of marketing at Target. [20] The campaign was social in nature, focusing on the hashtag to reach Latina women on Twitter and Instagram. By airing the ads across Spanish-language TV networks and during popular English-language shows like Modern Family, Target reached both young and old Hispanics.

Hispanics “place a really high value on community, their use of social media is a digital extension of that value set,” says Patricia Oppenheimer, executive marketing director at Latina Media Ventures. Their search for product information on social sites is in line with their analogue behavior. “They are not as jaded as the general market. They are more optimistic consumers, more trusting. They embrace celebrity endorsements. So, they are comfortable seeing a post from their friend talking about a new haircut and then seeing an ad a few posts down in their newsfeed.” [17]

With this campaign, we wanted to recognise and embrace the bicultural reality that many of our guests experience every day in a way that feels warm and familiar Rick Gomez, senior vice president of marketing at Target As the influence of Latino culture grows and Latin American men and women increase their consumer spending power, it’s clear that marketers need to make drastic shifts in how they perceive this huge demographic. In the past there have been several misses in terms of messaging to this group. For example, when translated into Spanish, the Dairy Association’s astoundingly successful “Got Milk?” campaign asked Latino consumers “Are You Lactating?” Additionally, in 2004, Labbatt USA’s attempt at tongue-in-cheek advertising for Tecate beer used the phrase “Finally, A Cold Latina”, implying that all Hispanic women are ‘hot’. Critics felt “the ad propagates negative stereotypes of Hispanic women as being loose and overly sexual.” [21] With the wealth of developed insights that now exist around Hispanics – moving beyond the linear data that once siloed and ghettoized mixed race consumer groups – brands can avoid any advertising faux pas arising from cultural insensitivities and messages lost in translation.

Macala Wright is an LA-based content strategist and research analyst. She merges a passion for storytelling with her deep understanding of technology to bring innovative ideas, products and programmes to life. She’s worked with Hearst, The Smithsonian Channel, ALDO, American Express and numerous technology companies.

1. ’Hispanic or Latino populations’, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
2. ’Latinas are the driving power behind Hispanic purchase power in the US’, Nielsen (August 2013)
3. ’Hispanics in the United States: A Demographic, Social, and Economic History’, Laird W. Bergad, Herbert S. Klein (2010)
4. Interview with Nely Galán conducted by author
5. ’Latinas in charge: leveraging the 'Latina power shift' beyond the coveted consumer’, The Huffington Post (September 2013)
6. ‘Latina Female Consumer Research’, The Adelante Movement (2015) [printed book]
7. Interview with Amy Taylor conducted by author
8. ’Hispanic adult millennials: enthusiastic mall shoppers’, Viacom (July 2013)
9. ’Macy’s celebrates Hispanic Heritage Month’, Macy’s (2014)
10. ’Meet the millennial multicultural music listener’, Nielsen (August 2014)
11. ’Breadwinner moms’, Pew Research Center (May 2013)
12. ’How are marketers reaching Latinos? Top Hispanic marketers discuss 2014's marketing strategies, what to expect in 2015’, Latin Post (December 2014)
13. ’MiTú, a YouTube network changing how Latino content creators and audiences connect’, Forbes (June 2014)
14. ’MiTú online video network raises $15 million in series B funding’, Deadline (February 2015)
15. ’Hispanic consumers have distinct pattern of online social behaviors’, ShareThis (February 2014)
16. ’5 strategies to create ads & experiences that engage the US digital Hispanic market in 2015’, Performics (April 2015)
17. ’Hispanic women connect with friends, brands and news via social’, eMarketer (February 2014)
18. ’Hulu goes big for Latino content’, Portada Magazine (June 2014)
19. Interview with Pam Kaufman conducted by author
20. ’Sneak peek: Target’s new Hispanic campaign, #SinTraducción’, Target (March 2015)
21. ’When bad Hispanic advertising happens to good companies’, LatPro (November 2007)

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