Reaching Today’s Bicultural Latinos
May 31, 2012
by Cara O’Flynn
New technology and more complex identities will require changes in strategy for marketers
Gonzalo Perez, owner of Miami-based research firm Motivo Insights, helps marketers and advertisers decode the complex and fast-changing youth, urban, and Hispanic markets. His expertise in focus group moderation, strategic planning, and qualitative/quantitative research management gives him cutting-edge insights into how young Latinos consume media and advertising – including how they’re distinct from other segments.
In this interview, we discussed how the combination of biculturalism and new technology is leading young Latinos to see themselves in new ways and use media to express their identities creatively, as well as where Perez sees the market going over the next five years.
Q: How are young Latinos today different from those who came of age 10 years ago?
A: One of the things that distinguish today’s generation of young Latinos is their ability to switch their identities depending on where they are and who they’re with. They’re very contextual with everything. Because they are experiencing different cultures, they’re able to express different sides of their identities very easily. One tool that really serves as a catalyst for this is social media and technology – that’s one major difference between this generation and previous ones.
Q: We’re seeing more TV networks looking to attract English-speaking Hispanics. What advice do you have for media companies that want to reach bilingual/bicultural Hispanics?
A: Be comfortable with the complexity of today’s young Latinos. They have this contextual identity, and they’re not all the same.
It’s also important to respect their influence. They have multiple social networks at their disposal, in English and Spanish – so they have a huge role in sparking word-of-mouth and buzz. They also understand their power when it comes to marketing.
We have to invite them to be part of the process in terms of content creation and introducing new brands. This will give them a sense of ownership and make them more likely to become advocates of a brand.
Q: Hispanics are early adopters of new technology, like tablets and smartphones. Have you observed any uses of technology that are specific to young Latinos?
A: First off, young Latinos use technology, tablets, and smartphones in many ways like non-Latinos — but some of their motivations are a bit different. They really find technology that has connectivity very appealing. I see a lot of Skype being used because it allows them to connect with friends and family overseas in their homelands. Also, using the mobile device as a laptop provides convenience and privacy, since many are living in multi-generational homes with maybe one computer to share. They’re also always looking for the newest technology, and technology serves as a status symbol among their peers.
Q: How does young Latinos’ use of social networking sites differ from other demographics?
A: Because they live in a bicultural reality, young Latinos are able to be part of even more affinity groups and identity tribes. They can identify with more people within various social networks.
They’re also utilizing social media platforms to empower themselves and tell their stories in their own ways. Recently, when there was a whole slew of viral “S*% People Say” videos, the folks over at Being Latino, an online magazine and social media platform, released “S*% Latinos Don’t Say.” The video flipped the perspective and took a tongue-in-cheek approach that addressed generalizations and stereotypes.
Additionally, young Latinos are using social networks as a thruway to discovering brands and products. One thing we learned in last year’s Maximo Report is that 75% of young Latinos learned of a brand through a social network – more than non-Latinos.
Q: What is the most surprising trend you’ve observed in this market over the last 5 – 10 years?
A: The most surprising for me is the fragmentation of lifestyle and identity – it’s happening at a more rapid pace among young Latinos. They’re able to be part of various subcultures; they can express themselves through urban/street culture, skater culture, sports culture, action sports, etc. There are many avenues and subcultures they’re adopting and making part of their own identity. They’re very open-minded and accepting of different passions and interests, and they want to express themselves in that way as well.
Q: What changes do you expect to see in the market over the next five years?
A: I think we’ll see an increase in the way that young Latinos are using their mobile phones through apps. Apps allow young Latinos do more with their mobile phones — and they’re more reliant on their mobile phones because of this.
I expect there to be a shift away from the traditional way marketers segment Hispanic consumers based on ethnicity alone. I think we’ll see an increase in lifestyle segmentation that’s inclusive of multiple ethnic groups and mindset segmentation – going beyond demographics and tapping into psychographics and behavioral metrics.
Cultural affinity – that connection to customs, traditions, and language — will always be important. But it’s not going to be the sole identifier of young Latinos going forward. They will always want to be tied to culture, but it’s not the only thing that identifies them.
Digital content is going to be where young Latinos see themselves represented in an authentic way because they can be the director and the producer of that content. There’s not one channel out there that can fully define them. TV is not going to go away, but I think the ability to create niche content platforms is where the future will be. That’s where they can put their own stamp on it and see content that reflects them authentically through a filter of culture, plus lifestyle, passions, and interests.