By Kety Esquivel
"I am finally back from SXSW interactive. Those of us who went had a phenomenal time and we are looking forward to bringing many more friends with us next year! I will be doing a few blog posts reflecting on my experience on SXSW in the coming days but in the interim wanted to leave you with a few pictures from our first ever Latinos in Tech Meet Up at SXSW this year. Enjoy! And thank you to Zunostudios for sharing your exceptional photographic talents with us! (Pictures courtesy of Zunostudios.)"
Austin, TX–A South by Southwest music conference music panel met to explore how the entertainment industry can expand its audience by engaging Hispanics, the youngest, fastest-growing segment of the U.S. population, organizers have announced.
The music panel, “Reaching America’s Fastest Growing Market,” was held March 19 at 5 p.m. at the Austin Convention Center.
To effectively position a product or service in the Hispanic market, is mandatory that the message is clear and free of stereotypes, myths, preconceptions, and ambivalence. In other words, the message must be perceived by the target audience as if it was designed by them.
The portrayal of a Hispanic riding a burro or wearing a sombrero, is an example of poor cultural sensitivity and lack of factual information. The burros, the sombreros, and the mariachis may well communicate Mexico to a non-Hispanic audience, but not to a Mexican or to a Hispanic.
Even worse, anyone of Mexican descent will perceive this image as an indirect insult.
Hispanics, like most people, dislike been labeled. When a consumer perceives he's being stereotyped, his immediate response is that the message was not created or executed by someone like him. At that moment, the golden rule of successful advertising communication (the message must be perceived to have come "from someone like me"), would be broken.
In a matter of seconds the viewers' attention is diverted to the core message to the stereotyped image presented in the ad. As the viewer become trapped in a tangle of communication nuances, he is certain not only to miss the core message but also to walk away from the product and the sponsor.
Commonly, the symbols that are used in stereotypical messages, (images, music, slang, etc), are not the ones the people been stereotyped would use to define themselves.
You would think that in the multicultural society we all live, featuring a Mexican riding a burro, and wearing a sombrero to portrait a Hipanic person, is a communication mishap that today's adverting industry is mature enough not to make. Unfortunately, that is not the case and those mistakes are still made by some of the best-known agencies.
I witnessed it myself no long ago when a well-known advertising network was given the asigment of shooting a Hispanic TV spot. In the set, (a Hispanic little girl's room), all the toys were made of papier-mâché. Burros and other colorfull animals made of "paste", (like the ones you find in a souvenir store in Acapulco), were carefully displayed all over the little girl's room when the Mexican Client arrived to the set. Hispanics should be happy they didn't get to witness such lack of cultural sensitivity from the brand. On the other hand the Mexican Client, as you can imagine, was not so happy with the agency.
A report out today by researchers at Trinity College in Hartford, Conn., finds Latino religious identification increasingly diverse and more "Americanized."
The analysis, based on data from the 2008 American Religious Identification Survey, compares responses to phone surveys in 1990 and 2008 conducted in English and Spanish. The 2008 sample included 3,169 people who identified themselves as Latinos.
"What you see is growing diversity — away from Catholicism and splitting between those who join evangelical or Protestant groups or no religion," says report co-author Barry Kosmin, a sociologist and director of the Institute for the Study of Secularism in Society and Culture at Trinity College. Among findings:
•From 1990 to 2008, the Catholic Church in the USA added an estimated 11 million adults, including 9 million Latinos. In 1990, Latinos made up 20% of the total Catholic population, but by 2008, it rose to 32%.
•Those who claimed "no religion" rose from fewer than 1 million (6% of U.S. Latinos) in 1990 to nearly 4 million (12% of Latinos) in 2008.
"As Latinos or any other ethnic group assimilates to American culture, they pick up the values of the broader American culture and are somewhat less likely to identify with the religious identification, or any other identification, that marked their parents or grandparents," says Mary Gautier, a senior researcher at the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University.
The new data send a clear message, says Allan Figueroa Deck, a Catholic priest and executive director of the Secretariat of Cultural Diversity in the Church, a program of the U.S Conference of Catholic Bishops.
"The biggest challenge the Catholic Church faces is the movement of Latino people not to other religions but rather to a secular way of life in which religion is no longer very important," he says. "We really need to ask ourselves why that is and what response the church can develop for this challenge."
|RELIGION AND LATINOS|
The complexities of the term "Hispanic" extend to the issue of language. Researchers have tried to figure out whether it is better to create ads in English or in Spanish, or whether to mix languages in the same ad, mimicking Spanglish.
"Over the last decade, my colleagues and I have studied the bilingual segment of the Hispanic population in the U.S. and how those individuals process language in marketing communications. We have approached the topic from a cognitive perspective. That means that we have looked at how a bilingual consumer's mind operates when it comes to processing information coded in words.
Over the years, we have worked in multiple projects, each investigating different aspects of language processing by bilinguals. One of the lessons to be learned is that, when we target Hispanic bilinguals who can speak both Spanish and English but whose most proficient language is Spanish, and we want to create memorable ads, it is fine to do so in English. However, we should carefully craft our ads so they have visuals that clearly support the text. In a later study, we found that those findings had to be somewhat qualified: in some cases, consumers are so highly motivated to process the information in the ad that even when the ad is in their least proficient language (L2) and it does not have a high degree of agreement picture-text, they will remember it as much as when the ad is in their most proficient language (L1). In other words, if Hispanic bilinguals who are most proficient in Spanish want a product badly enough, they will remember ads in English as much as ads in Spanish, regardless of what the ads' pictures look like.
In another set of studies, we looked at the role of Spanglish in advertising. Spanglish is the popular term for mixing Spanish and English in speech or text. This doesn't happen only with those two languages, though. Chinese and English can be mixed in "Chinglish", or, as frequently happens in Singapore, Malay, Chinese, and English can be mixed in "Singlish." The generic linguistic term for mixing languages is code-switching. There are different ways to code-switch. One could start in English, switch completely at some point in the conversation and continue in Spanish, or just switch one word or short phrase to Spanish, or insert common Spanish idioms into English speech. The resulting text or speech is fluid and sometimes incomprehensible for the non-bilingual, but always interesting.
Advertisers targeting bilingual Hispanics have been using code-switching for some time. Latina magazine masterfully uses both languages in its articles. The ads included in the magazine often reflect this hybrid state of existence.
In conclusion, there is a lot to think about when designing campaigns to target bilingual Hispanics. One of them is language. A successful campaign should take into consideration how bilingual consumers process language and craft its creative strategy around it.
That marketers are speaking in English to acculturated Latinos is not breaking news. These are some of the brands that, since the past decade, have been challenging the traditional ways set forth decades ago by the first U.S. Hispanic advertising agencies to communicate with the Hispanic consumer.
Marketing to U.S. Hispanics is not a simple task. In fact, it's it is a very complex one filled with lots of challenges. The U.S. Hispanic market is not one homogeneous group, but 19 sub-groups with different backgrounds, beliefs, and behaviors that share a common language.
Although all Hispanics living in the U.S. are clustered under one umbrella called "the U.S. Hispanic Market", the truth is that Hispanics are a richly diverse group representing 17 Latin American countries plus Puerto Rico and the Dominican Republic. The integration of diverse countries or origin within the U.S. Hispanic market, the broad array of cultural traits within it, the different levels of acculturation, and the nuances that are unique to each sub-group has created a complex audience.
To successfully communicate with the U.S. Hispanic audience one needs not only a deep understanding of the Hispanic culture, relevant experience, and deep research, but also marketers that posses the sensitivity to know what is truly important to Hispanics.