Latin Identity

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Is it possible to advertise one message to everyone in the U.S.? Or, do you need to create specific advertising for a particular ethnic group (Hispanics)? Consider this: Latinos share a defined culture, rich in family values, customs and traditions that come from our “motherland,” Spain, and the religious teachings of the Roman Catholic Church. There are broad cultural differences between Hispanics in America and the rest of our population. Some of these differences cannot be perceived to the “naked” eye, but are tangible, and detectable by experts, and must be acknowledged in targeting this group with your marketing. Academics and sociologists have come up with different models that demonstrate the cultural traits that unify Latinos and differentiate them from Anglos. M. Isabel Valdes, one of the pioneering experts in marketing to Hispanics, was the first to illuminate these broad cultural differences between Hispanics and Anglos based on numerous national marketing communication studies which she and Martha Seone published in 1995 in the Hispanic Market Handbook. See following table:



Group oriented “for my family”

Self oriented “for me”

Larger families

Smaller families

Lean toward collectivism

Lean toward individualism

Success family, group satisfaction

Success means personal possessions, individual satisfaction

Stress hierarchies, social class, social stratification, interdependence

Stress equality “equal rights” democracy, authority symmetrical relationships, individual autonomy

Believe in fate: pessimists

Believe in self-determination: optimists

Accept delayed gratification

Look for immediate gratification

“High touch” physical closeness, hugging, affectionate

“High tech” more physically distant



Overt emotions are part of culture

Hiding emotions is encouraged

Pay careful attention to clothing & appearance

Far more relaxed about clothing & appearance

Longer social protocols, indirect

Brief, to the point, direct

Adapt to environment

Change environment

Low reliance on institutions

High reliance on institutions

Value highly personal or personalized service

Value fast, efficiency service at arm’s length

Appreciate being given all the needed time ( the more the better) when interacting with service providers

Appreciate efficiency to the point

Tend to prefer prestige brands

Less likely to prefer prestige brands

Stress cooperation, participation, being part of a group

Stress competition, achievement, motivation, self-competence

Doctors and any established source of authority are respected and trusted and never questioned

Doctors and other established source of authority may be respected and trusted but are often questioned

Relaxed about time

Adhere to schedules

Source: M. Isabel Valdes, 2000,”Marketing to American Latinos, A Guide to the In-Culture Approach.”

Many companies don’t understand how unique and different the Hispanic consumer is, and want to define this market by the use of the Spanish language. Reaching Hispanics, however, involves more than translating a campaign. It’s important to understand the little things that can turn Hispanics on or off and that will make the difference between success and failure when you launch your product.

For instance, The California Milk Processor Board’s astoundingly successful “Got Milk?” advertising campaign, directly translated into Spanish, asked Latino consumers, “Are You Lactating?” Needless to say, this campaign wasn’t very successful with the Hispanic market. But the message did give Hispanics a good laugh—and Latinos are famous for loving humor in their advertising fare. Latinos want to be entertained and laugh (even at themselves). In this case, there was a hilarious consequence when trying to carry the message literally from English to Spanish. But that was not the advertiser’s intention.

Another possible translation of the same tag line was the question “y usted les dio suficiente leche hoy?” (have you given your kids enough milk?) In this case, the line turned off the main demographic target, Hispanics house wives, by questioning the integrity of the keepers of the household, as if, perhaps, they were not doing their duty properly. For a group where family values are extremely important and the role of the mother, provider of food (milk) is proud and unquestionable, this message  was an advertising “sin,” and not funny at all. Smartly, the California Milk Board hired a good Hispanic cultural adviser to help them fix their campaign for the Hispanic market. Culturally adapted, the new slogan, “Familia, Amor y Leche” (Family, Love and Milk), was received much more favorably by Latinos.

Today, The California Milk Processor Board’s latest campaign says “TOMA LECHE” (Drink Milk) proving that yes, there are universal messages, but you still need to double check, and commit to research in terms of time and money to verify if your idea is suitable for both cultures.

The lesson: try not to define the Hispanic market purely by the use of the Spanish language. There are other cultural traits and characteristics that will also help you reach and engage the Latino identity.

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