How to target bilingual and biculturals Latinos in the USA

Advertisers often alienate first- and second-generation Hispanics

When we say the word Hispanics, we’re lumping a large, diverse range of people into one very narrow group. Though Hispanics do share a common ethnicity, their experiences and history are quite different, and understanding that is a key part of putting together an effective media plan to reach them. One growing subgroup of Hispanics in the U.S. is bicultural Hispanics, first- or second-generation citizens who grew up in this country. Many are also Millennials, and they toggle easily between cultures and languages. Connecting with this group can be challenging for advertisers. They are easily alienated by anything that appears inauthentic or pandering. They appreciate advertising that speaks directly to them and doesn’t just have a Spanish voiceover slapped on. Aleena Astorga Roeschley, research director and multicultural expert at Communicus, an advertising consultancy, talks to Media Life about defining bicultural Hispanics, targeting them more effectively, and how to mimic previous campaigns that have worked. 

Who are we talking about when we discuss bicultural Hispanics? Did these people grow up in the U.S.? What age group are they? 

Typically, the group that we think of as bicultural Hispanics are first- or second-generation U.S. citizens. These are often individuals whose parents immigrated to the U.S. either before they were born or when they were young children.

They have thus spent all or most of their lives in the U.S. but were raised in a Spanish-speaking household in which the traditions of the land of their heritage were – and continue to be – celebrated.

As children who learned English at a young age and who spoke English in school, they learned to fit into American culture while also maintaining a comfortable relationship with the culture of their family, extended family and family friends.

Many biculturals are Millennials; in fact, 55 percent of Hispanic Millennials consider themselves to be bicultural, while only 18 percent consider themselves highly acculturated and 25 percent claim to be relatively unacculturated.

What language(s) do biculturals speak? Do they generally prefer Spanish- or English-language media? 

bicultural Hispanics are characterized by the fact that they live with one foot in each of two worlds. They typically switch easily back and forth between Spanish and English, depending on where they are and who they are with, occasionally mixing the two languages within a conversation – or using “Spanglish.”

Their media choices are “equal opportunity” as well, consuming both Spanish-language and English-language media depending on where they are, who they are with and, most importantly, what language their chosen programming is presented in.

They recognize, and are comfortable with, the fact that when they are looking for certain types of entertainment, sports and news, it will be most readily available in English (and is part of the acculturated side of their lives), while the more Hispanic parts of their identities will be nurtured with Spanish-language media choices.

How do advertisers alienate bicultural Hispanics? 

The surest way to alienate bicultural Hispanics is to market to them in ways that come across as inauthentic or insincere.

Hispanics engage with a lot of English-language media in addition to the Spanish-language media that they see. So when they encounter a Spanish-language ad, they’ve most likely already seen the brand’s general market campaign. In this case there are two ways they can be alienated:

Using Spanish-language audio track on a general-market ad communicates that a brand doesn’t care enough to really take the time to understand the Hispanic audience.

This strategy comes across as a brand taking a short cut.

Or Hispanic-targeted ads that are inconsistent with a brand’s identity. A sure sign of inauthenticity is to try to be different things to different people just because that’s what a brand thinks they want.

Bicultural Hispanics will see through brands that try to cater to them in ways that are at odds with what they know to be the truth of the brand.

How can advertisers show they do care about these consumers? 

Do your homework.

Learn about how your brand fits into the lives of bicultural Hispanics and what value it can provide to this target. Then go back to your brand and what it stands for and find the intersection between what they want and who you are.

Once a clear sense of what your brand can be to this group has been developed, create customized communication approaches that activate on the basis of their Hispanic side but that also are consistent with the general market communications that connect with their more acculturated side.

biculturalsWhat’s an example of a campaign that worked, and why? 

The McDonald’s “Me Encanta” campaign is an example of a Hispanic-targeted campaign that is consistent with what the brand has developed for the general market but that is executed in Spanish-language executions that provide that extra spark of recognition and celebration of its Hispanic target.

The “I’m lovin’ it” brand position and personality is authentically conveyed so that the bicultural individual who sees the Spanish-language executions has a seamless experience of the brand in a way that cements the connection with the target.

Because the McDonald’s demographic target is broad, and the menu includes multiple dayparts and menu items, the campaign includes multiple executions.

In one, Dominican American singer Leslie Grace creates a musical entitled “Un poquito de lovin.” In others, Hispanics of all ages show the love and joyously partake of McDonald’s to the sounds of catchy tunes using lyrics that are customized to each spot, daypart and menu item.

The campaign effectively captures the brand personality and tagline, not in direct translation, but better conveyed by “Me Encanta,” and yet manages to speak to its bicultural Hispanic customer in ways that ring true and are personally relevant.

How important is brand affinity to biculturals?

Building brand affinity should be a goal of all advertisers who hope to succeed with bicultural Hispanics.

It’s not always an easy task because, after all, this group does have somewhat of a split personality. That said, affinity is manifested somewhat differently for biculturals than for their non-Hispanic counterparts.

Non-Hispanic consumers tend to experience brand affinity as more individual – this is a brand for me or for people like me. It’s personal.

In contrast, biculturals are more social; if they like this brand, it’s one they want to share – this is a brand that I want to share with my friends or I want to tell my friends about.

How can advertisers build this? 

Astute advertisers can use this social aspect of brand affinity to their advantage.

It’s not just about advertising that shows people in social settings using the product together. Rather, it’s about building the types of affinity and personal connections with biculturals that make them want to share, and then using promotional programs, social media initiatives and other communications to provide them with opportunities to share.

Do biculturals put more emphasis on brand affinity than other demos? Why or why not? 

Brand affinity is a key driver of brand success across every demographic group, although affinity tends to be manifested somewhat differently among bicultural Hispanics. That is, with a strong social component, advertisers who manage to build a strong affinity between biculturals and their brand can potentially generate a relatively bigger payoff on the basis of this affinity.