Is Marketing To Latin Americans and U.S. Hispanics the Same?
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Over the past few years, advertisers have realized how ineffective it was to use general market creative ideas to target U.S. Hispanic consumers. The strategy, also known as “total market,” ignored specific segment’s nuances and cultural insights that are proven to increase the probability of higher advertising ROI.

Abandoning this old one-size-fits-all approach is a step in the right direction. However, one additional question still looms in several advertisers’ minds. How about a creative developed for Latin American countries? Can it also be effective with U.S. Hispanics? How about the opposite? Would an idea created here in the U.S. for the Hispanic segment also be effective in Latin American markets?

This is a fascinating question. After all, Hispanics in the U.S. and Latin Americans share a common culture and language. However, advertisers must be highly cautious in assuming that creative strategies may work perfectly in both markets.

I have had the opportunity to work with both geographical markets in my career, both on the corporate side and as an advertising agency executive. Based on my experience, there are a few differences that will influence how a Latin American consumer or a U.S. Hispanic will react to a brand’s message.

First, external factors must be considered, including the state of the economy in markets an advertiser is considering to launch their campaign, the overall social and political mood, and whether the country is facing a moment of optimism, instability, or crisis. The Latin America region is also considered very volatile from an economic and political perspective, so creative campaigns must “live” in a context that is relevant and authentic.

Second, internal factors may impact the way consumers perceive brands. For instance, how extensive the local competitive set for a brand is and how easily a consumer can find the brand in different distribution channels. For example, in several Latin American markets, online shopping is not even close to being as pervasive and reliable as it is in the U.S., a fact that may drive a different distribution strategy for a brand.

To further discuss this topic, I have reached out to a few industry colleagues with vast experience in both markets and asked for their perspectives. Below you can read an edited version of their comments:

Mike Roca – Managing Director DE&I Investments, Omnicom Media Group

“There are over 20 Latin American countries that have their own distinct culture, heritage, and dialect of the Spanish language. Given that over 65% of the 62 million U.S. Hispanics are U.S.-born, this adds an extra layer of complexity and lived experience that Latin Americans can’t identify with unless they spent a large amount of time in and out of the States during their upbringing. The fact is that U.S. Hispanics want to see authentic reflections and representations of their U.S. lived experiences from marketers who want to sway their purchasing behavior. If you want to connect with almost 20% of the U.S. population, you need to invest in making sure the storytelling is authentic. Marketers need to ensure that their efforts in reaching U.S. Hispanics are equipped with the proper resources to nail down the details that truly distinguish a dedicated campaign vs. a one-size-fits-all.”

Victor Paredes – Executive Director of Account Planning, Lopez Negrete Advertising

“I’ve seen CPG brands positioned from a pricing standpoint as either mainstream or even value-oriented in the U.S., while they were positioned as premium brands in Latin America. In the U.S., given the size and strength of the economy, CPG products are everyday staples of the average middle-class consumer. In Latin America, the same products are a premium treat for affluent consumers. That’s why a brand like Lux from Unilever is a premium self-care product in Latin America, yet comparable products in their U.S. portfolio are value driven products in the U.S. market.”

Marialejandra Urbina – Executive Planning Director, Dieste

“One first stop for marketing to Hispanics is soccer (or fútbol for us). When connecting a brand with the fútbol passion, be aware of the differences, because not all fútbol fans are the same; for Brazilians, it may be more important than life, compared with Venezuelans, where fútbol is only a national theme every four years when the World Cup is played. For instance, the Mexican National Team is a device for the U.S. Hispanics to cheer for their roots in balance with being Americans. On the other hand, the national team is a unity device for Colombians.

Cerveza Aguila rallied for one nation with the campaign during the World Cup qualifiers and in a polarized political context. Its message, Cuando Juega La Sele Juega Todo Un País (when the national team plays, a whole nation plays), reminded Colombians that everything is better when they come together. In contrast, the Mexican National Team brand celebrates how fútbol connects U.S. Hispanics with their Mexican cultural roots while keeping their American pride. The brand’s Somos Locales (we are locals) campaign convokes U.S. Hispanics to reconcile their strong bonds with both nations.”

The examples above confirm that marketers should run a thorough assessment before seeking short-term synergies by using the same strategy and creative elements for campaigns targeting Latin Americans and U.S. Hispanics.

Nowadays and in the foreseeable future, effective marketing strategies should be anchored in deep, relevant, and specific cultural insights. Developing an understanding of the nuances and differences between these two markets is needed.

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