Maria AmorMaria Amor

One of the stories that continues to make headlines these days is the wall that President Donald Trump has promised to build along the U.S.-Mexico border. This wall is meant to keep Mexicans from coming to the U.S. illegally and taking advantage of all the “Land of Opportunity” has to offer. For the nearly 120 million people living in Mexico and 33 million-plus Mexicans living in the States, however, this wall also serves as a separation of cultures and a dismissal of the impact Latinos have on the U.S. economy and society.

Ironically, for more than two decades, brands in the U.S. have been working hard to do the opposite. Recognizing the spending power of Latinos and understanding the growth of this demographic, they’ve been developing marketing programs to break down the walls and cultural barriers between their products and Latino consumers. Many brands started out by translating their English language campaign to Spanish. Then they started to pay attention to passion points, using food, family, sports, music and other areas of interest as anchors to connect with Hispanic consumers (after all, don’t all Mexicans love soccer, spicy food and mariachis?).

While those approaches worked for unacculturated consumers, the growth of second- and third- generation Latinos, and the acculturation level of those who have now spent more time in the U.S. than their home country, has made it more challenging for brands to emotionally connect with Hispanics. Today, marketers need to look at psychographics as much as demographics to understand consumer behavior and identify the appropriate way to insert themselves into the lives of biculturals.

Let’s look at sports for a minute: while soccer has the greatest following among Latinos, biculturals’ love for athletics goes beyond this game. Many have grown up watching “El Tri” with their families, and their American friends have introduced them to basketball, MMA, boxing, baseball and more. According to Nielsen, the second most watched sport among U.S. Hispanics is professional football. Given that a huge portion of the Oakland Raiders, Dallas Cowboys and Houston Texans’ fan base is comprised of Mexicans, it makes sense to market to them. And the NFL has taken notice, increasing their Hispanic advertising spend by 60 percent over the last five years.

While Hispanics may follow similar players as their general market counterparts — such as Tom Brady and Eli Manning — their viewing habits differ. This is where culture comes in. Hispanics tend to live in larger households; therefore, there’s greater “co-viewing” taking place, which is essential for bonding and interaction. The language preference will differ based on who is watching. If there is an older family member participating, chances are the broadcast will be in Spanish; if it’s among friends, they will more likely be watching in English. Regardless, these viewing occasions are great opportunities for social gatherings where beer and food are likely to be consumed.

Speaking of food, there’s no denying the proliferation of Latin products and flavors in American grocery stores. While this is an attempt to attract Hispanic shoppers, the reality is bicultural consumers are not only shopping in this aisle; like their general market counterparts, they also want variety in their meal options. That’s not to say they can’t incorporate Latin products into their recipes. For example, Nestle’s Dulce de Leche recently held a blogger event in which chef Julian Medina used the product as an ingredient for a pork ribs glaze. While pork ribs are more of an American dish, the use of a Latin flavor such as Dulce de Leche is a way of acknowledging bicultural consumers’ backgrounds. Additionally, because younger generations have been more exposed to other cultures through travel, they will likely seek to relive those experiences by searching for authentic dishes. While food is a key passion for Latinos and will continue to be a vehicle to retain culture and traditions — such as making tamales during the holidays — it is important to recognize that their palates are as versatile as their interests.

That ability to move between American and Hispanic lifestyles is the key differentiator between acculturated and unacculturated consumers. If you want to understand what it means to transition seamlessly from one culture to another, just listen to “Sin Contrato” by Maluma featuring Fifth Harmony or “Perdon (Forgiveness)” with Nicky Jam and Enrique Iglesias. These examples not only represent the ease with which Hispanic consumers move from one language to another, they also showcase a blend of different rhythms inspired by the artists’ Latin roots and American influence. Biculturals are remixing their lives and their playlists reflect their eclectic lifestyle. Music is often used as a platform to connect with consumers and with the large number of Latino artists crossing over to mainstream (JLo, PitBull and Shakira, to name a few), it makes it easier for brands to reach a more diverse audience.

So, why is this convergence of cultures happening? Mostly because Hispanics are changing the way they consume media and it’s shaping the way they think. They watch U.S.-based television programs and movies and they digest English-language news on a minute-by-minute basis; it’s only natural these developments will have a long-lasting effect on their interests and passions.

While there are many data points on Hispanics available through census research, there is a lot more that can be gained from looking at consumers’ social media profiles, the comments and reviews they leave on the internet or the online groups to which they belong. This will provide brands and marketers with a more realistic view into the lives, attitudes and interests of bicultural consumers. And they just might be surprised to find that there really isn’t a wall separating bicultural Latinos from their general market counterparts.


Maria Amor is vice president of Havas FORMULATIN, the Hispanic PR division of Havas Formula. She also serves as vice president of programming on the Hispanic Public Relations Association’s national board.