One of the reasons why culture is underestimated in marketing is because it is too complex and dynamic. They are different components that make up culture for individuals: music, tradition, religion, customs, language and furthermore. Culture is always morphing in meaning and changing over time. For example, the New Latinos could have a different understanding of culture than their parents or even grandparents. Even within our own community, all of us are different. Just with language, while most of us speak Spanish, words can vary in meaning and usage in different countries. In the Dominican Republic, I could be waiting for la guagua to go to school, while you are waiting for el autobús in Mexico. We are waiting for the same thing, a bus, but we are using different diction. Some words can even have negative or vulgar connotations in one place but not in others. Just how we have to be mindful as Americans when we visit other countries such as Japan, which uses very different body language compared to the United States, within our own Hispanic communities we need to be mindful of word choice.
Marketers make the mistake of picking one specific Hispanic country from the mosaic and promoting their particular culture as universal. For instance, if a company were to make a commercial and its target audience is Hispanics, but they only identify and represent Mexican culture, they are excluding the rest of the community which can very easily have variation in language, traditions, customs, music, and clothing. It is nearly impossible to try to address each individual nation and the culture that is imbedded into the people of those countries. Therefore, marketers need to account for the general ideals, beliefs, and customs that bind as all together as the Hispanic community. It is a mistake to treat the Hispanic community as homogeneous; we are all unique and different. At the same time, all the different components of Hispanic culture that bind us together as a community and as an ethnic group are what make us marketable. Most Hispanic and Latino countries share a similar historical background, language, religion, and beliefs. Marketers use those similarities in order to target the community as a whole. Hispanics are targetable because marketers can reach Hispanics in different parts of the United States. For example, Hispanics tend to mostly reside and populate the west, southwest, and some parts of the east. Marketers can focus on those specific geographical areas and reach a large percentage of the Hispanic population living in the United States. They can focus ads, commercials, and even campaigns in those areas and know that is it reaching their target audience.
Using the example of the beauty community, Hispanic women are described as the “foundation” of the beauty industry. According to Nielsen, within the makeup, hair care, and personal hygiene, sales have grown exponentially in Hispanic households versus non-Hispanics (“Hispanic Consumers are the Foundation,” 2015). This indicates that women in our community are steadily consuming these products. Hispanic men are also consuming large amounts of beauty and hair care products compared to non-Hispanic men. The article attributes this to the fact that Hispanics tend to care about their personal appearance and like to feel good about themselves. The average U.S.-born Hispanic household spends an average of $275 on beauty each year, compared with $267 for foreign-born Hispanics. That number drops to $213 annually for non-Hispanics (Gustafson, 2015). This could also be attributed to the Hispanic idea that we work really hard and we deserve to treat ourselves to nice things for doing so. Furthermore, U.S born Hispanics represent about 64% of total Hispanics and their higher spending on beauty products is correlated to their higher incomes (“Hispanic Consumers are the Foundation,” 2015).
Nonetheless, cosmetic companies tend to not consider Hispanics when it comes to product development and marketing. They are underrepresented not only in the beauty industry but in the fashion industry. As someone who is very intrigued by cosmetics and the politics behind the industry, I have gathered that the Hispanic and black communities are rarely represented. For instance, with face products such as foundation, companies tend to only cater to the middle majority. This means that some colors are knocked off from the lighter end of the shade range and a lot of colors are knocked off from the medium, deep, and deep dark categories. Hispanic women, who tend to be more in the medium to deep range, often cannot find shade matches in most cosmetic lines. Marketers and advertisers still use women of color such as Hispanics and African Americans to promote the product, but in reality, the shades are simply not there for them. Some recent companies who have done this are Tarte and Beautyblender, who claim to cater to the Hispanic and Black community in particular, yet the undertones and shades did not reflect inclusivity. Hispanic women are either forced to buy from other brands who might have their shade or are forced to buy multiple shades (which involves spending more money), in hopes of creating the perfect match themselves.
Another industry in which Hispanics, particularly women are gaining momentum is the fashion and clothing industry. By the year 2060, Hispanic women will make up about 30% of the population (Navas, 2016). As this number continues to increase, more companies are starting to take notice of the monetary contributions Hispanics make and the large amount of capital they put into different industries. According to NBC News, “fashion conscious, socially engaged and upwardly mobile Latinas are being seen as the new driving force behind market growth” (Howe, 2015). It also states that by 2019, Hispanics will account for almost 11 percent of total U.S buying power (Howe, 2015). In 2014, Hispanics have an estimated $1.2 trillion dollars spending power and statistics indicate that women are managing the household budget (Howe, 2015). Hispanics average $1,998 on apparel and service purchases per year, compared to $1,659 for non-Hispanics (Navas, 2016). Furthermore, Google reports that 66% of online Hispanics pay attention to clothing ads- 20 points more than the general market (Navas, 2016). But nonetheless, Hispanic women are hardly represented in fashion shows or beauty campaigns. In major runways such as the Victoria’s Secret Fashion Show, only a small percentage of Latina women have walked, most of them being from Brazil. According to The Guardian, 78.2% of all models featured in spring 2016’s fashion adverts were white while only 3.8% were Hispanic (Elan, 2016).
Even though Hispanics, particularly women, have the money and drive to spend money and consume fashion and beauty items, they are hardly represented or included. Although uniquely targetable, marketers often look the other way when it comes to including and addressing our community. If more young Hispanic girls and boys saw individuals who come from similar countries, who look like them, and who talk like them in these types of advertisements and commercials, they will be more inclined to consume those products. The Hispanic market continues to increase not only in numbers, but also in buying power. Hispanics do not want to be sold to, they want to connect with brands who understand, represent, and respect their culture (Llopis, 2013). Hispanic consumers are not hesitant to spend their hard-earned money on products, but they do want to feel a connection. This idea also connects to the initial concept discussed: why is culture underestimated in marketing? It is underestimated because marketers are still trying to find ways to gain the trust and support of the Hispanic community. This is the idea of cultural intelligence which is described as “the capability to relate and work effectively in culturally diverse situations” (“What is CQ?,” n.d.). This means that marketers should not simply translate English into Spanish and expect that Hispanics are now reached and convinced (Llopis, 2013). Until marketers across the board understand this concept of cultural intelligence, Hispanics will not be receptive, regardless of buying power.
The Hispanic community continues to increase in large numbers. Hispanic women are taking control of their finances and are consuming millions of dollars in products. Although I used the example of both the beauty and fashion industry, Hispanics are also making changes in many other industries. Due to the large population living in the U.S. and their large buying power, many industries are starting to shift the way they market to Hispanics. They are taking note of the influence Hispanics have and are changing the way they approach and reach this audience. Marketers are now acknowledging that they cannot continue to underestimate the importance of culture while promoting products and when creating ads. Our community is targetable, loyal, and open-minded. We are willing to spend our hard-earned money. Marketers need to work on marketing inclusivity and show an appreciation for the ideals that make us unique as a culture.
By Regina Sanquintin – Florida State University
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