Cultural Marketing – The New Latino in the United States

  •     Migration patterns suggest that those emigrating from Mexico and Central America, two large sources of Hispanic immigrants to the U.S., are often from lower socioeconomic classes of workers and farmers searching for a better life (Korzenny, Chapa, & Korzenny, 2017). These immigrants then look for work in the U.S. with their current skills, taking on “hazardous jobs that pay low wages—mostly in service, construction, and agriculture” (Nevárez, Castañeda, Rodriguez & Reynoso, 2019). These poorer classes are also often fleeing danger and insecurity in their home countries (Davies, 2009). In return for leaving all they know, Hispanic immigrants are afforded a greater chance at upward mobility and financial success for themselves and more likely their children (Kaba, 2008). What this creates is a New Latino whose psychographics include knowing poverty and hardship, who are living in unknown territory, and who therefore unaccustomed to being able to buy consumer goods. These immigrants essentially become consumers in the modern sense upon coming the United States, and who need information on how to navigate a consumer landscape and understand products and product benefits (Korzenny et al., 2017). Mainstream U.S. consumers have been raised as consumers, and marketing in Latin America is targeted to those upper class consumers that can afford products in the first place. Advertising designed for these two audiences would not work on the average New Latino consumer.
  •     Once they are in the United States, New Latinos are also experiencing a profound culture shock and adaptation process that their Latin American counterparts don’t experience. This process is anxiety-inducing, in which someone “reevaluates his or her original culture and question[s] the host culture” (Korzenny et al., 2017). This includes trying to navigate systems, rules ad products non-immigrants take for granted. For example, in a study of immigrant Latina teachers’ experiences, Joan Fee noted “there was the overwhelming lack of familiarity with a new country—new driving regulations, different medical systems, different schools for the children, changed holidays” (2011). Stages of acculturation include a honeymoon phase where they’re retaining their home culture; an irritating, confused stage of realizing differences; an angry/blaming stage where they may blame the host culture’s residents; a calmer, objective stage of weighing the positives and negatives, and a final stage where the person can navigate both cultures comfortably (Pedersen, 1995). Marketers need to understand that this segment may anxious, unsure or even angry about their product since it is different and new, just one more thing to learn and get used to.
  •     One final psychographic trait that applies to a majority of immigrant New Latinos is risk-taking behavior, because the process of immigration requires significant risk for the chance at better life. Undocumented immigrants face dangerous journeys crossing the border or arriving by sea, risking life and limb. Once they’ve arrived, they are more willing and likely to take on dangerous jobs in agriculture and construction that native-born workers don’t want (Davies, 2009). They also face the risk of unforeseen difficulties in a new environment and not achieving their goals, and even more likely, that their experience in the U.S. would not be what they expected or hoped for. In a 2019 study on acculturative stress, participants described going from educated positions in their home country to mopping floors, feeling lonely and isolated since they didn’t understand English, and struggling with dashed dreams and struggles to find work (Buckingham & Suarez-Pedraza, 2019). Despite these challenges and significantly poor wellbeing, participants persevered and continuing working hard and taking risks to connect with others, find work, and navigate life in the U.S. (Buckingham & Suarez-Pedraza, 2019). Marketers need to understand the entrepreneurial and hard-working spirit of the New Latino, psychographic traits which are passed down from the people who chose to face the perils of immigration to their children and grandchildren.
  •     The process of immigration has developed a New Latino identity in the United States that unites a heterogeneous group of people with common psychographic traits that make them similar enough to be a viable target market. Most of these first-generation immigrants have backgrounds as members of lower socioeconomic class, making them new consumers who are purchasing mass consumer goods for the first time who need more education about products. They are also often experiencing some stage of culture shock, creating anxiety and stress around products they’re unfamiliar with. These immigrants are also fundamental risk-takers, risking their safety and wellbeing for a chance at success. By keeping these traits in mind and treating U.S. Hispanics as a distinct cultural group, marketers have a greater chance of reaching this growing and highly profitable market.

BY Melissa Carmona – Hispanic Marketing Communication / Florida State University


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Korzenny, F., Chapa, S., & Korzenny, B. A. (2017). Hispanic marketing: The power of the new
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Pedersen, P. (1995). The five stages of culture shock: Critical incidents around the world.
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