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One Burning Question for National Hispanic Heritage Month

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A Stylized PPT Video

This Stylized PowerPoint Video explores the cultural perspective implications of marketing to Hispanics or Latinos who were born in the USA.  It specifically discusses the differences between cultural assimilation, cultural pluralism and multiculturalism as it it pertains to how Hispanics and Latinos might view their cultural identity.

But the core marketing message it attempts to reinforce doesn’t begin or end just there.  The same foundational concepts that apply in this specific example regarding these two particular groups also pertain to other groups as well, especially in this day and age of significant population diversity.

As such, the universal message featured in this video is both simple and direct: learn as much as you can about your target audience(s).  It can make the difference between an unproductive marketing communications strategy and one that truly supports a customer connection.

One Question

Here is the content of the script (but we recommend viewing the video to get the most from the content):

Each year, from September 15 to October 15, National Hispanic Heritage Month puts the spotlight on U.S. citizens of Hispanic and Latino origin.

Insofar as this special form of recognition has been around for quite some time, it stands to reason that different people will view it in different ways, especially when one considers the remarkable diversity that exists not only within these two cultural groups but across the U.S. population as a whole.

With this brief introduction as a backdrop, one question in particular is as appropriate as any to ask, and it is this:

Are these two groups comprised of U.S. citizens who happen to be Hispanic and Latino, or are they Hispanics and Latinos who happen to be U.S. citizens?

In the event you don’t see a difference between the two choices, I should point out there is a change of emphasis in the dominant cultural identity, and this change is both significant and relevant.  In fact, it’s what makes the question interesting, because it derives from the social lens or perspective through which you view the question.  As a result, your answer will probably depend more on your social perspective than it will on your heritage  –  regardless of whether you’re Hispanic, Latino or something else.

To illustrate this point, let’s look at three different sociological perspectives that could well influence your answer.  They are: cultural assimilation, cultural pluralism and multiculturalism.

Cultural assimilation is a process by which groups and/or individuals grow to share an affinity for one common language and culture.  This is the melting pot idea, where it’s all for one and one for all.

But let’s be realistic.  While this notion once may have been possible during the early development of the United States, the broad range of diversity that now exists across the land makes it difficult, if not impossible, to achieve.

In fact, if you were to breakdown the overall population composition, it would reveal a surprisingly complex pattern of diversity within diversity within diversity.  Even Caucasians possess a variety of differing cultural characteristics, including their ancestry, social class, behavioral norms by locale or region, sexual orientation, religious faith, political views and more.  And yet they get classified into one race, as though they’re all alike.

If the truth be told, no single narrative can capture the nation as a whole to the satisfaction of all, which is what assimilation tries to do.  Just as importantly, there are a good number of people – all across the land — who fear they would lose too much and gain too little in the face of such a narrowly defined perspective.

For this reason, it seems unlikely cultural assimilation will have a strong influence on the answer given to our question.  It does, however, provide us with a point of reference as we move forward.

Instead of assimilation, many citizens would rather go the route of cultural pluralism.  The Wikipedia characterizes this perspective as smaller cultural groups co-existing under a larger cultural umbrella.  Though they retain a strong connection with their roots, they’re more inclined to work on building a common culture of shared values and practices through collaboration with each other.  In this sense, cultural pluralism has the requirement of a dominant culture that flows from the beneficial traits and beliefs of its smaller groups.  It relies on integration rather than assimilation, and it seeks to foster a greater good as opposed to merely settling for the sum of the parts.

People who view our question through this lens are likely to answer it by saying these two cultural groups are U.S. citizens who happen to be Hispanic or Latino.  Possible examples include astronaut Ellen Ochoa, U.S. Senator Ted Cruz, U.S. Navy Admiral David Farragut, and Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor, to name a few.  But lest we forget, others can be found among the people we know and meet in everyday life.

And finally, with social and cultural dynamics being what they are, there is, none too surprisingly, a third perspective to consider.  It’s called multiculturalism.  The Wikipedia says this relates to communities containing multiple cultures.  There’s no expectation for integration or assimilation.  It’s an “I can only do me” approach, where people desire to express their own cultural identity in the manner they see fit.  This perspective also has been referred to as a “salad bowl” or “cultural mosaic.”

Marketers have begun to pay particular attention to this perspective as it pertains to millennial age Hispanics and Latinos.  Also known as Generation Y, they were born between the early 1980s and the early 2000s.

The president and chief creative officer of Alma DDB, which is McDonald’s U.S. Hispanic ad agency, refers to them as “fusionistas,” because they see themselves as 100% Hispanic or Latino and 100% American.  He adds that they’re perfectly comfortable navigating both worlds, and that they have a sense of pride from back home even if they’re born in the U.S.  He uses this as a preface for explaining why the same commercial or advertisement should be done in both Spanish and English.  From a marketing standpoint, it has to do with maintaining the continuity and consistency of the message given to them, and it also demonstrates a sensitivity to their cultural perspective.

The senior Vice President of brand solutions at Univision Communications calls this approach “a la carte acculturation,” because they pick and choose which part of Latino culture they get to keep.  She also notes that because of technology, the prevalence of Spanish-language media, frequent travel back and forth to their home countries, and sheer critical mass, the linear journey to full assimilation is no longer taking place.

Finally, research by the Pew Hispanic Center found that young Hispanics born in the U.S. tend to identify themselves by where their families are from.  52% described themselves by their families’ country of origin, 24% as American, and 20% as Hispanic or Latino.

As you can probably guess by now, people who view our question through this type of lens are apt to say they are Hispanics and Latinos who happen to be U.S. citizens.

So with all this information to reference, we once again, during National Hispanic Heritage Month, ask this burning question:  Are these two groups comprised of U.S. citizens who happen to be Hispanic and Latino, or are they Hispanics and Latinos who happen to be U.S. citizens?

Use the comments section below to let us know what you think.

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