Equally important in this discussion is the language factor. Does language unify or divide U.S. Hispanics? Based on the data above, language does not seem to unify all Hispanics living in the United States. As a result, we can no longer say that Spanish is the primary language spoken among all U.S. Hispanics and that Spanish is the only way to reach all Hispanics segments effectively. (See Table 2).
So, if U.S. Hispanics are inherently different by language, then what defines U.S. Hispanics? Is it culture? Or should we say, cultures—in the plural? To answer these questions, we turn to a study authored by Amado Padilla and William Perez in 2000, who measured cultural orientation across three generations of U.S. Hispanic adolescents.
This study found along American cultural orientation, third-generation Hispanics had significant higher mean scores (M=81.19) than both the first- (M=74.49) and second-generation Hispanics (M=77.17). However, first- and second-generation students did not differ greatly from each other on American cultural orientation.
On Hispanic cultural orientation, first-generation Hispanics had significantly higher Hispanic cultural orientation scores (M=74.74) than did the second-generation (M=68.01) and third-generation Hispanics (62.07), which is to be expected. These findings suggest that within a few generations, most Hispanic teens exhibit a predominant American culture orientation while maintaining traces of their Hispanic cultural orientation, simultaneously.
What does all of this mean? Though the study examined Hispanic adolescents, the findings suggest that one's orientation to the American (Anglo) culture predominates, while traces of Hispanic culture orientation remain. So, to what degree does this study apply to the other segments of the Hispanic population? Because U.S. Hispanics are exposed (to various degrees) to two cultures, it is expected that Hispanics in the United States will show differences in their Anglo and Hispanic cultural orientations based on their generational status.
In the end, the future of Hispanic marketing will need to address the cultural diversity within the Hispanic population. Having said that, we do not have to wait to do something about it; the future is here. As we saw in Table 1, 60 percent of the Hispanic population in 2000 was comprised of second- and third-generation Hispanics, many of whom speak both Spanish and English or English-only. By 2010, those figures will rise to 62 percent.
The question remains whether a Spanish-language effort is enough to target the U.S. Hispanic population. Based on the data presented by Pew, the answer seems to be that more must be done. Politically, it may be the wrong question to ask, but English does reach the bilingual and English-dominant segments. The question remains—how do we target these segments; and what are their differences?
Additionally, while there are clear segments within the U.S. Hispanic segment, it is important to note that they are all self-appointed Hispanics. But what does being 'a Latino' mean to each of these segments? They may use the same umbrella term, but do they define it the same way? Does it mean the same thing for all U.S. Hispanics? Besides using a convenient label to self-reference, what stirs the soul of these consumers? How different are they from one another?
The billion dollar question lies in—how to effectively address the diversity within the Hispanic segment from a media and marketing perspective. I am sure there is a great deal of work that's taking place right now to answer this matter. But who will take the lead? What will leadership look like, feel like, sound like? At this point in time, one thing is certain: the future of the U.S. Hispanic population isn't going to look anything like it did in the past. And neither should the approach.
This is Jake Beniflah with another issue of In Perspective.
Jacob Beniflah, Ph.D., CEO of Integrados, a strategic brand consulting firm in San Francisco for the U.S. Hispanic segment. Sixteen years of strategic brand consulting experience in Spain, Latin America, and in the U.S. general and Hispanic markets. Responsible for the strategic planning, brand positioning, and execution of marketing communication programs for Fortune 500 clients.
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