In the NY Times article published Saturday, January 14, “For many Latinos, Racial Identity is more Culture than Color” the author, Erika Lubliner reports that Cultural Identity is the main self-defining difference between Latinos and Non-Latinos living in the U.S. today.
We strongly applaud the NY Times for contributing to the clarification of this matter because not only is it crucial to how the government views the Latino community and the making of policy, but for those of us involved in marketing and communications, it underscores what many of us have been arguing for years now: that cultural identity drives behavior.
Yet cultural identity is not that of Mexicans in Mexico or Puerto Ricans in Puerto Rico. We don’t wake up one day after a certain number of years in the U.S. and become “American”, leaving behind other cultural ties. A new Latino identity emerges over time among Latinos living in the U.S. as we integrate new values to those of our original culture. Values of the original culture combine with the acquired new values; for the majority of Latinos, new values do not replace our original cultural values whereby we are “converted” to those of Non-Hispanics or American values. Thus, the business of building brands among the fastest growing consumer segment in the U.S. is not only about in-language messages but more importantly at a strategic level, it’s about linking Brand Values to Latino’s new cultural identity. We call this Cultural Linking℠.
In 2008 the Association of Hispanic Advertising Agencies (AHAA) conducted the Latino Identity Study to gain insights into four cultural identity values that define Hispanics in the U.S. as Latinos: Interpersonal Orientation; Time and Space Perception; Spirituality; and, Gender Role Perception. The study found that even among U.S. born English dominant Latinos, these four cultural values associated with original culture prevailed.
Let’s take Spiritualism and Healthcare, for example. In Latin culture, which is largely grounded on Catholic religion and spiritualism, your health is really in the hands of God. So while you can take a remedy to alleviate symptoms, the context of prevention and long term healthcare is less compelling because in the end the outcome is in God’s hands and there is little you can do to alter that course. This cultural connection or rather disconnect with the ability of health products or the medical profession to be resources for one’s health and well-being is a barrier that must be recognized and somehow addressed in the brand’s marketing scope and communication.
It does not mean that your brand needs to mean something different, but in most cases, it does mean that you need to link your message to possibly different triggers to make it relevant and compelling.
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