When Marketing and Self-Esteem Interact

08 Feb 2005|Felipe Korzenny

Being Hispanic in the United States was not “cool” in the 50’s, 60’s, and 70’s. We were punished for speaking Spanish in school, and looked down upon for speaking Spanish at work or almost anywhere. There was a stigma associated with being different and poor.

Marketers could not see any reason to approach a “niche” market like that. In the 70’s the US Bureau of the Census needed to come up with a scheme that would aggregate people of Latin American origin in the US. That was mainly for political reasons, but an unprecedented effort. After the 1980, Census found that there were 10 million Hispanics in the US that decade was pronounced “The Decade of Hispanics.” All of a sudden Hispanics had a political identity as a group. Little did we know that the power of Hispanics would come not just from politics but also, in a major way, from the economic sphere.

Whether the label Hispanic was rightly chosen or not, and whether Latino is better or worse is not important. What matters is that now there are about 45 million Hispanics in the US with an approximate spending power of 750 billion dollars. This is just 25 years after the “Decade of Hispanics” had been declared.

Increasingly, since the 1980’s marketers have paid more and more attention to US Hispanics and unwittingly they have created a most fascinating phenomenon. Those who were previously seen as unworthy are now being courted. In an interesting turn of events the marketing efforts directed to US Hispanics have done a great job in enhancing their self- esteem. All that attention has made Hispanic consumers worthy and popular. Speaking Spanish in public is now a good thing. Parents encourage their kids to be bilingual because bilingual people have more job opportunities. What a change! Acculturation is now more desirable than assimilation. That is, to acquire a second culture as oppose to replacing one’s original culture with the second. Preserving Hispanic roots is now desirable.

The change has stronger repercussions. Non-Hispanics are now coveting the products Hispanics like. Salsa has largely replaced Ketchup, “dulce de leche” has become a popular flavor, and Corona Extra has become a marketing phenomenon. Mexican cinema is now admired in the US with movies like “Amores Perros” and “Y Tu Mamá también.” Hispanic Movie stars and celebrities are now everywhere and they enhance the stature of anyone of Hispanic origin in the US. Those who enjoy dancing now dance to “tango,” “salsa,” and other “Latin” rhythms.

Entenmann’s, the national US bakery, reputed for their high quality products, announced recently that they are coming up with a line of Hispanic bakery products including “tres leches” cakes, and many other delicacies loved by Latin Americans. Entenmann’s has it right. If their new products are good Hispanics will flock to them. And interestingly, non-Hispanics are likely to also appreciate these exotic alternatives. Soon Jarritos will be the soft-drink parallel to Corona Extra in the beer category.

What starts with a profit motivation turns into a phenomenon that enhances the social standing and the esteem of a people. What an interesting world is this world of marketing!

prev next