What works better in communicating with the Hispanic market, a culture general or a culture specific approach?

28 Jul 2003|Felipe Korzenny

There is no one universal solution to successfully communicating with Hispanics as there is no universal approach to reach any other specific cultural group. Social classes, countries of origin, and other areas of experience determine what messages will be effective or ineffective in reaching a market. Nevertheless, Hispanics do share a large amount of common cultural and social experience that makes it possible to create “pan-Hispanic” messages.

Consider that Celia Cruz was originally from Cuba but that most of her career flourished in Mexico. Her Caribbean music and fame was consolidated in Mexico. Music, cinematography, food, and other aspects of specific Latin American countries travel freely throughout the continent. One can listen to Mariachi music in Buenos Aires and to Tango in Mexico City. Salsa clubs sprout everywhere in Latin America with great success. Shows from Televisa, the Mexican TV giant, are seen in many countries, the same is true of Brazilian Globo TV productions.

If these popular art forms from the different Latin American countries can cross political boundaries easily, why should advertising be very different, particularly among US Hispanics. Hispanics share the cultural heritage from Spain that includes the language, religion, and multiple experiences that shape their perceptions and values. One message can work across Hispanic groups and there are multiple examples of successful advertising campaigns that work well in a “pan-Hispanic” fashion. Ads for Folgers, American Airlines, Toyota, Pepto Bismol, and Colgate have worked extremely well across the different clusters that compose the Hispanic market.

Still, it must be said that depending on the specific product and objective one message may not work well for all Hispanics. If the product has a very clear Mexican tradition and heritage, then communicating it to Mexicans would need to be different from communication to Caribbean Hispanics. The popular brand of Mexican soft drink Jarritos could not be communicated the same way to Mexicans and non-Mexicans because Mexicans know the product and associate it with specific experiences. For non-Mexicans Jarritos would need to be introduced as a new product.

Consumer research and understanding is fundamental in determining whether or not a common message can be effective across Hispanic cultures. Once product and category perceptions are understood, then one can proceed with a universal or a specific strategy.

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