Marketing to American Latinos (Part 1): A Guide to the In‐Culture Approach

Charles L. Sharp (Assistant Professor of Marketing University of Louisville, Louisville, Kentucky, USA)

Journal of Consumer Marketing

ISSN: 0736-3761

Article publication date: 1 April 2002




Sharp, C.L. (2002), "Marketing to American Latinos (Part 1): A Guide to the In‐Culture Approach", Journal of Consumer Marketing, Vol. 19 No. 2, pp. 168-170.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

The importance of the Hispanic market is readily justified based on its population (35.5 million) and spending power ($383 billion or 5.9 percent share of the total consumer spending). Companies that recognize the opportunities that can be derived from effective target marketing are increasingly implementing marketing efforts targeted to Hispanic consumer segments.

Section 1, “The ‘new’ Hispanic consumer”, is primarily concerned with the facts and figures relating to the Hispanic‐American market. This information could be useful to business executives not yet fully involved with marketing to the Hispanic‐American market. Here can be found some of the ammunition necessary to develop the justification often required before taking the plunge into the Hispanic‐American market segment. In Section 2, “In‐culture advertising” and Section 3, “The Latino market is many markets”, the focus shifts to interests of those business executives already involved in marketing efforts targeted to the Hispanic American market. These executives are no longer at the justification stage, but seek to develop new programs and/or refine and improve their existing Hispanic marketing programs. The final section, Section 4, “Case studies”, is devoted to case studies that provide concise examples of the Hispanic marketing experiences of various companies competing in a variety of industries.

The author very astutely recognizes the increasing presence of Hispanic marketing programs. Concurrently, she likely also recognizes that many such efforts are probably being launched and maintained with limited knowledge and even less insight concerning Hispanic consumers. In addition to those companies that have already taken the plunge into the Hispanic market, an even greater number of companies remain that have not yet taken the plunge and will likely require justification for taking the plunge.

The book begins with sections entitled “About the author” and “Foreword” that provide background and professional information concerning the author,. assuring the reader that the author is substantially qualified to write on the subject of marketing to American Latinos. The author currently advises an impressive list of clients that includes such major companies as Coca‐Cola, General Mills, Honda of America, and Proctor and Gamble.

Chapter 1 – “Hispanics in the US: a snapshot of the year 2000” – provides a balance‐sheet perspective of much of the demographics and economics of the US Hispanic market segment. Relevant statistical information beyond the usual US Bureau of the Census data is provided. Further discussion identifies the various Hispanic subgroups; the preferred reference labels (“Hispanic” or “Latino”); and the issue of the sizable uncounted Hispanic population.

Chapter 2 – “Hispanic past and present” – attempts to provide a historical background of the major Hispanic subgroups. However, historical timelines provided are necessarily superficial, and the subsequent discussion is not clearly focused toward relevant marketing implications of the history.

Chapter 3 – “Is there a Hispanic ‘melting pot’?” – is the last chapter of Section 1. This chapter addresses the issue of acculturation of the Hispanic populations in the USA. Much of the discussion concerns usage of the Spanish language, since “… language is perhaps the most distinguishable characteristic of any culture and probably the last one any immigrant group will relinquish” (p.23). This chapter should be particularly helpful to marketing managers who are frequently faced with attempting to determine when to use the Spanish language to reach Hispanic target markets.

Chapter 4 – “The ‘in‐culture’ difference” – focuses on communicating to marketing managers that Hispanic segment marketing efforts should not be mere translations of general market strategies. Rather, “… to communicate successfully with consumers from another culture, it is necessary to do more than just speak the language; one must speak the culture” (p. 36). Accordingly, this chapter discusses how to effectively communicate “in‐culture” to Hispanic target segments.

Chapter 5 – “Ongoing acculturation”– addresses very specific cultural traits that are particular to the Hispanic market and are often very different than those of the non‐Hispanic culture in the USA. The chapter provides a checklist of cultural characteristics that should be considered by marketing managers as they attempt to communicate “in‐culture” to Hispanic target segments.

Chapter 6 – “Marketing in a bicultural context” – discusses specific target market opportunities that are represented in the Hispanic market. For example, target market opportunities involving “Generation Ñ” and the “New Latina” are investigated in terms of the business opportunities that they may offer.

Chapter 7 – “Gaining share of heart” – advances the discussion of communicating, “in‐culture” to Hispanic target segments. The chapter discusses how to gain acceptance in the Hispanic market. Accordingly, common stereotypes that should be avoided are exposed.

Chapter 8 – “How to communicate in‐culture” – the last chapter in Section 2, continues the discussion of communicating “in‐culture”. The concept of knowing the customer is not new to marketing theory and practice. However, this chapter provides specific methods that can be used to get to know Hispanic consumers.

Chapter 9 – “How to ‘think’ Hispanic” – provides further insight concerning the Hispanic market by again discussing cultural characteristics that substantially differ from non‐Hispanic markets. A consistent theme that exists throughout the book is captured in this chapter: “… business people need to be familiar with the backgrounds of Hispanics. It is surprising how different their experiences are from those of the general market” (p. 92). Chapter 10 – “What’s in a name? Cultural diversity within the market”, the last chapter in Section 3, provides a thumbnail discussion of the general cultural characteristics of each of the major Hispanic subgroups: Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and Cubans.

Finally, Section 4 presents nine case studies of a broad range of companies that have developed marketing programs designed to capture Hispanic market opportunities. The case studies are brief and provide specific statements of results. Each of the case studies presents results that are very impressive marketing success stories. However, not all Hispanic marketing programs are successful. Though the author did not include discussion of unsuccessful Hispanic marketing efforts, the opportunity to also review unsuccessful Hispanic marketing programs could have provided valuable insight.

“Marketing to American Latinos” (Part 1) has been written primarily for business executives at varying levels of knowledge and experience concerning marketing to Hispanic‐Americans. The book is written in a direct and concise style with simple sentence structure that results in a very easy‐to‐read language. The page‐wise formatting of the book uses wide and offset left margins with liberally placed subject headings. Therefore, the end of a topic is frequently near, thus making the book easily read even with the usual interruptions. Tables and statistics that provide convincing support for the arguments offered in the text are also liberally presented throughout the book. These tables and statistics provide generous information that could be used to develop persuasive justification for initial funding, and/or on‐going support for marketing programs targeted to Hispanic American consumers. Additionally, the bibliography includes a listing of references that provide information that could be useful when justifying and/or refining marketing efforts targeted to the Hispanic‐American market.

This book provides useful insight to all who seek greater knowledge and insight concerning Hispanic Americans. The marketing implications of this knowledge are consistently and clearly presented throughout the book. Part 2 of this book is expected for 2001 publication. It will address specific marketing issues related to media, Internet, business‐to‐business, and the US Census 2000.

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