WASHINGTON – Linda Gonzalez is the mother of three boys ages 16, 28 and 29. When they are watching programs on their favorite channels, such as Discovery or ESPN, they are also on other screens.
Her Hispanic millennial sons consume beer and car commercials, ads for products that are geared toward them.
With more than 800,000 U.S.-born Hispanics entering adulthood annually, the demographic’s median age is 28. And a fifth of millennials – the country’s largest-ever generation, which spans from 11 to 34 – identify themselves as Hispanic.
Marketing agencies and companies are gradually realizing they need to start creating material that is authentic and culturally relevant if they want to gain young Latinos as future consumers.
And that’s how Gonzalez, president of the Miami-based marketing company, Viva Partnership, makes her living.
Tracie Sánchez, 25, of Los Angeles, has thought about how companies try to earn her business. Although she has been able to connect with Hispanic-aimed advertisements more easily, she said there is still room for improvement. She recently completed a higher-education fellowship with the Congressional Hispanic Caucus Institute, working with the White House Initiative on Education Excellence for Hispanics.
“I think oftentimes that they tend to be either too cliché or a bit too offensive,” Sánchez, a second-generation Mexican-American said, giving the example of a 2004 billboard she saw for Tecate beer, that said, “Finally, a cold Latina.”
“They are very much based on stereotypes rather than the actual identity of folks,” she said.
To appeal to this “new Latino generation’s” identity, Felipe Korzenny, director emeritus of Florida State University’s Center for Hispanic Marketing Communication, said marketers need to understand that the group is ambicultural, “neither from here nor there.”
“They have a strong attachment to their parents’ culture but are creating it in a new style,” he said. “Bilingualism, biculturalism and authenticity are the trademarks Latino millennials appreciate.”
A study released by the Pew Research Center found that more than 40 percent of Hispanics ages 18 to 29 speak Spanish and English interchangeably.
When it comes to commercials, language preferences can affect advertising. Nielsen partnered with Univision and Starcom MediaVest Group, to test the neurological responses of Hispanic millennials as they viewed commercials in both English and Spanish.
Nielsen conducted electroencephalograms, tests that detect electrical activity in the brain, on 227 Hispanic participants, ages 21 to 34. Neuroscientists studied patterns in the frequency bands of the young bilinguals’ brains, looking at levels of engagement, memory retention and attention as they watched the ads.
The results showed that Spanish ads generally resonated better with Hispanics than English ads did, especially when Spanish was used during emotional moments of a commercial.
“Spanish is the language of your mom. It’s the language you hear when your grandma was yelling at you as a child,” Gonzalez said. She said Spanish triggers emotions in young Hispanic consumers.
The study also suggested that marketers should air an ad in the same language as the program being watched, concluding that “key messaging and branding should not be shown within 10 seconds of a language shift.” This is because it takes time for viewers to process the language change, shifting their attention away from the content of the ad.
Additionally, ads in Spanglish – a combination of English and Spanish – are better received when they aired following English programming, rather than after Spanish programming.
Sánchez, who is bilingual, agreed that Spanish ads speak the most to her identity, but she isn’t opposed to Spanglish ads either.
“I also appreciate the value in ads that are done well in Spanglish, because I realize that as much as we don’t want to admit, there’s a whole new generation who their reality is really defined by both Spanish and English.”
As for radio, Sánchez eventually tunes out Spanglish-speaking stations back home in Los Angeles.
“It gets annoying at some point and feels very stereotypical that we don’t properly speak Spanish and we don’t properly speak English,” she said. “So we’re just kind of in this in-between zone.”
According to Nielsen, radio isn’t a dying medium for advertising. On average, 93.6 percent of Hispanic millennials ages 18 to 34 are tuned in, spending more than 11½ hours each week listening to radio. That’s more than the 91.7 percent of all millennials who listen at least weekly. Research showed that the majority of young Latinos in the U.S. listen to Mexican regional and pop contemporary hits stations.
Gonzalez, who is also the incoming chair of AHAA, a trade group for people who advertise and market to Hispanics, said advertising on cellular devices and computers is key when trying to reach millennials in general.
“Mobile is the now computer for Hispanic millennials,” she said. “If a commercial sparks an interest or curiosity, they look something up on their phones.”
According to a 2014 study conducted by Comscore, more than 40 percent of Hispanic millennials access the Internet solely through their mobile devices.
Mobile ad spending in the U.S. is expected to reach more than $28 billion in 2015, accounting for nearly half of all spending on digital ads, according to the digital analytics firm eMarketer. Google and Facebook are the top players for mobile ad growth worldwide.
In addition to marketing on different platforms, Gonzalez said it is important for products and brands to appeal to cultural cues to garner a connection with Hispanic millennials.
“It’s less about ads and more about the way you connect with them,” she said.
Procter & Gamble’s website “Orgullosa,” which means “pride,” is a good example. The website, which is in English with sprinkled-in Spanish phrases and words, aims to connect with young Latinas by providing “how to” articles and videos related to maintaining a home, beauty tips, family issues and more.
For example, an article called “5 Beauty Trends for Today’s Quinceañera,” suggests using P&G products such as Herbal Essences Hello Hydration Moisturizing Shampoo, Covergirl Colorlicious Lipstick and Olay Regenerist Luminous Tone Perfecting Cream Moisturizer to get the perfect look for a Latina’s 15th birthday celebration.
In May, the retail pharmacy chain CVS renamed 11 of its stores in the Hispanic-dominated market of Miami to “CVS/pharmacy y más” (CVS/pharmacy and more). The new name comes with many in-store changes – including 1,500 new Hispanic-focused brand-name products, shots of cafecito (Cuban coffee) served daily and employees wearing name tags that include their country of origin – to establish cultural connections with Hispanic shoppers.
“The first-generation come in and connect immediately with the products and services,” Vince Urrita, vice president of store operations for CVS/pharmacy y más, said. “The younger Hispanics come in and also connect because of nostalgia of the products from their childhood.”
Another example is Target’s new Hispanic-specific marketing campaign called #SinTraducción, which means “without translation.” The superstore chain aims to connect with Hispanics in a more personal and relevant way by celebrating moments of their culture that have no direct English translation.
In one of the 30-second commercials, a young Hispanic mother pulls the curtains closed and turns off the lights in a dreamy bedroom decorated by Target, setting the tranquil ambiance to the sound of an “arrullo,” or Spanish lullaby, to sway her baby to sleep.
“We incorporate insights about the Hispanic consumer into our business, from the products we carry to our advertising,” Jenna Reck, a spokeswoman for Target, said. “We also look for unique opportunities to directly engage with our Hispanic guests in meaningful and culturally relevant ways, like we’re doing with the #SinTraducción campaign.”
Glenn Llopis, who contributes Hispanic-related business strategy articles to Forbes and is the president of his own consulting firm in Irvine, Calif., agreed that brands need to learn about who Hispanics are as a people because the demographic appreciates products that are in their best interest and that will benefit their community.
His advice for Hispanic-aimed marketing is to not complicate things.
“When people try too hard, sometimes we feel like a relationship is being forced upon us,” Llopis, who is Cuban-American, said. “We are a culture that wants to know that there is a brand that wants to create a genuine relationship with us.”
Reach reporter Kathleen Devaney at firstname.lastname@example.org or 202-408-1491. SHFWire stories are free to any news organization that gives the reporter a byline and credits the SHFWire. Like the Scripps Howard Foundation Wire interns on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.