On the Scene: Understanding Hispanic Culture

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To truly connect with the Hispanic culture, companies must understand the different levels of acculturation. The question no longer is as easy as whether to send marketing materials in English or Spanish, but how to be the most appropriate to each segment of the Hispanic population to keep things in culture. It is also important to reach people the way they want to be reached, according to a new study revealed during a recent Hispanic marketing conference hosted by the Direct Marketing Association. "At the end of the day, they have to be sure they're doing culturally relevant messages. That doesn't necessarily mean Spanish or English, it could be bilingual, it could be Spanglish," says Sonya Suarez-Hammond, director of Yankelovich Research. "Seasoned marketers already are looking at ways to step up their efforts to more targeting and eventually 1-to-1 marketing. [They] are able to develop more savvy marketing efforts." Suarez-Hammond provided a sneak peek at Yankelovich's "MONITOR Multicultural Marketing Study 2005," the results of which are set for release in June. It revealed that seasoned marketers don't only look at Hispanics as one huge group, but as a segment of people continuously evolving through various acculturation levels. "As more immigrants come into the marketplace, there's never going to be the traditional level of assimilation," Suarez-Hammond says. "Acculturation is really a process." The three major acculturation groups defined by the study include Hispanic dominant, intercultural, and assimilated. Yankelovich plans to enhance these three categories with more attitudinal descriptions, such as how Hispanics feel about being marketed to in Spanish. That may help marketers understand how their customers want to be addressed. The answer is different across different levels of assimilation. For example, when asked about their language preferences, 67 percent of Hispanic dominants said they "prefer Spanish for every situation," compared to 37 percent of the intercultural group and 9 percent of assimilated. Hitting marketers close to home, 78 percent of Hispanic dominants said "I can't understand commercials in English as well as I can understand them in Spanish." That's compared to 48 percent of the intercultural group and 22 percent of assimilated. To be successful in this diverse community, marketers must target their position, be culturally relevant, empower their customers, and get into the community, Suarez-Hammond says. "If you give to the community, they're going to give back."
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