Brands and marketers have historically been talking about, deciphering and attempting to engage a segment of U.S. population that, over the years, has been placed in a “Hispanic” box. But now, more than ever, we may be going after a moving target. This group is becoming more and more ingrained in the subtleties of our mainstream as we move towards what some are beginning to call a cross-cultural reality. Within this context, we must adjust the “Hispanic” conversation to be more accurate, especially when thinking about the role that our brands and products may play in it.

The shift in U.S. demographics is a good staring point to help put things in perspective. According to the US Census Bureau, Hispanics will become 30% of the U.S. population by 2050 – that’s a 163% population increase. By 2015, one in three babies will be of Latino descent. There are also economic implications to this trend, with Hispanic’s buying power reaching $1.5 trillion in 2015, a meaningful 50% increase in a five-year period. The number of Hispanic households earning more than 50K a year is growing at a faster rate than the general population, which means we are no longer talking about a sub-segment of the economy (Nielsen, 2012). We are talking about a group with full participation in the American dream, who also posses significant political and economic power.

Whereas in the past we talked about the Hispanic versus the General Market; now we have to talk about the shared cultural mindsets that are at the intersection between Hispanic culture and general market culture, with influence extending in both directions. We have to talk about a minority-majority. And we have to talk about the emerging identity of thisgroup. Here are some pointers to better direct our thinking:

– There is a new Latino DNA. We must remember that past growth of the Hispanic population was driven by immigration, whereas today’s growth comes from that generation’s American-born children. This new generation, mostly belonging to the infamous Millennials (which has additional implications) moves naturally between cultures and languages, as multicultural is the reality they were born into.

– Everyone is embracing the Latino. Over the years, Hispanics in the U.S. have won society’s permission to express and celebrate their culture, with their history and identities not only proving sustainable over time, but also highly influencing the mainstream culture. Nobody questions Selena Gómez as the image of Adidas (among many other non-Hispanic roles she’s had) and Sofía Vergara representing Pepsi (not Hispanic Pepsi) – you get the point. There is something very appealing about the “sexy-savviness” of the Latino that translates into desirable attributes to anyone, and brands are noticing.

– The “new Latino” is inherently progressive. Whether it is because of the diversity they were born into, their being part of the Millennial generation, or their newfound empowerment in society, this emerging Latino seems to be more susceptible to current trends such as technology adoption and cause marketing. Data shows that Hispanics are 17% more likely than non-Hispanics to access the web through their phones (Nielsen, 2014). They are out-pacing non-Hispanics in every technology trend including usage across devices, digital shopping habits and content consumption. They are also the most active group of Americans on Social Media at 80%. Finally, Hispanics are at the forefront of the cause-marketing trend with one-third choosing brands that support causes they believe in. When looking to reach them, we must not only consider what moves them, but where they are, which is everywhere: offline and online.

There are many more fascinating intricacies to this emerging cross-cultural reality, but one thing is for sure: Hispanics are no longer secondary characters in the play, but protagonists who are heavily influencing the narrative of the story. Marketers, let’s take note!

This is the first of a series of posts where I will continue to examine some of the topics exposed here more in depth.