The recent marketing conversations regarding general market versus multicultural markets have been shifting towards a total-market approach, potentially distracting us from other untapped opportunities. The challenge is to not completely fall for a “melting pot” theory, where there are still many gaps, and instead find opportunity by looking deeper at the Hispanic market – the fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S.

Acculturation, which is the process of learning and adopting the behaviors of surrounding culture, plays a powerful role in identifying opportunities within the Hispanic market. For U.S. Latinos, it is the direct result of interacting with the American culture. This can lead to one of three outcomes:

Unacculturated (or Hispanic dominant) – This group exhibits very strong attachment to their countries of origin. They hold on to conservative views and their socioeconomic status typically improves in proportion to the number of years living in the U.S.

Bicultural – This group comfortably navigates both cultures. They are the second or third U.S.-born generation or have been living in the U.S. for a longer period of time. Mostly grew up exposed to both cultures and still maintain ties to their parents’ country of origin.

Acculturated (or U.S. dominant) – This group embraces American culture and English is the prevalent language choice, even though they may know basic Spanish. Many of their preferences are like the general market, but with a strong attachment to family and background. They also tend to have higher socioeconomic status.

To better understand where the opportunities lie, let’s start by taking a closer look at the Unacculturated segment. These Hispanics are mostly defined by their foreign-born origin and their preference for the Spanish language. They are also more attached to traditional values.

Within this group, it is important not to assume that more time spent in this country results in a higher level of acculturation. Mindset has more to do with acculturation than exposure, which is why today’s Hispanic story in the U.S. is highly influenced by, and built upon, the story of previous generations of Hispanic immigrants. This results in a more confident Latino who understands that there is no need to dismiss their heritage to fit in. It is no longer an “either/or” proposition for them as Hispanic culture grows deeper roots in the U.S. That said, unacculturated Latinos still struggle with balancing their heritage against their lives outside of their homes, families and friends.

Understanding this background and context makes a difference when identifying opportunities for brands, products, categories and innovations. It leads to solutions that go beyond translating an ad to Spanish or having the right casting for a TV ad. Generating brand stories (and actions) that build on these consumers’ stories is key to success, and that begins with taking a deeper look at who they are, and why. While we continue diving deeper into a multicultural reality, let’s not forget that there is still opportunity in the basic but true understanding of these nuances.

A question we may want to ask ourselves is, am I just trying to check the multicultural (or Hispanic) box, or am I trying to offer a meaningful solution to potential new audiences? In this case, we are talking about an audience that will represent $1.5 trillion of purchasing power in 2015. Marketers may want to strongly consider going with the latter.

Source: Iconoculture Consumer Insights