This weekend I was immersed in an intimate summit meeting to discuss Hispanic marketing. But this article isn’t about Hispanic marketing. It’s bigger.
It’s more about an enlightened marketing agenda.
Back to the meeting…
I was surrounded by a roomful of very smart people. Disney. Price Waterhouse. American Express. Target. CVS.
My good friend, Glenn Llopis moderated the meeting. Glenn is a former colleague and a consultant/thought leader within the Hispanic community.
Hispanics represent the largest ethnic segment in our country
Our purpose of getting together was to acknowledge and understand the tremendous changes taking place demographically within the Hispanic population in our country and explore what implications they have on our businesses and enterprises in the community.
I gained a great deal of insight into the Hispanic consumer and some of the cultural conflicts they face in trying to navigate through unfamiliar areas.
It reminded me of when I traveled to France and had to rely on my high school French to survive. I didn’t starve to death but I felt about 20% effective in that country.
As I reflected on the nature of all the initiatives that have been undertaken to address this unique ethnic group, my takeaway from the conversations we had that day was not just about Hispanics.
Culture is a only a partial reflection of the true person
Instead, it was the realization that every individual brings their own uniqueness to their decisions and actions…and those decisions are a reflection of their own unique experiences, values, dreams and more.
Culture is not only formed from ethnic similarities, but also a myriad of personal preferences and differences within a group.
In other words, it’s not about the label. It’s about what’s inside.
Are you managing and marketing with an enlightened perspective?
The natural question becomes, “Is your company operating both in a culturally- and individually-relevant way with the segments you serve?”
If you can’t communicate and interact in a manner that reduces barriers and allows an authentic dialogue, your business will never reach its highest levels.
It’s more than just Hispanic or any market segment. Hispanics just happen to be the single largest segment today with a cultural common denominator. What about age-based segments? How about neighborhoods? Schools? Fraternal organizations?
Hispanics alone represent an amalgamation of many cultures including Spanish, Argentinian, Mexican, Latin American, Chilean and others. As marketers, we tend to homogenize all of these individuals under a convenient label.
It’s natural to “lump” people into segments to make our marketing efforts more relevant. However, sometimes we accomplish the opposite by alienating someone because of our assumption.
For instance, I am not Hispanic. I’m Italian/Croatian – American (…is this a new segment?). Occasionally I’ll receive Spanish-language materials from my own insurance provider! Perhaps my multi-syllabic last name triggers a key in their program that identifies me as a Spanish speaker.
My Spanish is good enough for getting me around a Mexican city or restaurant, but reading insurance information in Spanish doesn’t provide me with any value. In fact the opposite is true, it requires me to reach out to them and ask them to provide the information in a language I can read.
Their assumption created an inconvenience for me because they didn’t know me well enough to know my preferences for information and communication. It’s not a deal breaker but that didn’t score any points in my book.
Market with sensitivity of culture but with a keener focus on the individual
Every person brings to their relationships a personal collection of ethnic, family, and life experiences. That life journey is unique to them. They are one of a kind.
That doesn’t discount the importance of a shared heritage that many of us might experience. It just doesn’t imply that it is the only common ground.
While as marketers we may think in segments, our goal should be to strive towards a deeper understanding of every person that is in our circle. Ultimately we should be building a knowledge base that allows us to serve them in the manner they wish to be served.
Seek to understand the nuances of the individual by respecting their heritage and cultural norms. The better understanding you have of their cultural tendencies the more you can relate to them on their terms.
Know how your products and services perform in the context of their wants needs and desires. One culture might save for a vacation and another for a trip to see their family in a foreign land. Another still might save to help other family members with their financial needs.
Build a robust database of information to help you monitor and share culturally-relevant details and facts about their relationship with your company so everyone in your organization benefits from this perspective.
Remember that this is a journey that builds trust and understanding over time. People rarely show up and share their entire history. Be mindful of the subtleties of your interactions with them to help you better understand what is really important.
Finally, never forget that people really don’t want to be treated the way YOU would like to be treated. They want to be treated the way THEY want to be treated.
It’s your job to figure that out.