Friday, June 22, 2007

The New Hispanic Family

Marketers are mystified by Hispanics in the United States. Many still use outdated segmentation approaches that depend exclusively on acculturation variables.

Why is acculturation segmentation becoming outdated? Because the largest wave of Hispanic immigration to the United States happened between 1980 and 2000, from 10 million to 40 million in twenty years. While growth has continued the portion due to immigration has slowed down and the portion due to births has surpassed immigration. That is why we are dealing now with a different Hispanic/Latino market.

While individuals still have different levels of language proficiency, the typical family has changed dramatically and with it the sources of information used by different family members. What does this family look like these days?

A typical Hispanic/Latino family these days has two to four children, depending on their family formation stage. The children are more likely than ever before to speak English at home, with friends, and at school, even if their parents prefer to speak Spanish. Depending on many factors the mother is more likely to prefer the Spanish language for communication, but is also likely to understand some English. The father, is likely to be proficient in English and can be also a Spanish speaker. A grandmother that lives with the family is most likely monolingual in Spanish. A cousin that recently arrived from Mexico or another country is also more likely to be dependent on the Spanish language.

Is this a complicated family? It is very complicated particularly for marketing purposes. Each of these family members will likely be exposed to commercial messages in different media and in different languages. They will have dinner together and talk about their experiences and the products they think are best. In some cases they will be confused because the messages some of them saw in English will be different from the messages some of them saw in Spanish. In other cases their decisions will be reinforced by the confluence of similar strategic messages coming from different sources.

Further, this family is more likely to be influenced by the children's opinions because they generally have a lot more access to messages from more diverse sources. The influence of kids can be fundamental in the adoption of a product or service particularly in this type of family. The credibility of children is augmented by their deeper knowledge of the consumer environment. It is as if children are subverting the traditional flow of influence in Hispanic families.

Should we start thinking about segmenting Hispanics/Latinos by type of family as opposed to by individual traits? Families with different lifestyles?