Earlier this month I was super excited to pitch to a European food company. After a very pleasant exchange with the PR professional, I got an email saying that the company wasn’t interested in working with me because I covered Latino issues. The exact words were “The fact that you cover Latino issues is a sticking point for them.” I was shocked and quite honestly, infuriated. It was infuriating to know that the reason they said no was because I talk about my culture.
My culture and the desire to pass my culture and language on to my child is exactly WHY I started blogging. But it is deeper than that; the love and respect I have for my culture and identity existed long before I had a child. I even studied immigration and integration issues in graduate school. The point is, to me, and to so many others, culture is relevant and it matters.
After a few minutes of bewilderment (that included my jaw dropping and inability to process what had just happened, followed by me being very upset) I emailed the PR executive and explained how sorry I was that this was the case, and that it was clear to me that the company didn’t understand me or my blog at all. I blog about raising my multilingual and multicultural son. I am raising him to be proud of both sides of his heritage. I explained that a well-educated freelance writer, who is a contributor to some of the best parenting sites in the United States, is fluent in three languages and knows the nuances of American, Latino and European culture is exactly the kind of person they should want to work with. Of course, it wasn’t the PR executive’s fault… I understand that the company simply lacks the cultural understanding of how to do business in a country where culture and identity matter.
I am glad this happened when it did – a couple of days before I attended the #WeAllGrow Summit in California; a place and space where our Hispanic culture is not seen as a “sticking point” but rather something precious and valuable. At #WeAllGrow, I met representatives from PR companies and brands that know how to work with Latinas—they get it. I heard from Latina women like Natalie Boden, who runs BodenPR, a successful multi-million dollar PR company whose clients include Target, Club Med, HSBC and AT&T among others, explain why culture matters to them, and how it affects how they do their work.
Being in a room with powerful Latinas, who are proud of who they are and who haven’t forgotten where they come from, was truly inspiring. Talking to brands who “get it” – who get that to market to us and to work with us means not forgetting that our culture is at the heart of who we are. It validated all the feelings of outrage I had after my experience with the European food company. I know I’m right, and I’m sorry that they are so wrong about this.
I’m not the only one who says this. In an article entitled, “Don’t Sell to Me! Hispanics Buy Brands that Empower Their Cultural Relevancy,” Glenn Llopsis from Forbes magazine recognizes the importance culture has to the Hispanic community:
“Now that we have confirmed that cultural sustainability matters to US Hispanics, companies must become more educated about the Latino community not just as consumers – but more importantly, as people and the identity we represent as a diverse community. They must recognize that Hispanics buy brands that empower their cultural relevancy.”
In addition, in the “Latina Power Shift”, Nielsen reports that Hispanics have $1.2 trillion annual Hispanic purchasing power.
In short, our voices and our culture matter.
Here are three key points brands should keep in mind when thinking about marketing to the Hispanic community:
- Culture matters. Please don’t think you can market to Latinos the same way you market to general market. Our culture is at the heart of who we are and what we do. Disregarding culture is disrespectful.
- Our power of word-of-mouth… We ask each other for recommendations when purchasing. We rely on each other for honest opinions when we are making purchases or looking for services; with social media that has become easier to do. When I am looking for a dentist I ask the parents in my parent group. When I am looking to buy a fridge or change cell phone provider, I ask my friends on social media and I listen to their experiences—they definitely have influence on my purchasing choices. **Good customer service goes a long way.** If a product is cheaper but the customer service is crappy, I’d rather pay more for better service. If I have an issue and your customer service is top-notch, I will gladly spread the word and tell my friends.
- Demographics are changing… At 17% of the population and growing… it’s not a good idea to ignore us.
I’d like to end by thanking all the great brands that were a part of #WeAllGrow this past weekend: in particular Neutrogena as the title sponsor, and other great companies like Vive Mejor, Youtube, Crest, Dove, .Me, Gaiam, Pine-Sol, Ford, Opoli, the Los Angeles Tourism Board, ScholarShare, Boden PR, Suavitel, Minted, Origami Owl, Andrea Shoes, Tap Influence. You truly understand the importance of celebrating our culture and it was a pleasure getting to know what your brands and companies are all about this weekend!
Photo credit: All photos with the #WeAllGrow watermark are courtesy of Robson Muzel and #WeAllGrow Summit 2015.