Hispanic Consumer Power Rising! Marketers, Like Politicians, Must Now Pay Real Attention


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Even when viewing the demographic results of the recent Presidential race from a neutral perspective, it’s abundantly clear that Hispanic voters had much to do with the re-election of President Obama. Hispanics now make up 10% of the electorate (as opposed to 8% in 2004), and they chose Barack Obama over Mitt Romney by an overwhelming margin, 71% to 27%. One political expert calculated that, if the 1980 electorate had looked like the 2012 version, Jimmy Carter would have defeated Ronald Reagan!

It’s not, however, only the political arena where Hispanics are increasingly making a major impact. The 2010 census showed that one in six people in the U.S. are now Latino. It also showed that Hispanics have become both the youngest and the fastest growing minority group in America; plus, they are the largest minority group, projected to be 25% of the population by 2020. U.S. Hispanics have combined purchasing power surpassing $1.2 trillion, and:

– Hispanic households currently represent 10% of all discretionary spending in this country (and 17% in the West), and their rate of discretionary spending grew at a 14% rate between 2011 and 2012, while spending among non-Hispanic households remained flat

– There are high-growth Hispanic markets dotted around the country, beyond Florida, California, Arizona, New Mexico and Texas. For example, Hispanic population increased by 58% in Greenville, NC between 2006 and 2012, 45% in Washington, DC, 31% in Idaho Falls, and 23% in Salt Lake City and Fort Smith.

– On average, and in comparison to the rest of society, Hispanic consumers are much more optimistic about their future financial prospects. As one example of this, 87% of Latinos believe that the opportunity to get ahead is greater in the U.S. than in their country of origin.

– Hispanics regard the Internet as an important source of information and entertainment, and are twice as likely to say it is a primary source. Also, they spend about 15% more per online transaction compared to non-Latinos, and actively use such Spanish-language online sites as Toys ‘R’ Us, Macy’s, Best Buy, Old Navy, and Costco

– Hispanic consumers are significantly more likely to be early adopters and heavy users of mobile devices (for example seeing cell phones as sources of information and to facilitate their social lives). A 2011 Pew Research Center study showed that 44% of Latinos own smartphones, compared to only 30% of Non-Hispanics

Medically speaking, marketers in the pharmaceutical industry have become aware that Hispanics have different major disease prevalence and risk factors. Compared to the rest of society, and per a 2007 Pleis and Lethbriidge-Cejku study, Hispanics have a lower incidence of heart disease, hypertension, and cancer. However, they also have much higher rates of diabetes and overweight issues.

And, at least as importantly for all b2c marketers, it’s not just that the Hispanic community itself has significant demographics and lifestyle characteristics which represent real opportunity, it’s that Hispanics are also impacting the thinking and the behavior of non-Hispanics living among and around them. Increasingly, Latinos are influencing mainstream U.S. culture. In the recent Latino Influence Project, a joint profiling effort among 48,000 respondents by Wing, the Hispanic advertising agency, and Experian Simmons, the syndicated/custom research arm of Experian, the extent of that influence – well beyond tortillas, J Lo, and salsa dancing – on attitudes and actions around health, technology, entertainment, and even the environment was measured.

Among key findings for Non-Hispanics who live in areas of high density of Hispanics, these consumers are:

– Three times as likely to be interested in other cultures and love the idea of traveling abroad (almost five times more likely to have a valid passport, and three times as likely to have taken a recent foreign trip), and twice as likely to be interested in the arts and have been to live theatre, concerts or comedy clubs

– Twice as likely to use their cell phones and the Internet for information and entertainment for their families

– Between 5 and 6 times more likely to eat jalapenos and to listen to and enjoy salsa and meringue

– Almost three times more likely to be interested in international events

– Twice as likely to look for organic and natural food when shopping for food, and over twice as likely to say they enjoy eating foreign foods

– Twice as likely to say they like to stand out from the crowd and 70% more likely to experiment with new clothing styles

– Eight times more likely to watch soccer, and twice as likely to have recently watched boxing

– Twice as likely to agree that they are usually the first among their friends to shop at a new store, and over three times as likely to say they often go out of their way to find new stores for shopping

– Twice as likely to switch cell phone service providers if another provider offers the latest in technology

– Twice as likely to say texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation

– Twice as likely to be concerned about products that cause pollution, and to buy recycled products, such as paper goods. Almost four times more likely to say they make a conscious effort to recycle

– Twice as likely to use homeopathic medicine, and prefer alternative medicine to standard medical practices. They are also twice as likely to say their friends ask for their advice about health and nutrition, and to say they actively seek out information about healthy diets

– Much more likely to be receptive to advertising, such as being almost 2.5 times as likely to pay attention to commercials shown before features in movie theatres

This is just the tip of the profiling iceberg. The learning for marketers regarding both Latino behavior, and how they influence the behavior and thinking of Non-Hispanics around them, is significant and growing.

I’d strongly encourage checking out the Wing/Experian Simmons Latino Influence Project report (http://www.latinoinfluenceproject.com/). The findings of this study are eye-opening for all b2c marketers and advertisers.

Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC
Michael Lowenstein, PhD CMC, specializes in customer and employee experience research/strategy consulting, and brand, customer, and employee commitment and advocacy behavior research, consulting, and training. He has authored seven stakeholder-centric strategy books and 400+ articles, white papers and blogs. In 2018, he was named to CustomerThink's Hall of Fame.


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