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The Hispanic market is composed of people that come from as many as 20 different countries. Very often they have very little in common. It is sometimes as odd as grouping Americans with British, Canadians, Australians, and residents of Jamaica, South Africa and Bermuda, just because they all speak English! Yet, speaking the same language does seem to be a strong commonality.
The Hispanic bond, however, goes further than language. The reason Hispanics speak Spanish is because of Spain’s influence in history. Spain, as you recall, brought to the New World not only the language but also religion. Most Hispanics are Catholic or otherwise Christian. Similar religion, in turn, translates into similar values. These ties become very strong for U.S. Hispanics.
While I will not argue that there are many differences among Latino segments, the fact remains that there are some very strong commonalities. We do (for the most part) share the same language, very similar values when it comes to family, a tendency to be religious or spiritual, a passion for food (even if our foods are different), a Latino wit or sense of humor that is often very different from that of Anglo Americans, a similar immigration experience, an emotional nature, and a unique way of connecting with one another that relies heavily on instincts, emotions, and non-verbal communication. Marketing to the commonalities exhibited by all Latinos does work!
How you define who is Hispanic for marketing research purposes depends on your target audience. For certain products that advertise in Spanish, the definition is often narrowed to screen for Spanish fluency, and the amount of Spanish media consumed.
People that come from at least 20 different countries, live in the United States, and see themselves as members of a group. They often call themselves Latinos or Hispanics.
We at Hispanic Research Inc. strongly believe that being Hispanic is to a large extent a self classification. In order to belong to this group, you have to consider yourself Hispanic or Latino.
There are many "Hispanics" that we disqualify from our research samples because they do not see themselves as Hispanic, and therefore cannot be targeted as such. The reverse is also true. There are Americans of Anglo descent that grew up in Latin America and feel Hispanic in every way. To us, they are Hispanic because we can target them as part of the Latino culture.
The Hispanic Market is clearly fragmented. There is very little in common among many of the subgroups. Even language can drastically vary. Many marketing blunders derived from the assumption that all Hispanics are alike.
We often think of Mexican cultural traits because we are very exposed to the Mexican culture. Yet Mexico is very different from the rest of Latin America.
The slide below was pulled from Hispanics in the United States - A U.S. Census Bureau presentation that highlights past, present and future trends of the Hispanic population. To access the full presentation click here.
Here is the 2010 distribution - U.S. Census Bureau (From The Hispanic Population 2010)
For a more current distribution see: The Hispanic Population 2012 by Hispanic Origin
We get asked this question more often than any other question regarding the U.S. Hispanic market and there has been quite a bit written on the subject. We use the terms interchangeably. It is a matter of personal preference. We are more likely to use Hispanic when we talk about the group as a potential business market, while we tend to use Latino when referring to the people. Latino sounds much better in Spanish than “Hispano”. In fact, the word is a Spanish word, while Hispanic needs to be translated.
Some argue that the term “Latino” includes everyone from “Latin America” and would therefore include people from Brazil (who speak Portuguese). Other say that the term "Hispanic" is wrong because it literally means "from Spain" and Hispanic American heritage goes further than just Spain. Most Hispanics, however, do not really care and are not offended by one term or the other.
In October 2013, Pew Research Center published the results of a study that explored preferences between the two terms. As we expected, Most Latinos do not care. Texas, however, was an exception. In Texas 46% prefer the term Hispanic, while just 8% prefer the term "Latino".
The census does it right! Hispanic is NOT a race. There are many races within the Latino community, including White, Black, Native Indian, and even Asian. Some segments, like the Cuban community, show very few mixed-race individuals. In fact, Cubans exhibit a race discrimination behavior within their community that is similar to that of the general market. Other groups, like Puerto Ricans, are very mixed. Argentineans are mostly White and some Latin American countries, including Mexico, have a strong Native Indian background.
For years, however, the U.S. Census considered Hispanic a race. They changed that definition since before the 1970 census; and in 1977 the Office of Management and Budget issued the “Race and Ethnic Standards for Federal Statistics and Administrative Reporting”. They established the U.S. racial classifications to be American Indian, Alaskan Native, Asian or Pacific Islander, Black, and White. They added ethnic classifications of “Hispanic Origin” and “Not of Hispanic Origin”.
Unfortunately, we continue to see the race question in most market research studies and marketers in this country continue to label Hispanic as a race. The misconception that Hispanic is a race is so ingrained in this country that many Hispanics are confused themselves. This creates a big problem in marketing research, because many Latinos would check “Other” if “Hispanic” were not included in the race category. Yet, many Hispanics would check “White” or “Black” and not “Hispanic”, if “Hispanic” was included as a category. A way of avoiding this problem is to divide the question like the census does and to pay close attention to how the questions are worded. A better approach is to not bother asking about race at all.