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.