Book Review
Crash Course in Effectively Reaching Hispanic Markets

Reviewed by Maileen Hamto

Latino, Hispanic, Chicano … what’s in a name? Beyond commonalities in colonial history, language and religious traditions, growing Hispanic communities in the United States are as diverse as they come. To inform marketers about effective ways to access the buying power of the young, dynamic and fast-growing U.S. Hispanic populations, Chiqui Cartagena provides a crash course on Hispanic history in the United States and the resulting divergent cultures in the book ¡Latino Boom! Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business in the U.S. Hispanic Market (Ballantine Books 2005).

Leveraging her years of experience in multicultural marketing targeting Hispanic audiences, Cartagena makes distinctions among the consumption habits and preferences of isolated, Spanish-dominant Hispanics vs. bicultural and bilingual Hispanics, vs. U.S. born English-dominant Hispanics. To effectively reach specific Hispanic segments with their messaging, marketers must be intimate with the nuances in language, culture and socio-economic status among multiple Hispanic communities across the United States.

Cartagena ’s extensive background in marketing research is evident in the depth of statistical information provided in the book. Did you know that the disposable income of the Hispanic population is expected to exceed $1 trillion by 2010? According to Cartagena, “the economic clout of the Hispanic market comes both from its larger households and its tendency to buy more of everything.” Beyond census bureau head counts and approximations, Cartagena also presents data on buyer behavior across different industries: automotive, consumer electronics, clothing, etc. Data on media consumption is also presented, as well as wisdom about effective ways to advertise and reach Hispanic audiences.

The prominent role of the Spanish language in cultural pride among Hispanics in the U.S. cannot be overemphasized. Cartagena states that while among other immigrant groups in the U.S., Hispanics have been “able to hold on their native language for a longer period of time.” Proximity of the U.S. to Latin America plays an important part in keeping the Spanish language alive and well among a growing number of households. Add to that the ever-increasing mix of Spanish-language outlets: “Latinos are the only minority group in the United States that has three national television networks … and more than 60 cable networks available in Spanish.”

In many cases, though, simply running a Spanish-language ad in Spanish TV or radio is not enough. Cartagena admonishes marketers and advertisers not to neglect the segment of the population that identify as being bilingual or English-dominant. Cartagena points to a Pew Hispanic Center study released in 2004 that shows that “a majority of adult Latinos reported getting their news in both English and Spanish.” The study shows that almost half of all Hispanics are “switchers,” meaning they “cross back and forth between the two languages and cultures.” Therefore, it is not wise for marketers to target the Hispanic market only in the Spanish language, Cartagena writes.

Clearly, the challenge for marketers interested in tapping the buying power of Hispanics in the U.S. is making the commitment and sincere effort in understanding the “changing definition of the Latino market.” Through case studies and examples of marketing campaigns that have both worked and failed, Cartagena provides useful insights into the collective psyche of the Latino consumer. For example, the discussion on direct marketing techniques is an excellent example of why it’s important for marketers to acquaint themselves with the cultural and socio-political factors that influence decision-making behavior among U.S. Hispanic households.

Winter 2007

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¡Latino Boom!: Everything You Need to Know to Grow Your Business in the U.S. Hispanic Market
By Chiqui Cartagena
Hardcover: 256 pages
Publisher: Ballantine Books (August 30, 2005)


¡Latino Boom! website

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