Unveiling cultural nuances in reaching Latinos
The United States of America has long been a nation built by immigrants seeking new opportunities and better lives. Over the decades, the country's demographics have undergone significant transformations, with one of the most noticeable shifts being the rising numbers of the Latino population. As this demographic change continues to shape the fabric of the nation, businesses and brands must adapt by understanding the cultural complexities that define this very nuanced community. The first thing to understand is how this is not a neatly defined constituency, but rather an amalgam of lived experiences. To effectively engage with Latinos, credit unions need to go beyond surface-level outreach to gain a profound understanding of their diverse identities and experiences. As we celebrate the Hispanic Heritage Month, here are some thoughts about this community.
The Latino Demographic Landscape
The Latino population in the U.S. has been growing at a remarkable pace, and projections suggest that this trend will continue in the coming years. Latinos constitute nearly 20% of the total population, making them the largest ethnic minority group in the country. 63 million people strong, this group encompasses individuals from diverse countries such as Mexico, Argentina, Cuba, the Dominican Republic, and more, each contributing distinct cultural elements to the broader U.S. Latino identity.
Cultural Nuances: A Necessity, Not an Option
To effectively tap into this burgeoning market, credit unions must recognize that Latinos are not a monolithic group. Within this demographic lies a rich tapestry of languages, traditions and values, each tied to their specific country of origin. An outreach effort by any organization requires deep understanding of the generation, language fluency in English and Spanish, country of origin and acculturation level to the U.S. A one-size-fits-all approach will undoubtedly fall short in resonating with the various segments of the Latino population.
Language as a Bridge
Language is a cornerstone of culture, serving as both a barrier and a bridge to effective communication. Spanish remains a vital aspect of the Latino experience, especially among first-generation immigrants. A multilingual approach to marketing can be the key to unlocking this demographic's potential. Brands that cater to Spanish speakers demonstrate a willingness to meet Latinos where they are, and in doing so, establish a foundation of trust and understanding. However, it's important to note that not all Latinos speak Spanish, particularly second and third-generation individuals who may primarily use English. A nuanced understanding of language preferences is therefore paramount.
Cultural Celebrations and Traditions
Embracing cultural celebrations and traditions is another avenue for credit unions to connect with the Latino demographic. Family celebrations and Latin American national holidays hold significant cultural importance for many Latinos. However, it's essential for brands to approach these occasions with sensitivity and respect, avoiding tokenism or cultural appropriation. A genuine appreciation for these festivities can create meaningful connections, but only when driven by authenticity and cultural awareness. For example, don’t expect a Cinco de Mayo celebration at your branches to appeal if your local market is mostly of Caribbean descent. And if you highlight Cinco de Mayo, have a clear understanding of its context and meaning.
Representation matters deeply to all communities, and Latinos are no exception. Including Latino voices and faces in marketing campaigns, product design, and decision-making processes not only reflects inclusivity but also acknowledges the unique perspectives and contributions of this demographic. Authentic representation goes beyond ticking boxes; it involves meaningful engagement and partnership with Latino communities to ensure that their narratives are accurately portrayed.
Localizing Marketing Efforts
Understanding the regional diversity within the Latino population is a crucial step toward effective engagement. Latinos in different parts of the U.S. may have distinct preferences and cultural norms, influenced by the region they reside in—and the family’s country of origin. Tailoring marketing strategies to cater to these regional differences demonstrates a commitment to understanding the intricacies of Latino identities.
The changing demographics of the United States, with the significant growth of the Latino population, present both challenges and opportunities for our industry. To create relevant and impactful connections, we must embark on a journey of cultural discovery and sensitivity. Acknowledging the diverse backgrounds, languages and traditions within the Latino demographic is not only respectful but also smart business practice.
Víctor Miguel Corro is CEO of Coopera Consulting. He has over 25 years of experience working in international and cross-cultural environments in the private and non-profit sectors.
For over five years he has been at the helm of Coopera Consulting, a market analytics and cultural change consulting firm that engages organizations and prepares them to reach out and serve underserved market segments. Corro is co-founder and first chair of the Credit Union DEI Collective, an expanding group within the credit union movement devoted to furthering DEI, a shared cooperative principle.
Victor is a first-generation immigrant to the U.S. and was born and raised in Panama. He came to study at the University of Wisconsin as a Fulbright Scholar. He has degrees in International Economics and Latin American Studies. He has worked in 90+ countries, is an avid photographer, serves on several boards, and currently lives in Wisconsin with his wife and two children.