Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Every Month

Hispanic Heritage Month (HHM) 2021 is upon us.

What’s the forecast? A light precipitation of new ads and campaigns - from veterans of Hispanic marketing to those who try to pass-off one Hispanic ad per year as a strategy – tapering off to the usual dry spell by the end of the month.

It’s time to update your strategy and adapt to the evolution of this dynamic and diverse population and market.


The month

In 1968, LBJ established Hispanic Heritage Week because it included the independence days for Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua (Sep 15th.), Mexico (Set 16th) and Chile (Sep. 18TH). In the late 80’s congress passed, and Reagan signed, a bill to expand it to a full month. Since then, it has been a tradition for the US President to have an annual proclamation celebrating the cultural and historical contributions of the population. This year’s theme is “Esperanza: A Celebration of Hispanic Heritage and Hope.”


The market

Today, the US Hispanic market is the 16th largest consumer economy in the world (larger than Mexico) and the population is expected to grow (fueled by people born in the US creating their own culture, not immigration) from 62.8 million to almost 70 million by 2025. Hispanics make up 23% of all millennials. Total household buying power is $1.7 trillion and household expenditures topped $968 billion in 2020.

Sixty percent of Hispanic households make over $40K, and because Hispanic households are younger, larger and in their prime spending years they are a major force in the economy. No wonder they over-index in just about every product and service category – from smart phones, groceries, health and beauty aids, footwear, and apparel to motor oil. Just to name a few.

If you knew all this stuff already, then your organization probably already has a 12-month Hispanic marketing calendar instead of a single month!


Advertising and authenticity

Hispanics value authenticity when brands market to them. Successful communication strategies for the Latino/a population understand that while the Spanish language unifies the market, ultimately, it’s about representing and demonstrating knowledge of their culture.


How important is authenticity?

When it comes to advertisements during HHM, 20% say that “it feels like they are exploiting my culture.” One respondent said “It feels like my culture is being exploited because their representation of my culture often appears stereotypical” while another said that “They are doing it for the wrong reasons. It never feels genuine, they need to incorporate more Hispanics into everyday commercials not just during HHM.”

Another 14% say that “It feels like brands/companies are doing the least they can do.” One person told us “I think it's a way that gringos show other gringos how woke they are. I live my culture 12 months per year, not one” while another quipped “They just want to seem relevant to the Hispanic community. They don’t truly value us.”

If a third of the market views HHM advertising negatively, you don’t want to be the brand whose ads “never feels genuine” or fails to back it up their message by actively working to “help those communities they choose to advertise to.”

Yet overall, Hispanics feel positively about advertising targeted at them during HHM; almost two thirds (61%) say that it makes them feel “proud” or makes that the brands “care about my culture/history.”

Figure 1. How Hispanics feel about brands or companies advertising about Hispanic Heritage Month

Screen Shot 2021-09-13 at 2.39.40 PM
Source: Echo-MR. Base = 150. September 2021.

Celebrating Hispanic Heritage Month

Just over 60% of Latinos celebrate HHM with … food! Twenty-four percent cook foods/dishes from their culture at home, and another 18% go out to eat food from their culture. But there are other ways to connect with Hispanics during HHM - about 20% also say they attend cultural events in their community and learn more about their culture/history.

Eighteen percent say they buy products from Hispanic owned businesses.

Figure 2. How Hispanics celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month

Screen Shot 2021-09-13 at 2.37.43 PMSource: Echo-MR. Base = 150. September 2021.

Addressing identification

Recently, a gender-neutral, pan-ethnic label, “Latinx” (rhymes with Kleenex), was created as an alternative that is being used, and misused, by many to describe the nation’s Hispanic population. Latinx is most prominent on campus, where it is being used to replace “Latino” in program and organizational names.

Latinx has not gained awareness or acceptance in the broader Hispanic community and is mostly embraced by younger LGBTQ and non-binary Hispanics. But the term is polarizing and has been ridiculed by prominent US Hispanics as an example of “bulldozing the Spanish language (which is a gendered language)” and in Latin America as a “blatant form of linguistic imperialism.”

Figure 3. How Hispanics describe themselves most often

Screen Shot 2021-09-13 at 2.37.29 PMSource: Echo-MR. Base = 150. September 2021.

Using the term Latinx to describe the general Hispanic population – as an all-inclusive term for people with Latin American roots - may backfire. Firstly, a 2019 study from Pew Research showed that just 23% of Hispanics were aware of the term, and that awareness skewed young, female, US-born and college educated. Sixty-five percent (65%) of those aware of label said that Latinx should not be used to describe the general population.

In our research, only Latinx caused significantly more negative, and significantly less positive reactions.

Figure 3. How Hispanics feel about labels

Screen Shot 2021-09-13 at 2.37.15 PMSource: Echo-MR. Base = 150. September 2021.

If you want to authentically connect with the general population of Hispanics, the pan-ethnic labels that continue to be viewed most positively are Latino/Latina and Hispanic; Hispanic has the added advantage lacking gender. If addressing a specific country of origin, use labels like Cuban or Cuban-American; most think of their country of origin first, and pan-ethnic labels second.

While Latinx is being embraced by Hispanics in the LGBTQ community, many believe the term Latinx is something that non-Latinos say and use to describe all Hispanics, which makes it feel disingenuous. As one professor said of the term Latinx, “I don’t know if it’s going to stick or not, but it’s not from us.”

Just dipping a toe in the Hispanic marketing water one month of the year may not help, and in fact may highlight how much marketers currently talk AT this target, not with them.