Hispanics hit mainstream

According to the latest Human Resources Development Canada statistics, Canada welcomed new permanent residents from approximately 235 language groups in the last eight months (not including 'other'). Few of these groups will ever reach the numbers needed to register in the multicultural marketing category. Spanish is likely to prove an exception, but not in the way you might think.

According to the latest Human Resources Development Canada statistics, Canada welcomed new permanent residents from approximately 235 language groups in the last eight months (not including ‘other’). Few of these groups will ever reach the numbers needed to register in the multicultural marketing category. Spanish is likely to prove an exception, but not in the way you might think.

‘I actually think that, weirdly enough, the reason for the increase in Hispanic marketing has nothing to do with that community as such, but more in the way that a lot of Hispanic culture has permeated the mainstream,’ says youth marketing expert Max Valiquette of Toronto’s Youthography.

This year, Pepsi doubled its advertising budget aimed at minorities. The soda giant’s newest commercial (from Dallas, Tx.-based Dieste Harmel and Partners) features Colombian pop singer Shakira singing an original tune about Pepsi, in both Spanish and English versions.

Only Pepsi isn’t calling the ad ‘ethnic marketing.’ Pepsi is using the ad to target mainstream as well as Hispanic consumers.

The incredible success of recent Central and Latin American stars, such as Shakira, J.Lo, Christina Aguilera, Ricky Martin and Enrique Iglesias, demonstrates a ready acceptance of Latino culture across mainstream America. This in turn has created an atmosphere that allows marketers to target Latinos as part of the mainstream.

‘Music is the big leader,’ says Valiquette. ‘It started in a small way and has changed very quickly. Five or six years ago someone like Shakira might not have gotten the same push for mainstream stardom that she has now. Pre-J.Lo, it wouldn’t have happened. Now, she is someone with a thick Spanish accent, whose singing and dancing is clearly influenced by Latin culture.’

Hispanics are the largest and fastest growing ethnic group in the U.S., and are already the majority in the major metropolitan areas in New York, Los Angeles and Miami. The 2000 U.S. Census found that one in five U.S. children aged 0 to 19 is Latino, and this number is likely to go up. A recent article in the Economist pointed out that America’s Latino population has a fertility rate that, at 3.0, is far higher than the rate of non-Hispanic whites at 1.8 – and is even higher than the rate in many developing countries.

The Spanish-speaking community in Canada is nowhere near that size. The latest census statistics from 1996, combined with the total number of Spanish-speaking immigrants who entered the country over the last six years, adds up to approximately 267,000 people, not quite one percent of the total population (0.9%). Aside from clusters in the Greater Toronto Area and Vancouver, the population is not centralized. Not surprisingly, few advertisers have the group on the radar screen for targeted campaigns, and even fewer media options exist should they wish to do so.

At present, Toronto is headquarters to the few Spanish publications that do exist, including the weekly El Mundo Latino News, Multimedia’s weekly Correo Canadiense, and the glossy bi-weekly Picante Express, now distributing 10,000 copies free in night spots around town. While Rogers’ CFMT (currently being rebranded as OMNI.1) now offers Latino programming as part of its multicultural mix, Toronto-based Telelatino is the only national network catering solely to Hispanics. TLN is also responsible for the annual Latinfest concert event held at Paramount Canada’s Wonderland.

Alf de Blasis, Telelatino promotions manager, has yet to see much interest from mainstream Canadian marketers. Currently, local retailers and a few early starters like Western Union support the station, which broadcasts to some 3.5 million households across the country (including Italian and Portuguese households).

In the meantime, mainstream Canadians are just as likely to see Hispanic-influenced advertising as those watching TLN. J.Lo is the latest spokesperson for L’Oréal. A new television ad from BBDO New York shows Enrique Iglesias snatching a bag of Doritos Salsa from a member of the audience.

Such mainstream advertising with an Hispanic edge may be the best way to go, as Hispanics, while growing as a cultural group, seem destined to assimilation in the great melting pot.

For instance, in the late 1990s, California, with wide Latino support, drew up legislation to end affirmative action and put a stop to bilingual education, both acts intended to streamline Hispanic assimilation into mainstream America.

Notably, it’s the marketers whose focus is on younger people who have been most interested in the trends this new culture is producing.

Michelle Erskine of Toronto’s Youth Culture Research told Strategy magazine what she’s been telling her clients:

‘There’s been lots of press behind the aging population in Canada, but they seem to have missed the huge population of 9-21s. In the U.S., this is the largest generation of teens – larger than the baby boom. What’s going on in the U.S. will drift across the border, and the importance of the Hispanic population is going to [have] some effects here. We’ll see ads from the U.S. directed at the Hispanic population, and I expect that influences will filter into clothing, fashion and music. We’re seeing some of it already.’

Is it possible that Hispanic America has already influenced our culture in ways that are no longer easy to distinguish? Even the experts aren’t sure.

Valiquette is willing to speculate that the trend in skin bronzed with self-tanning creams may have something to do with the influence of J.Lo.

Everyone else will be watching and waiting.