After a long day at work spent in client meetings, Martha arrives home and heads to the kitchen. While still carrying Alberto in one arm, she drops a bag of groceries on the counter and quickly turns on the TV for background noise. The channel is set to Univision, where she can get a glimpse of the latest news in her native Spanish.
While she lowers Alberto to the ground she tells him—in perfect English—to go play while she makes dinner. Her groceries mainly consist of the same products any working mother with small children would buy: some premade meals, canned goods, snacks, milk, meats and cheese, vegetables, fruits, and bread, not any different than most American households. Except that her bag also includes adobo, for it is a key ingredient for many Latin dishes.
Martha’s cell phone rings. She answers by saying, “Hola” then constantly switches between English to Spanish, and the two languages intertwine and blend as one. After she hangs up the phone, she quickly reads a text message, smiles, and starts to prepare dinner keeping an eye on Alberto while singing the latest pop hit.
The scenario described above is not uncommon. The U.S. Census Bureau reported that 21% of all married couples in the US had at least one foreign-born spouse. These households are a melting pot of cultures and heritages.
Adopting US Behaviors While Connecting to Heritages
The Census Married-Couple Households by Nativity Status: 2011 report also explains that 61% of the foreign-born spouses are naturalized, meaning that they have been in the US long enough to acculturate to a higher or lesser degree. (Acculturation is defined as the adoption of behaviors of the host society).
While foreign-born people adopt US behaviors and traditions, thanks to the use of technology and the celebration of diversity, they also hold to their native customs. They are complex and sophisticated consumers who live in a bicultural world. The children born from these couples often learn English and a second language. They are exposed to different foods, culture, and values. While they are Americans first, they are also deeply connected to their ancestry, which has a great impact on how they respond to advertising.
Marketing to Multidimensional Consumers
As the market evolves, so does how we market. For decades, marketers created very specific labels to better speak with customer segments: Hispanics, African American, Asian American, Anglo, Native Americans, and many others. Companies spent millions of dollars in research to determine what motivates each segment and identified their media preference, channels, and usage, even where they live. One could make fairly accurate assumptions about consumers’ language preferences and some very specific purchase behaviors. Companies continue to do this to acquire a larger share of the market to help drive future growth and remain competitive.
Martha’s purchasing process is most similar to the Anglo’s; it is a rational process where products are mainly purchased using a price value metric. However, capturing her attention is heavily driven by emotions and cultural susceptibility. Martha is more receptive to an advertisement or media that acknowledges her heritage and celebrates her inclusiveness to the American society. Martha is a complex consumer; she is what we define as a “multidimensional consumer.”
For products to be successful, they need to be able to capture the attention of their audience by removing the noise of their competitors. For example, back in April, Martha received a Cinco de Mayo promotion in the mail, and she quickly tossed it in the garbage. Martha was born in South America where Cinco de Mayo has no meaning. Being Hispanic does not mean embracing a Mexican festivity. The stereotype was blocked by the noise filter. However, a few days ago, Martha stumbled across an online banner ad that featured a multigenerational family with messaging in English and Spanish. She was quick to click (Hispanics overwhelmingly acknowledge the importance of family). Multidimensional consumers’ respond well to multicultural segments emotional drivers but have a rational purchasing behavior.
If a marketer wants to capture Martha’s attention, subtle cultural cues included to the message can be meaningful. Acknowledge her heritage and celebrate her diversity can make an impact and make her pay attention to what the product offers and how it will benefit their life. But remember that she will buy the products she needs at the price she considers right.