To See the Future of Retail Marketing, Look to Latino Youth

May 06, 2003

By Rick

Latino youth, largely second generation descendants of immigrant parents,
are a diverse and complex group, but can be broadly characterized as “living
in two worlds.” Such were the conclusions of the presenters of the FMI Close-Up
presentation, “Merchandising to Hispanic Shoppers: What’s Working/What’s

Balancing the traditional family life instilled by their parents with fast-paced
mainstream youth culture, Latino youth are moving up the economic ladder and
poised to lead the biggest population revolution of our time. According to the
Census Bureau, people of Hispanic origin numbered nearly 37 million in the U.S.
in 2001, surpassing the African American segment for the first time. Currently
comprising nearly 13% of the population, projections show Hispanics making up
about 24% of the nation by 2050.

Framing the discussion on youth culture, Bill Bishop of Willard Bishop Consulting,
advised retailers more generally to pay heed to the booming Hispanic population
trends. What is required, he said, was to strike a “ying and yang” merchandising
balance: providing the products and family-oriented atmosphere that appeals
to first and second generation Latinos without alienating the established customer
base. Over time, Latino customers will tend to “acculturate” into the mainstream,
assuming the characteristics of the general shopping community, while Anglos
become more comfortable with Latino menu choices and product preferences.

But the key to capitalizing on the Hispanic boom lies in the second generation
youth, who, in the words of co-presenter David Morse of New American Dimensions,
are the “ambassadors of American culture” to their Spanish speaking, un-acculturated
parents. Hispanic young people live in the family inter-dependent, scratch-cooking
world of their parents, while simultaneously being quick adopters, and innovators,
of mainstream American culture, from fast food to hip hop styles.

Morse said that, despite their sophistication, most CPG marketers are just
beginning to explore the needs of this group. Consequently, this population,
which leads the most dramatic immigrant movement since the Great Depression,
are falling “between the cracks” of general marketing and “ethnic marketing”.
Marketers must do a lot more than add bilingual labeling to their packages,
they must immerse themselves in the culture and develop products and methods
that cater to the traditional and new American desires of this group. And if
marketers can find the formula(s) to appeal to this diverse demographic, it
won’t be wasted on Anglos. As Morse says, “If you are able to strike an
‘ethnic chord’ with these kids, you’re going to connect to the
general market kids that are thinking this culture is very cool right now.”

Moderator’s Comment: Do you agree that this opportunity
is as huge as is being portrayed? Will marketers “get it” or are the dynamics
of this group too complex and mercurial to pin down in a marketing plan or product

To quote Nicholas Sorvillo of ACNielsen, “Just changing
the name of a product doesn’t necessarily make it Hispanic-friendly.”

Just placing a group of consumers under the Hispanic market
label will not create a market either. [George
Anderson – Moderator

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