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Marketing to Hispanics/Latinos

A powerful consumer market with annual spending power exceeding $350 billion, Hispanics-or should that be Latinos?-have become the largest minority group in the United States, and a marketplace well-worth looking into and with plenty to see--once you get the labels straight.

Is it "Hispanics" or "Latinos"?

Hispanics and Latinos have hotly debated that question for years, and apparently, picking one answer over the other means drawing political, social, and generational lines in the sand.

I'll explain later, but for now let's get some numbers on the table.

Hispanic Database ? The Numbers Tell the Story

It made headlines! Hispanics are now the largest minority group in the U.S., outnumbering blacks by nearly 1 million (37 million v. 36.2 million).

That may have been news, but demographers and advocacy groups saw it coming; those population estimates merely confirmed it. With extensive immigration from economic basket case, Latin America--and a robust birthrate among predominantly Catholic Hispanics--this gap is expected to grow. By 2020, the Hispanic population could easily double to 70 million, or 21% of the U.S. population; by 2050 expect people of Hispanic origin to number more than 100 million. Hispanics are 11.4% of today's work force, a figure that could easily double in a ten years.

? Over 7.6 million Hispanic households in the U.S. average 3.6 people per household.

? U.S. Hispanic households have 2 or more people employed full time; 58% of Hispanics over 18 are employed full time.

? About 1 million Hispanic households in the United States have incomes of $50,000 or more.

? The average Hispanic household spends $31,013 annually. ? Hispanics are a young population. The median age of U.S. Hispanics is 26.5 compared to a median age of 32.2 for non-Hispanics.

? 12.8 million Hispanics were foreign-born; of this number, 1 in 4 were naturalized citizens.

? Among foreign-born Hispanics, 43% entered the U.S. in the 1990s, while 27% entered before 1980.

? Although 74% of those who entered the country before 1970 had obtained citizenship by 2000, only 7% of those who entered between 1990 and 2000 had become citizens. (Becoming a naturalized citizen requires five years of residence in the U.S.)

Sources: U.S. Census Bureau 2000 Census of Population and The Hispanic Population in the United States, March 2000, Roberto Ramirez and Melissa Therrien.

Flexing Economic and Political Muscle

Today, the 7.6 million-plus Hispanic households in the U.S. boast higher educational levels, greater access to credit and capital, and more finely tuned technological skills than ever. Consequently, with buying power exceeding $350 billion, the current generation of Hispanics is an economic powerhouse.

That Adds up to Prime Marketing Potential

More than half of all Hispanics in the U.S. are between ages 18-49, which means most of them are getting married, buying homes, starting families, launching careers, and in many cases, opening their own businesses.

A strong entrepreneurial streak runs through this market, with Hispanic-owned businesses in the U.S. totaling 1.2 million firms employing over 1.3 million people and generating $186.3 billion in revenues in 1997, according to a report released this year by the Commerce Department's Census Bureau. Indeed, Hispanic-owned companies made up 6% of the 20.8 million non-farm businesses in the nation and 1% of the $18.6 trillion in receipts for all businesses.

Market Positioning Pays (As Always)

The longer Hispanics live in an area and the more prosperous they are the more invisible they become, and many school districts are having marked success with "immersion" English-language training among Hispanic grade school students. Yet assimilation may never be complete. In most Hispanic communities in the U.S., strong cultural identity persists, and that can affect how you market to them. So though the times are indeed a-changing (to borrow a phrase), you'll still find that a fundamental understanding of Hispanic culture and working knowledge of Spanish are assets in this market-make that markets, since Hispanic communities are no more homogeneous than others.

Like any group, Hispanics in a community typically become reconfigured into distinct market segments-small-business owners, professionals, agribusiness, and so on-with all the usual qualifying characteristics: Common identity and accessibility; Common characteristics; Identifiable wants, needs and objectives; active communications networks.

Where is Home?

"The Southwest and Northeast still have the heaviest concentrations of Hispanic communities, but Latinos are changing the look, sound and feel of more and more cities across the nation that have not traditionally been home to Hispanics," reports Gigi Anders in Hispanic Magazine, adding that Hispanic communities are developing at a record-breaking pace in other nontraditional states such as Arkansas, Oregon, Nevada, and South Carolina.

And Georgia!

Yolanda Rodríguez, writing in Hispanics Online: "In 1996, the Georgia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce had 180 members and now has 931, ranging from multimillion dollar companies to small mom-and-pop operations."

Business owners and professionals who understand that will enjoy a competitive edge in this marketplace and find it easier to build productive relationships with receptive Hispanic prospects and clients.

So, Which is it: Hispanic or Latino?

We're back to that question?

Those who call themselves Hispanic are typically more assimilated (or acculturated), politically conservative, and younger than those who use the term Latino, who, conversely, tend to be liberal, older, and at times, more radical.

"A recent presidential tracking poll by Hispanic Trends, Inc., a polling firm associated with Hispanic Magazine, wanted to put the identity issue to rest once and for all by asking registered voters which term they preferred--Hispanic or Latino?" Concludes Ms. Granado, "The result was something of a surprise: A majority prefers the term Hispanic."

There, does that straighten the picture on the wall?

Reference Sources:

1. U.S. Census Bureau, Census of Population.

2. This website is an invaluable resource for anyone seeking to learn more about Hispanic culture, lifestyle, economics and demographics.

3. "Surveys Reveal Hispanics' Family Concerns," Humberto Cruz, The Savings Game, Tribune Media Services, 1/5/03

4. "Family Is Priority for Many Hispanic Workers," Carol Kleiman, Tampa Tribune, 12/24/02

5. The Allied Media Publication Network allows you to target this market through publications whose editorial focus is directly linked to Hispanic culture.

6. "Bilingual Yellow Pages to Embrace Hispanics," Rafael Morales, Tampa Tribune, 10/25/02

7. "Small Business Research Summary's ? Analysis of Hispanic-Owned Companies," David Birch September 2000. Cognetics Marketing Services, Inc.

8. "The Hispanic Market Continues To Grow Everywhere!" Alex López Negrete, President/CEO, López Negrete Communications.

9. "The Hispanic Population in the United States, March 2000," Roberto Ramirez and Melissa Therrien.

10. "Top 10 Cities For Hispanics 2002," Gigi Anders,

11. "Hispanics Living in the Peach State," Yolanda Rodríguez,

12. "'Hispanic' vs. 'Latino': A New Poll Finds That The Term 'Hispanic' Is Preferred," Christina Granado, www.Hispaniconline.Com

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