49 posts categorized "Culture"

El Elefante in the Boardroom: Growth of the Latino Community in Central Texas - My notes for #AARO35 panel.

September 21, 2015
By Juan Tornoe

Depending on migration numbers, from Zero Net Migration to maintaining the same migration numbers as the 2000-2010 decade, by 2050 Latinos will represent anywhere between 43.6% and 50.7% of the Austin-Round Rock Metropolitan Area. In either case Hispanics are becoming the majority of the population in our region.

Latinos are becoming a market not to be ignored by businesses and organizations if they want to remain relevant, keep their doors open and prosper in the upcoming decades.

Yet, Hispanics are still the Elephant in the Boardroom, having many categorize us under way outdated stereotypes – at best – or completely ignore our existence and/or relevance for the future of our region.

According to Martin Prosperity Institute’s 2015 Segregated City Report, Austin consistently ranks among the top 10 most economically, educationally, and occupationally segregated cities in the United States. This issues need to be addressed.

I believe today there is more than one “Austin”, and that if we want our city to truly prosper and lead during the following decades, there is a need for recognizing this reality, and having all those affected by it actively work to make it one. This is everyone’s responsibility, every single ethnic, economic, political and social group should work towards integration and collaboration with others in order to be ready to move forward into the second part of this century.

It is not only the current majority, Non-Hispanic Whites, who need to do take action, it is also the largest minority, Hispanics, who need to not only stop self-segregating from other ethnic groups, but among themselves, be it by generation, country of origin, education, or income level.

We need to get to know each other, understand other’s culture and individuality in order to break down stereotypes and create a true understanding of those communities around us. All this striving for a better society as well as a positive economic future for our region.

We need to understand that not all Latinos work blue-collar jobs, only speak Spanish, or have a Mexican heritage. We need to search for the things that make us similar, rather that the things that set us apart.


Piggy-backing your Latino Messaging onto your General Market Ad Budget

July, 2010
By Juan Tornoe

Oftentimes people mistake Hispanic marketing for Spanish marketing.

Even though the United States is the second largest Spanish-speaking country in the world, there is at least 36% of the Latino market that is English-dominant (14% of the Hispanic market only speak English); more than 1 in 3 Hispanics live in English. There is another 10% of the market that is fully bilingual and there is at lease another 32% who even thought they speak mostly Spanish they do understand some English. All these numbers leave us with only 22% of Hispanics who don’t know any English whatsoever.

On top of that, the main source of growth of the Latino market, since last decade, comes from U.S. born individuals, who will grow up in this country, attend our public schools, and be proficient in English by the time themselves become consumers and/or they influence the buying habits of their parents.

Bottom line, if your Hispanic marketing is only in Spanish, you are not reaching all Hispanics. Short example: At home, my family and I, only speak Spanish, yet except for the Soccer World Cup every 4 years, you will not and cannot reach us using any Spanish language media, traditional or new, online or offline, local or national. Every single bit of media we consume is in English.

So, how do you reach all those Latinos who are unreachable by the use of Spanish media, be it like my family of like many others who simply don’t speak Spanish, but still retain the heritage and cultural traditions of Hispanics?

The short answer is by piggy-backing your Latino messaging onto your general market ad budget. For this action, a while back I coined the phrase “Lonely-Boying”, after Los Lonely Boys and their 2003 hit song “Heaven”. The song was a HUGE hit all across America, but it is a little known fact – among the general market – that there are two lines from its chorus that are completely in Spanish. For the average American, Heaven was a great song but for a Latino, it not only was that but it instantly generated a deeper emotional connection with Los Lonely Boys because of the short Spanish language phrase intertwined into the song. Even if the Hispanic didn’t know a word of Spanish, they could recognize that the group was singing in “abuelita’s” language! Those few words generated a deeper connection because they were a brief but powerful acknowledgement of the dual reality – culturally and language wise – that Latinos live in America. Even if unconsciously, the Hispanic listener feels that Los Lonely Boys “gets them”.


We have been talking music up until know, but how to we transfer the concept of Lonely-Boying into marketing and advertising? It is by reaching the Latino market through short, yet powerful, tidbits within your general market outreach efforts that connect in a deeper emotional level with Hispanics and most likely will pass unnoticed by those exposed to it from the general market. Lonely-Boying can be done in any creative execution: radio, TV, newspaper, billboards, direct mail, email marketing, online banners, social media, etc.

Its effect can be accomplished through sounds, written or spoken words, images, melodies, or colors, all of which immediately generate an emotional reaction from Hispanics – no matter their language preference – but are completely irrelevant or simply overlooked by everyone else.

Funny thing, I had been using this technique for several years when last November I ran into an article on The Daily Pennsylvanian where they quoted Americus Reed, PhD, Identity Theorist, and marketing professor from Wharton School of Business, talking on the same subject:

“Consumers who identify with different ethnic groups perceive ads — and life — differently. Marketers who try to speak to ‘both selves’ using cultural symbols can lower the value of an ad; you can’t overtly try to appeal to both cultures. For an ad to appeal to bicultural consumers successfully, a ‘complementary synergy’ has to be created. Instead of having everything shouting at you at once, one of the dimensions has to be more subtle.”

You can either quote the ad guy or the PhD, but to reach out to the growing, diverse and ever-more-complex Latino market you must not limit yourself and your business to only talk to them in Spanish using Spanish language media; you must sprinkle your general market ads with some Hispanic flare.

Originally published on Abasto magazine


Diferencias Culturales entre Hispanos y Americanos

Julio, 2010
Por Juan Tornoe

Aunque existen ciertas características que todos compartimos como miembros de la raza humana, debido a la dispersión del hombre a través de toda faz de la tierra, se fueron formando distintos grupos que ahora comparten una herencia, una historia común entre ellos, de donde surgen ciertas características culturales que los diferencian de los demás. Tal es el caso de los diferentes grupos étnicos que llaman “hogar” a los Estados Unidos de América. De particular importancia es entender la diferencia entre el mercado general y el mercado hispano en este país. Cómo ya hemos mencionado antes, aproximadamente el 17% del total de la población es de origen hispano, número que para el año 2,050 aumentará a por lo menos a un 30%; para entonces prácticamente 1 de cada tres estadounidenses será de origen hispano.

A continuación le presento algunas de las características culturales que diferencian a los hispanos de los americanos (o sea, del mercado general estadounidense); con una aclaración importante: en general, estas características se observan con mayor facilidad mientras más cerca – generacionalmente – esté el individuo que aquél que cruzó la frontera.

Grado de Intimidad: El latino es más amigable y emocionalmente más abierto de mucho más rápidamente que el americano promedio. No es que establezcan amistades profundas y a largo plazo de inmediato, pero pronto tienden a interactuar como si así fuera. En la cultura anglo-sajona toma más tiempo que las personas se abran de ésta manera; ellos deben de conocerle mucho más a fondo antes de “bajar la guardia” en cuanto a su interacción en una determinada relación.

Reconocer la presencia de otros: Aunque es una necesidad de todo ser humano el ser reconocido como tal, este rasgo cultural es mucho más marcado entre los Hispanos. El Latino verdaderamente espera y aprecia que se le dedique tiempo, que se haga contacto visual (cuando sea posible) y que la conversación que se establezca sea genuina y no parte un script memorizado acompañado de una sonrisa fingida.  

Harmonía Social: El latino promedio se siente a gusto manteniendo la harmonía social. A veces es aún más que esto; a menudo se vuelve una necesidad mantener relaciones placenteras y libres de conflicto. A tal punto llega esto que el hispano prefiere no abordar un tema conflictivo con otra persona a fin de evitar la incomodidad de la situación. Es decir, los latinos tienen más dificultad para separar un asunto en particular, de la relación personal que tienen con el individuo con quien la discuten. Para el americano, es mucho más sencillo hacer la distinción entre un asunto particular y su relación con la persona con quien habla al respecto de éste; puede estar en completo desacuerdo sobre algo pero esto no afecta en lo absoluto su relación personal con la persona con quien lo habla.

Espacio Personal: En situaciones sociales, para los hispanos, el contacto personal es de lo más común. Algunos bromean que para los latinos no existe el concepto de “espacio personal”; abrazos, apretones efusivos de manos, besos en la mejilla, unas palmadas en el brazo o el muslo, todos estos son normales y de esperarse durante las interacciones personales, aún sin conocerse por mucho tiempo. Para el anglo sajón, esto no es nada cómodo a menos que se trate de familia o de alguien con quien se haya tenido una relación personal por muchos años.

Respeto a la Autoridad y Poder: Los hispanos tienden a tener respeto y admiración por aquellos a quienes perciben tener más poder y autoridad. El juez, el doctor, el gobernador, el abogado, el presentador de noticias, el presidente de una gran empresa; todos estos son ejemplos de personas que el latino promedio respeta por la posición en que esta. Por ejemplo, un hispano no va a visitar a su médico para decirle que acaba de ver un anuncio en la televisión que recomienda una medicina para el mal que padece y que quiere que se la recete en vez de la que está tomando actualmente. El americano promedio no tendría ningún problema en hacer esto y el doctor tampoco se sentiría ofendido al respecto, pero para el latino, es una completa falta de respeto: ¿Cómo va cuestionar la decisión de aquél que ha pasado muchísimo años estudiando y entrenándose para ser médico?

Espero que esta pequeña muestra de diferencias culturales le ayude a comprender de una mejor manera las diferencias entre el mercado general y los hispanos, y que utilice esta información para servir mejor a ambos.

Originally published on Abasto Magazine


Practical Advice for Effectively Reaching Out to Latino Church Goers

August 6, 2015
By Juan Tornoe

At the end of a recent presentation during a Christ Together Greater Austin board retreat, one of the board members asked for specific/practical advice on how to better connect with Latinos attending his church. If I recall correctly, he used the term, “best practices” …

An extremely insightful question, that just kept spinning inside my brain. Since then, I’ve gathered some of my thoughts on this subject and wanted to share them with you.

  1. Don’t call it Hispanic (or Latino) Ministry: If you choose to reach out to Spanish-dominant Hispanics, call it “Spanish Ministry” or “Spanish Service”. It should be intended for everyone who wishes to worship and be taught in Spanish, independently of their ethnicity. Your current “general audience” English service should be sprinkled with bits and pieces of Latino culture every now and then, in order to recognize those sitting on the pews who are culturally Hispanic, but for whatever reason prefer attending church in English.
  2. Cultural Sensitivity Training: Make sure that everyone, from the lead pastor, to all church staff, elders, and volunteer laypersons who interact with churchgoers understand the church’s goal or reaching out to all ethnicities/people groups in Austin and is willing and ready to interact with them in a way that makes them feel at home at your church.
  3. Don’t assume that if someone “looks” Latino they will prefer to be addressed in Spanish. In a mature, multi-generational market like Austin, we should first talk to people in English, and then adapt depending on how the conversation progresses. If they don’t understand what you are saying or speak English with a thick accent or with some difficulty, switch into Spanish or make sure to introduce them to somebody who can help them in that language.
  4. If you have (or hire) a pastor to lead your Spanish language services, don’t measure his success by service attendance, but by spiritual growth of their service attendees as well as by their integration into your church’s entire community.
  5. Provide timely information about all of your church’s ministries, events, classes in both English and Spanish. Everyone should know what is going on in your church: Activities from Nursery all the way up to College ministry and beyond.
  6. Don’t treat your Spanish ministry/service as if it is a different church that happens to gather at your premises. Have a “Our Church 101” in Spanish to give to new visitors to the Spanish service, with information on EVERYTHING that goes on at your church, not only at the Spanish service.
  7. Cross-pollinate sermons on a regular basis: make sure to bring in your Spanish pastor to preach at your general service (with an interpreter if needed), and have several of your English-speaking pastors preach at the Spanish service (again, with an interpreter). This also applies to worship, mix it up a bit: It is easier with worship songs that are popular in both English and Spanish, and having members of each worship team singing some verses in their language.
  8. Add an easy to access Spanish page to your website (at the very least), with all the basic information about your church, services, etc., and make sure to provide contact information of someone who can follow up with them in their language of choice.
  9. Pay attention to translations: When you are making the effort to speak to Spanish-dominant Latinos in their language, you can butcher it all day long; we appreciate you making the effort of speaking to us in our mother tongue. Now, when it comes to written materials, make sure that it is properly translated and intended for no more than a 6th grade reading level.
  10. As much as possible, keep the the same teachings at the pulpit, Sunday school, and small groups. This will create conversation opportunities between attendees of both services.
  11. Everyone should be invited to any and every church activity, independently if it is organized by the English or the Spanish service.
  12. There should not be any mentions of the “American church” (or any similar way to talk about the English service) or the “Spanish church”. Both should be of the same heart and mind, identify as one church, and only refer to the other as the “English service” or “Spanish service”. This will help build a stronger bridge between all church members, rather than the auto-segregation that it produces.

This is just a stream of consciousness addressing some of the things that could be implemented at any given church, and I believe could generate positive results for church growth and community integration.

Hope it helps.

God bless you!


Hispanics and Latin Americans are Not the Same

June 2010
By Juan Tornoe

For practical reasons, let’s begin defining the term Latino or Hispanic, which at the end of the day identify the same group of people. Latinos/Hispanics are those individuals living in the U.S. that somewhere in their past have roots South of the Rio Grande or the Spanish-speaking Caribbean. All the latter can be described as Latin American.

Immediately you can begin to notice the distinction. The primary difference between Hispanics and Latin Americans is where they live.

At first sight, this does not seem to make such a drastic difference among the two groups. But by digging a bit deeper you will come to the realization of how important it is to differentiate among them. By living in the United States and going through a process of acculturation (the preservation of one’s birth culture and the addition of another culture) and/or assimilation (the replacement of one’s birth culture by another) a Latin American individual morphs into a Latino.

Let me explain. The experience of living in America and everything that one is exposed to in this country creates a new reality for the individual. Although he or she still retains many of the similar cultural traits and life experiences as others living in Latin America, there are many ongoing occurrences that are simply unique for those living here.

Yes, you can be a Latino of Mexican (Guatemalan, Venezuelan, Peruvian, or Ecuadorian) descent but your life experiences, the more time you live in the U.S. begin to redefine your sense of self and distance it from those persons who currently live in your country of origin. This is not good or bad; it simply is different.

Let’s look at some of these differences…

1. Thanksgiving Day: Back in Latin America, there is no experience that comes close to what Thanksgiving stands for. There were no pilgrims, but rather conquistadors turning up until then free natives into slaves; not much of a reason to be thankful. Still, when a Latino comes to America, Thanksgiving is something that they want to adopt right away; it is an event that symbolizes, in more ways than one, the fact that now they live in this country.

2. Girls Playing Soccer: Soccer, or “Fútbol”, in Latin American is predominantly a men sport. When immigrants come to this country they notice that not only girls are play soccer, but they are awesome at it. This takes them completely by surprise. Little by little they begin to get used to the idea up to the point when they allow, and eventually encourage, their little girls to join soccer leagues. Hispanic women are suddenly free to “bend it like Beckham”.  

3. “Greek Latinos”: Unfortunately, only a small percentage of Latin Americans get the opportunity to attend college. Most of the lucky ones live in the cities where the colleges or universities are located. Therefore, there is no need to move away from home to attend college, so there is no need for dorms, let alone fraternities and sororities. In the U.S. Hispanics are heading to college in ever increasing numbers and not only are they going Greek, but they are joining Latino fraternities and sororities, which can be found in basically every campus in the nation.

4. The Manly Art of Grilling: There is no natural and instinctive grunting (ala Home Improvement’s Tim “the tool man” Taylor) coming from Latin American men when in front of a Weber Summit S-670 grill. Generalizing, with a few exceptions Latin American men don’t cook unless pushed to extreme desperation. When we come to America we are quite perplexed by all the guys’ fascination with grilling and really don’t get it at first. Then, little by little, through repeated exposure, we begin to get the hand of it. Research shows that grillin’ is a consistently growing practice amongst Latino men.

We could go on and on, but you get the picture by now. Living in the United States provides a completely different experience to Latin American immigrants that differentiates them from their fellow countrymen who stayed behind. Now, think of U.S. born Hispanics who were never exposed to life in Latin America…


Originally published in Abasto magazine


Cuidado con las Jergas de los Distintos Segmentos del Mercado Hispano

Junio, 2010
Por Juan Tornoe

De la forma en que hoy en día el mercado segmenta a la comunidad hispana, pareciera que todos somos un uniforme y gigantesco bloque de 17 millones de individuos que aumenta en número cada día. En muchos casos, como lo he mencionado anteriormente, hasta se considera que mercadear a hispanos es mercadear en español. De ser este el caso, que no lo es (hay un gran número de latinos que no hablan español en lo absoluto), sería contraproducente asumir que el español es una lengua estática la cual se puede utilizar de exactamente la misma manera en cualquier parte del planeta en el que se hable. Debo recalcar que estamos hablando de conectar emocionalmente con personas para persuadirles a hacer lo que queremos que hagan, o sea, mercadearles nuestros productos o servicios.

Buena suerte tratando de mercadear sus productos en Colombia utilizando jerga, modismos y regionalismos de Argentina o México. De la misma manera, la comunidad hispana en los Estados Unidos es tan diversa y está tan dispersa a nivel nacional que se debe tomar en consideración su composición en el mercado que usted desea alcanzar antes de comenzar a crear una campaña publicitaria o cualquier otro tipo de comunicación.

Al hablar de composición del mercado me refiero a los porcentajes de los subgrupos de la comunidad hispana que habitan en el territorio que usted sirve (ya sea desde un vecindario hasta la nación completa). ¿La mayoría son mexicanos, cubanos, portorriqueños, dominicanos, salvadoreños, colombianos, o nicaragüenses? Aunque el mayor porcentaje de los Latinos son de origen mexicano, es un error asumir de primas a primeras que el utilizar modismos mexicanos es la mejor forma de hablarle a su público. Por ejemplo, aproximadamente el 45% de dominicanos viviendo en Estados Unidos radican en la ciudad de Nueva York; de igual manera, 50% de los cubanos viviendo en este país residen en el condado de Miami-Dade en la Florida. Otro dato interesante es el hecho que a nivel nacional, los salvadoreños en el 2008 por primera vez en la historia sobrepasaron en número a aquellas personas de origen dominicano, convirtiéndose en el cuarto grupo hispano en cuánto a cantidad de población, atrás de los mexicanos, portorriqueños y cubanos, en ese orden.

¿Cómo le afecta esto a usted y a su negocio? Déjeme darle algunos ejemplos. Algunos artículos/productos tienen nombres completamente distintos dependiendo del origen de las personas a quien se dirija. Lo que para un mexicano son “frijoles”, para un chileno son “porotos” y para un dominicano son “habichuelas”. En otras situaciones la mismísima palabra tiene otro significado y hasta puede tener un significado completamente opuesto. “Ahorita” para un guatemalteco significa “inmediatamente”, mientras que para un costarricense la misma palabra quiere decir “eventualmente”.  Estos son ejemplos “para todo público”; existen otras palabras que son de uso común y corriente para un grupo pero que son vulgares para otro; se debe tener muchísimo cuidado.

Así puede usted comprender porqué es importante conocer a fondo a su público, conocer su jerga, sus modismos y hasta los acentos con los que hablan. Haciéndolo logrará comunicarse con ellos de una manera más poderosa, más efectiva, ganando tanto sus mentes como sus corazones, todo gracias a que usted hizo un esfuerzo adicional en conocerles mejor y utilizar este conocimiento para comunicarse con ellos de tal manera que se establezca un vínculo emocional más fuerte con su empresa que con la competencia. En esta época en que todo consumidor es bombardeado constantemente por miles de mensajes publicitarios, esto hará la diferencia entre que su mensaje publicitario se diluya con todos los demás o que sobresalga y acapare la atención de su clientela.  

Originally published on Abasto Magazine


Diferencias Generacionales entre Hispanos

Mayo, 2010
Por Juan Tornoe

Cuando el empresario promedio dice, “Quiero alcanzar a los hispanos”, generalmente está tratando de alcanzar a un universo de personas mucho mayor de lo que su presupuesto, gama de productos, o su huella geográfica le permitiría.

Hay muchas formas de desglosar al mercado latino, pero una que es bastante práctica y permite tiempos de reacción/adaptación cortos es el separar a los hispanos por generaciones.

Primero definamos, de manera general, a que nos referimos con esto de generaciones:

1ª Generación: Aquellos miembros de la comunidad hispana que nacieron y crecieron (una buena parte de sus vidas) en Latino América; son aquellos que migraron hacia los Estados Unidos. Lo que nuestros amigos Americanos llaman, “foreign-born;” nacidos en el extranjero.

2ª  Generación: Nacidos en los Estados Unidos de padres – por lo menos uno – inmigrantes; aquí incluyo a aquellas personas que a una temprana edad migraron con sus padres desde Latino América y han vivido y crecido la mayor parte de sus vidas en los Estados Unidos.

3ª Generación o más: Nacidos en Estados Unidos de padres nacidos en los Estados Unidos. Aunque pueden identificar una conexión con Latino América en su árbol genealógico, todo lo que ellos (y sus padres) han experimentado la gran mayoría de sus vidas, por no decir toda su existencia, es la vida en los Estados Unidos.

Podríamos entrar en mucho más detalle al respecto, pero desde ya estoy seguro que usted ha comenzado a ver las claras diferencias en cuanto a puntos de vista y experiencias entre estos tres grupos.

El Hispano de primera generación va a estar intelectual y emocionalmente mucho más conectado con su país de origen. Por ende, mercadearle productos de “nostalgia” – aquellos que le son familiares y le recuerdan de alguna forma a su país, representa una gran oportunidad. Otro aspecto igual de importante es el idioma en el que puede mercadearle a este grupo. Especialmente a nivel de su local o tienda, el ofrecer la posibilidad de escuchar y leer información en español acerca de sus productos o servicios harán una gran diferencia. Aunque esta persona sea bilingüe, el darle la oportunidad de interactuar en su idioma natal representa una gran ventaja competitiva.

El Latino de segunda generación se identifica de cierta forma con la canción interpretada estupendamente por Facundo Cabral titulada “No soy de aquí, no soy de allá”.  Ellos viven una doble realidad; en sus hogares, con sus padres inmigrantes, viven vidas “en español”, siendo educados, interactuando, comiendo, y entreteniéndose de manera muy similar a la que sus padres lo experimentaron en sus tierras natales. Al cruzar el marco de la puerta de entrada de sus hogares entran en el mundo estadounidense en el que han crecido y se han desenvuelto desde que comenzaron a ir a la escuela o guardería. En su mayoría entienden muy bien ambas culturas y consumen indistintamente productos/servicios de ambas. Aunque hablan – y hasta quizá lean – español, con distintos grados de competencia, el ofrecerles información e interacción es inglés hará que se sientan más a gusto al interactuar con su negocio.

Aquellos que forman parte de la tercera generación o más (4ª, 5ª, etc.) aunque retienen ciertas costumbres y tradiciones de sus antepasados, están mucho más asimilados que los otros grupos, es decir, con cada generación de cierta manera se va “olvidando” la hispanicidad  y se va adoptando más la tradicional cultura estadounidense. Esta última afirmación parece ser algo contradictoria, pues dado que los Latinos son la minoría más joven y de mayor número en el país, están influenciando y redefiniendo de manera pronta y poderosa a lo que se conoce como “mercado general”. Independientemente, existen diferencias con las generaciones anteriores. En cuanto al idioma, es probable que aunque entiendan español, no tengan vocabulario suficiente o se sientan lo suficientemente cómodos para hablarlo. Ya que tanto ellos como sus padres han vivido en los Estados Unidos toda su vida, están sumamente familiarizados con todos los productos y servicios que se ofrecen en el país y dependen/utilizan mucho menos productos que tradicionalmente son categorizados como Latinos.

Los porcentajes de estos grupos generacionales varían según los distintos mercados, pero una cosa es cierta: Aunque el número de hispanos de primera generación continuará en crecimiento conforme pasa el tiempo, estos representarán un porcentaje menor de la totalidad del mercado latino. Es decir que cada día los hispanos  de segunda, tercera y siguientes generaciones representarán un mercado más y más grande. Si desea expandir el alcance de su empresa entre todos los hispanos y hacer crecer su negocio, debe entender las diferencias generacionales y utilizar este nuevo entendimiento para poder mercadear efectivamente a todos.


Originally published on Abasto Magazine


Culture, the Glue that Holds Latinos Together

May 2010
By Juan Tornoe

Remember back in 1992, while in the midst of the presidential race James Carville hung a sign in Bill Clinton’s campaign headquarters that read, “It’s the Economy, Stupid”? As succinct a phrase as it was, I believe it dramatically changed history delivering the first term in office for the then Governor of Arkansas, who was facing a tough uphill battle against an apparently unbeatable George H. Bush.

James Carville’s political genius is shown by his understanding of that which mattered the most, that which troubled their hearts and minds, to an electorate base that had just experienced a recession. Yes, there were many other important issues to address, but that was without a doubt, the one that would sway the masses one way or the other.

Extrapolating Mr. Carville’s strategy into your boardroom and applying it to answer the question, “How can we better connect with the growing Hispanic market?” The answer is as simple as this:

IT’S THE CULTURE, SEÑOR! I hope you did not think for even a moment I was about to call you stupid…

Language, as important as it is, it is merely a vehicle to deliver your message. If you are not taking into consideration culture, the best translated outreach campaign won’t connect emotionally with the intended audience. The same goes for country of origin/heritage, generation, socio-economic level, income level, place of residence, etc.

So you need to do your homework (or get some marketing / research guy to do if for you) to better understand those cultural characteristics which are common to all Latinos. The question is, which are those common cultural traits that remain constant, even if at variable intensities, among all 47 million (give or take a couple hundred thousands) Hispanic individuals.

Following please find a small sample, a definitely non-exhaustive list, of some of the cultural traits you need to be aware of if you are consciously making an effort to increase your Latino customer base. Please do keep in mind that the following traits are more obvious the closer you are to the generation which crossed the border, but they will remain among their descendants, even if not as evident.

Degree of Intimacy
Hispanics tend to establish friendlier relationships faster than the average American. Please note it is not friendships that we are talking about, but to the way we casually interact with new acquaintances. It is not only about quickly engaging in conversation; it is more about having a conversation with an old friend from high school: they are laid back, relaxed and might be much quicker to begin joking with you and/or sharing personal stuff with you than what you would normally expect.  

Personal Space
There’s basically none! Expect Latinos to be more prone to invade your personal space. Hugging, touching your back or shoulder, kissing (mostly members of the opposite sex), is quite alright and socially accepted if not expected! Therefore be prepared and do not get all awkward and jumpy when experiencing this reality first hand; just go with the flow!

Respect to Authority and Power
I strongly believe this is one of the main reasons Latin American countries find themselves in their current situation. Hispanics are very, and I mean very, respectful to persons in positions of authority and power. It was not ingrained in our upbringing to second guess, contradict, or express our difference of opinion with people who have earned their way or have been assigned to these positions. Be it medical doctors, college professors, lawyers, or Government officials, it is not in our nature to openly disagree with or contradict them. For a non-Hispanic white it is perfectly OK to go into their doctor’s office and tell them they want that “purple pill” they saw on TV; a Latino would feel very uncomfortable with the whole scenario, most likely questioning their qualifications for making that request vs. the years and years of studies and experience that Mr. MD has.

As I mentioned before, this is just a small sampler of Hispanic cultural traits, but I am sure it gives you enough of an idea of how important being aware of them is for the way you conduct business, service and advertise to Latinos. We’ll continue this conversation in months to come.

Originally published on Abasto Magazine


Aculturación Inversa - Nuevos Mercados para sus Productos

Marzo 2010
Por Juan Tornoe

Todos estamos conscientes del tremendo crecimiento de la población hispana a través de los Estados Unidos. En cualquiera de los cuatro puntos cardinales que usted se dirija – unos más que otros – encontrará señales del la expansión de ésta. Sabemos que por costumbre y/o nostalgia el latino, especialmente aquel de primera generación, busca ciertos productos alimenticios, de limpieza personal y del hogar, vestimenta, decoración y hasta información que le mantienen cerca de “sus raíces.” Todos estos y otros más han generado toda una industria que seguramente usted ha visto crecer y se ha beneficiado directamente de la misma, sirviendo principalmente, si no únicamente a individuos de descendencia latinoamericana.

Por aparte también hemos visto, y muchos hemos vivido en carne propia, el proceso de aculturación de nuestra comunidad a la cultura predominante en este país; cómo con el pasar de los meses, años y décadas vamos adoptando múltiples costumbres y aspectos socioculturales de la cultura anglo-sajona. Es un proceso que a través del tiempo se vuelve inevitable al vivir en este país, por mucho que lo queramos negar o tratemos de evitar.

Ahora la oportunidad de oro para su negocio es comenzar a diversificarse en cuanto a la clientela a quien sirve.

El mercado hispano ha llegado a tal tamaño – casi el 17% de la población del país – que ahora se esta dando el fenómeno de aculturación inversa o “Hispanización” del mercado general. Lo que esto implica es que el mercado general, influenciado en su mayoría hasta ahora por la cultura anglo-sajona, está siendo introducido cada día más y más, y está adoptando como suyos una variedad de productos, costumbres, tradiciones, etc. de la minoría más grande del país.

Algunos ejemplos bastante obvios son la celebración del “5 de Mayo” que se está volviendo casi tan importante como el Día de San Patricio (St. Patrick’s Day), el auge de los restaurantes de comida mexicana (y pseudo-mexicana), el consumo del agua mineral Topo Chico y el consumo de cervezas mexicanas como Corona, Dos Equis y Tecate. También vemos otros signos menos obvios como el hecho que desde ya hace más de cinco años se vende más salsa que catsup y que desde el 2009 se venden más tortillas que pan blanco en los EEUU.

Cadenas de supermercados en ambas costas, Mi Pueblo en California y Sedano’s en la Florida, han identificado esta tendencia y están capitalizando en ella. Siendo supermercados tradicionalmente conocidos como “étnicos”, atendiendo principalmente al mercado hispano, ahora se han aventurado a expandir su alcance dándose a conocer  al resto de la población por medio de promociones, publicidad y nuevas ubicaciones. El hecho de que el mercado general está siendo tan influenciado por la cultura latina presenta una excelente oportunidad para ofrecer a toda la población la amplia variedad de productos que hasta el momento sólo se han comercializado a ésta.

El estar consciente de la creciente receptividad del mercado general a los productos que usted ha estado ofreciendo por mucho tiempo y proactivamente y eficazmente  mercadearlos asegurará que usted alcance nuevos mercados – anteriormente impenetrados – en su región de operaciones.

Marcas como FUD, La Villita, Jarritos, Sidral Mundet, D'Gari, Cholula y Chocolate Ibarra sin lugar a duda llegarán a ser conocidas y utilizadas por todo el mercado de Estados Unidos. La pregunta es si usted forma parte del grupo de visionarios que están abriendo brecha para ellos o simplemente se ha quedado como un observador estático. ¿Cuál de estos escogerá ser?

Originally published on Abasto magazine


It’s the Culture!!! But, what is “culture”?

February 26, 2015
By Juan Tornoe 

Culture here, culture there, culture everywhere. Along with “customer engagement” and “content marketing”, culture is one of the words that has been popping up on my newsfeed, at the office, during client meetings, you name it.

“We live in a multicultural society.”

“You need to connect with [any group’s name]’s culture.”

“I am proud of my culture!” 

“The Latino culture ________________. (Fill in the blank)

Many, including myself, use (sometimes overuse) it so often, so loosely that, we tend to dilute its power and many times distort its meaning. As much as I try staying true to its nature when talking about it with colleagues and clients alike, it’s way too easy to slip and fumble this powerful word’s handling.

Thankfully, I was “cornered” into performing a deep dive on the subject, for a panel at the Center for Hispanic Marketing and Communication at FSU’s 2015 International Conference on Media and Marketing. This made me gather all my notes and mullings about culture and arrange them in a succinct manner.

Therefore, here are my two cents on culture… hope you enjoy.

First, let’s look at its definition…

Culture is the collective social institutions, customs, intellectual expressions, values, and way of life of a particular group.

It is very important to note that there is no mention of “ethnicity” within the previous description.

Now let’s dive a little deeper and look into each of its building blocks, or Elements of Culture.

  • Social Institutions: The organization of the group into smaller groups - friends, families, occupations, and interests. For Hispanics, think of our extended family, including that guy that who we were taught to call tío (uncle) and later in life we found out he was not related to us!
  • Customs: Beliefs, traditions, and collective history, defining patterns of behavior. An example within most in the Latino community – although painfully I am an exception – is our more relaxed concept of time, and punctuality that comes along with it. I like to say that we live in LST, Latino Standard Time.
  • Intellectual Expressions: Including but not limited to arts, literature, and most certainly cuisine; they teach about a culture’s characteristics, promoting pride and unity within the group. For Hispanics, it goes from Mariachis to Mofongo, Mate and Mole, all the way to Mario Vargas Llosa… you get the picture.
  • Values: The standards or judgments of what is right or wrong, good or bad, desirable or undesirable. An example worth pointing out is the Collectivism that permeates within the Latino community; that “WE” over “me” frame of mind, striving for the success and welfare of the group over that of the individual.
  • Language: Used for communication within the group and passing on customs, values, and accessing intellectual expressions. It is an important element of culture, yet just one of its elements. As much as I can’t argue that Spanish, even if it is a simple “Oye, ven pa’ca m’ijo”, strikes Hispanics in the innermost parts of their being, given the multigenerational nature of persons with Latin American heritage living in the United States, language alone can’t be a defining characteristic of the Latino experience.
  • Symbols: Anything that has been given representational meaning by the members of the group. The average non-Hispanic person sees a sandal, or even a picture of it, and is unshaken. If you’re Latino and are confronted with the same image, it is very likely your insides will recoil a tad at the memory of the all-mighty “chancleta” and your mom’s preferred way of utilizing it while enforcing discipline at home.

Finally, culture is not static, but rather transforms continually based on the forces that impact it. Here are three influences that affect culture; therefore you must keep in mind:

  • Technology: Enables and accelerates the preservation of a culture’s elements. With today’s technological advancements, we have instant access to anything and everyone who reinforces our culture. For Hispanics, we observe that Social Media simply gives us more options to do what we naturally do, not only across the street, but also across the country and with our friends and family in Latin America. WhatsApp is a wonderful thing.
  • Environment: Your surroundings will mold your culture and its expressions. It is a completely different experience to live in a large city vs. a small town. Not only by its size and infrastructure, but also by its ethnic diversity, languages primarily spoken there, as well as the place of birth and heritage of those persons with whom you directly or indirectly interact.
  • Diffusion: This is the movement of customs and ideas from one place/group to another. As much as the American culture influences and modifies our community’s “Latinoness”, so we, as the largest minority in the U.S. are redefining the general market. Think tortillas outselling white bread.

Although I’ve addressed the culture issue from an unashamedly Hispanic perspective, sprinkling example after example with what I know and hold close to my heart, the above concepts could and should be applied to any other people group in order to better understand them and connect with them in a more efficient and long-term manner.

How can you apply these elements and influences to better understanding Latino Culture or any other culture for that matter? I look forward to learning what you come up with!