On January 24th 1848 James W. Marshall found gold at Sutter’s Hill in Coloma, California. News traveled quickly and very soon, more than 300,000 people from around the globe left their homes and their pasts to profit from the gold that was just lying there on the grounds of the California Mountains. The first to come had it pretty easy; picking up the gold was just a matter of bending down and grabbing it. As more and more people came to California (you will find this ironic in a second) with their minds set on the gold, forty-niners (gold seekers) had to approach their gold-picking techniques in a much more creative ways to make sure they could get a little piece of the golden pie. More than 160 years later, US marketers feel like forty-niners and the gold that once could be found on the Californian soils is now the Hispanic market (ironic, no?).

The golden opportunities that lie within the US Hispanic market is nothing new. They are educated, they like to spend money and there are many of them. But much like the mid 1800s, getting the gold has been nothing but spontaneous chaos.

Let’s start with the early years of the Hispanic Market Gold Rush; when the gold was accessible, shining on the ground just waiting to be picked up.

Talking to first generation Hispanics, today’s grandmas and grandpas, native Spanish dreamers who had just moved to America was as easy as picking up gold nuggets from the ground. It was simply talking to them in Spanish rather than English and using the obvious insight that you had left your home country for a better life. This Citibank ad clearly showcases work from the early gold rush era. Man can’t speak English, feels misunderstood, offer solution for his cultural barriers.

But Hispanics evolved. They learned English and began to understand American ways. It was harder to spot them in a crowd. So the gold was no longer found on the ground and fast-acting brands talked to a couple of Latinos and saw a couple of Mexican movies and began tapping into cliché cultural insights like quinceañeras (the Spanish version of sweet sixteen).

The music was loud and rhythmic, and there was a focus on family unity in an effort to dig a little deeper and capture the gold.

Kingsford Charcoal was one of those fast-acting brands. Here’s an ad showcasing everything from loud people to big families and colorful backyards, all part of the typical “Hispanic family” insight:

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As the old gold gave birth to new gold, a second generation of Latinos was flourishing and brands began hearing the word “bicultural”. This term became the new drilling machine to get to the deeper gold. But it wasn’t long before it all became a combination of stereotypical moves like using Spanglish in ads. Here’s Toyota’s Spanglish effort:

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Tide’s effort showcases both the first and second generation Hispanics and uses a combination of digging techniques to appeal to both:

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Today, with a rising second generation of Hispanics, the gold rush mentality of tapping into the Hispanic market is more alive than ever, but mining is also more complex. The lines between cultures are blurring and todays younger Hispanics feel “ambicultural”, that is, they feel like they take the best from both the American and the Latino culture. They are proud Americans who feel part of the American mainstream and in many cases don’t even know how to speak Spanish. Many of today’s brands are using old mining techniques or failing to discover new tools to effectively reach the gold. Today, brands need to focus more on how to successfully integrate the Hispanic culture into mainstream American marketing, rather than alienating them and speaking to them as if they were different. The goal should be to make them feel like Americans who happen to have a Spanish last name, rather than a Latino who speaks perfect English.

Let’s look at a couple of examples of forty-niners who are not digging deep enough:

The Rolling Stone
In an effort to integrate the Hispanic culture in their general market issue, they introduced a 15-page insert in Spanish. This direct Spanish intrusion segregates the markets rather then seamlessly integrates them. The magazine should subtlety integrate Hispanic relevant content throughout the overall magazine, in English. This seamless integration reflects more of the American mainstream, plus not all Hispanics read Spanish.

ESPN
The sports network placed a Spanish Language ad in one of their English telecast channels. This makes no sense. It makes Latinos seem like they are different and even makes them feel uncomfortable. Latinos don’t have a “we want to take over America mentality”, but rather a “we are America mentality.” Brands need to understand that Hispanics are American and should not emphasize the differences. A cross language media buy just does not do the trick.

On the other side of the spectrum, there are some brands that are slowly capturing this integration and mining the Hispanic gold correctly. These guys are digging deep and going for the bigger chunks of gold:

Chevy
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One of Chevy’s general market ads portrays a normal American family, but included a Latino name. This is a subtle Hispanic cue that welcomes Hispanics into the American world and lets Americans know Hispanics are American and the fact that a kid’s name is Toñito is perfectly normal.

 

McDonald’s
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Another brand that does this well is McDonald’s. In one of their general market ads they showcase a hard-working man without stereotypically emphasizing his Latino characteristics. The only Hispanic cue was his last name. He could be any American farmer.

Brands today need to be “ambicultual” when it comes to mining the Hispanic gold. To effectively resonate with second and third generation Hispanics, brands need to make them naturally feel part of America, and also use subtle Latino cues. The goal is to mimic real American life. For example, a boy named Billy from Idaho seamlessly goes into a Chipotle and orders an order of tacos or a boy called Carlos Rodriguez goes to a Mumford and Sons concert and knows everyone of the songs.

Today, the tools to reach your Hispanic gold lie more in your general market communications than you think. It’s no longer about having a Hispanic agency, but a general market agency that naturally welcomes and understands Hispanics.

The gold is no longer on the surface. You need to dig deep and treat Hispanics like Americans and tell Americans that even though a boy’s name is Toñito, he still eats apple pie, loves the red, white and blue and has an Uncle named Sam.

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