Latin Beat

Three Degrees Of Acculturation

As the above example shows, while you can't ignore differences in national origin, relying on those differences alone to segment the Latino market can be a costly error. Acculturation, too, must be taken into account. Here's a closer look at the three key acculturation groups:

1. Largely unacculturated (28 percent): The unacculturated Latino market is the group that has generally spent the least amount of time in the United States, usually fewer than 10 years. Generally born outside the United States, this audience is largely Spanish-language-dependent. (The longer the person has been in the United States, the more likely he or she is to be proficient in English. English proficiency develops especially quickly in those under age 30). The unacculturated group tends to have lower incomes and relies almost exclusively on Spanish-language media.

2. Partially acculturated (59 percent): Partially acculturated Latinos were born in the United States or have spent more than 11 years here. Overwhelmingly bilingual, this group often speaks English at work and Spanish at home. Most likely to be middle-income, this group has one foot planted firmly in each culture. They access information through both Spanish- and English-language media.

3. Highly acculturated (13 percent): Some 4 million Latinos in the United States don't speak Spanish. This group is overwhelmingly U.S.-born and raised. As such, while their parents may fall into the "partially acculturated" category, this group is overwhelmingly bilingual, if not English-dependent. They are more likely to be upper-income than the rest of the Latino market. Nonetheless, they generally remain culturally Latino when it comes to values and traditions, even if they use English to communicate those values.

Effective marketing depends on understanding four key differences among acculturation groups.

1. Income differences. Given the expanded educational and employment opportunities available to more acculturated Latinos, these individuals tend to be significantly more affluent than their less acculturated counterparts. If you're selling premium products, it would probably not be wise to target the entire Latino market. If you're selling a mass-market household product, on the other hand, it makes sense to target the whole group. In fact, because less acculturated Latinos are targeted by fewer media, there may be even greater opportunities to sell your product to this group--at a lower marketing cost.

2. Motivational differences. Recognize possible differences in values and aspirations among acculturated and unacculturated Latinos. According to a 1998 survey by the Yankelovich Hispanic Monitor, a majority of acculturated Latinos agree with the statement "I like to buy brands that make me feel I've `made it.' " Less than half of unacculturated Latinos or non-Latinos expressed this sentiment.

3. Experiential differences. Since acculturated Latinos are likely to have been born in the United States or to have spent more than 11 years here, they are familiar with most U.S. products and services. Less acculturated Latinos are more likely to be loyal to brands that were available in their native countries.

4. Cultural differences. Unacculturated Latinos are much more likely to identify themselves by their countries of origin. This gives you an opportunity to reach these prospects by "customizing" your marketing message with music, photographs or other references to their native countries.

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This article was originally published in the June 1998 print edition of Entrepreneur with the headline: Latin Beat.

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