Remaking the Hispanic ‘brand’ in the Trump era

Nationally, the Hispanic community represents more than $1.5 trillion in buying power.
Nationally, the Hispanic community represents more than $1.5 trillion in buying power. Getty Images

The name Donald Trump is not often associated with calm.

Love him or hate him — and there are obviously plenty of people in both camps — his modus operandi has always been to impulsively trust his gut and shake things up. He uses incendiary language to create visceral reactions, often to piercing effect. From the creation of nicknames for his political opponents, to vitriolic tweets about hot-button issues, Trump incites emotional responses in his intended audiences.

Arguably the most important issue in his platform has been immigration, and his language on this topic has caused a stir. From the kick-off of his campaign in 2016 asserting that Mexico sent us its “rapists,” to the creation of a stadium rallying cry of “Build that wall,” to recent announcements that “DACA is dead” and his plans to “militarize the border;” the message is clear: the Hispanic community on both sides of the border is on notice.

Without arguing about the political merits of his policies, what’s indisputable is the damage this language can do to the Hispanic “brand.”

For several decades, the meteoric growth of the U.S. Hispanic community was widely celebrated by media and marketers. Cover stories and front-page headlines heralded the contributions of Latinos in our country and explored the staggering statistics of how important the demographic would be to the future of our country. In response, brands began investing heavily in marketing to the Latin community, fueling the growth of networks such as Univision and Telemundo, along with myriad newspapers, websites, radio stations, as well as Hispanic advertising and public relations agencies.

Well, things have changed a bit.

If there is one thing corporate America likes, it’s predictability. Markets don’t want volatility, and neither do chief marketing officers. For that reason, an environment in which border walls may or may not get built, immigration reform may or may not transpire and our relations with neighboring countries may or may not fall off a cliff, does not make for a sure bet on the future of multicultural. Across agency networks, media companies and even specialized products, we’re witnessing what could be the beginning of declines at the macro level. There could exist other market forces contributing to this, but there’s no doubt the Hispanic brand has taken a hit.

We as marketers should respectfully push back and do our job to help the Hispanic panorama flourish for years to come. Here are a few ways key considerations:

▪ Facts, not emotions — Our arguments should be rational and based on economics. According to Nielsen, the Hispanic community currently represents 58 million people, nearly 18 percent of the total population and more than $1.5 trillion in buying power. Latinos are more brand loyal, younger and more tech-savvy. How can any B2C brand ignore a group that is larger than all but one Spanish-speaking country on Earth? This is not about politics and ideology, but rather dollars and cents.

▪ Political representation — Yes, as Hispanics we have a Supreme Court justice, four U.S. senators, more than 30 members of Congress, three governors and some 2020 presidential hopefuls. But we currently make up nearly 20 percent of the population and in most cases less than 5 percent of the political muscle. We should encourage strong candidates on — both sides of the aisle — to get involved and allow our voice to be heard.

▪ Board representation — According to a 2017 Korn Ferry study, only 2.6 percent of companies on the Fortune 500 have a Latino board member. This dearth of diversity in the halls of power can’t be helpful to their business perspectives or to the health of investment in the Latin community.

▪ Test the waters — This needn’t be an “all-or-nothing” approach. Some brands have always made Latin marketing a mainstay of their annual investment, but this long-term commitment isn’t required to simply dip a toe and begin seeing the benefits. Hispanics are disproportionately brand-loyal, so getting involved with some basic marketing programs now — especially now —could pay major dividends years into the future.

As the old adage goes, where there’s smoke, there’s fire. Although there isn’t a fire just yet, if we continue creating these plumes of negativity, the Hispanic brand could die from smoke inhalation.

Mike Valdes-Fauli is president & CEO of Pinta, an advertising and communications agency headquartered in Miami.