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Jun 02

Census Data And The Future of Hispanic Advertising

The recent release of the full 2010 Census population figures has been driving the headlines in the world of Hispanic marketing the last few months. As anticipated by many, the full 2010 Census figures for the U.S. Hispanic population topped the 50 million mark. (50.5 million to be exact!) Fifty million is a big number, representing 16.3% of the total U.S. population, and accounting for more than half of the total U.S. population growth from 2000 to 2010. By sheer magnitude of growth, the attention is well deserved.

While everyone has been focused on the implications of a larger Hispanic population (was anyone surprised?), I think all the attention is being focused on the wrong number. The big news with big implications for Hispanic marketing involves a different number — 62 — published by the Pew Hispanic Center using Census American Community Survey data.

According to the 2010 Pew Hispanic Center data, 62% of all Hispanics in the United States in 2009 were born in the U.S.

That is huge, and I anticipate that number going up when the Census publishes updated figures in the coming month. This figure represents a seismic shift in the way most people — particularly marketers — think about Hispanics.

Why is 62 more important than 50 million? It definitively changes how we view Hispanics in this country from a large and growing population of immigrants to a large and growing ethnic group. Think about all the implications of a population that is U.S.-born vs. one that is foreign born — language, acculturation, education, income. That is every demographic variable we in the marketing industry depend on to define the Hispanic market.

Sometimes it’s easy to get lost in the numbers and that’s when a real life example helps bring a point home. During the most recent Memorial Day weekend, I took my family to the Los Angeles Zoo. I think it’s safe to say that the Saturday during Memorial Day weekend is probably one of the busiest single days at the L.A. Zoo, and probably one of the best bargains in town for a young family. The long lines (it took an hour just to buy a ticket) and large number of families that packed the zoo definitely support this thesis. As a marketing professional and obsessive people-watcher, I couldn’t help but evaluate the hundreds of people I saw during my five-hour visit.

First off, about seven out of 10 families were Hispanic. Interestingly, no more than two out of 10 were speaking Spanish. I heard lots of Spanish accents, but most of the conversations, especially among the kids (easily 50% of the crowd), were in English. Ironically, my kids were the few speaking Spanish.

Now why the zoo observations? I know it’s anecdotal, and not a statistically significant sample of the population of Los Angeles. However, you would be hard-pressed to find a better cross-section of Angelinos on a given day in a given location. I think my experience at the L.A. Zoo supports what the 2010 Census and Pew Hispanic figures are really telling us — the U.S. Hispanic population is in for some significant changes in the next 10 years. The same Pew Hispanic Center report provides support for my anecdotal observations:

The majority, or “bulge,” of young Hispanics (14 or younger) are native-born. In 10 years, just in time for the 2020 Census figures, most of the Hispanic children I observed at the zoo and represented at the bottom of the right-hand distribution graph will be in the coveted 18-24 demographic that drives most advertising. Think about that a second.

So what will happen to Hispanic advertising in 10 years? Will it still be primarily Spanish-language ads running on Spanish-language media? If so, will it be relegated to a smaller niche than today, focused on a shrinking 30-something percent of foreign-born Hispanics? Or will it evolve with the Hispanic population and look like the more acculturated, nuanced market that will encapsulate the entire Hispanic market in 10 years?

Conversely, how will the Hispanic market change mainstream marketing? In 10 years, when Hispanics make up 26% or more of 18-24 year olds — based on 2009 Census Population Projections — what will beer commercials on the Super Bowl look like and who will be creating them?

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