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Hispanic Heritage Month: Many Brands Have Missed The Mark But A Few Have Done It Right

Hispanic Heritage Month is here again: it runs from September 15 to October 15 this year. The celebration of Latinidad in the US was made official when in 1968 president Lyndon B. Johnson signed into law “National Hispanic Heritage Week.” Set to begin on September 15, the week celebrated the independence of a few Latin American countries including Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Nicaragua, Mexico, and Chile. The celebration is great and perhaps originally con las mejores intenciones, but it errs in grouping a whole continent’s diversity into a single group. But well, peor es nada. 

So let’s be positive and see the glass half full. These four weeks are a great opportunity to celebrate our Latino roots. Many brands also see this month as a chance to connect with the Latino market, which is a profitable and expanding demographic in the United States. However, and this is a huge “but”, sometimes marketing people try a bit too hard to connect and end up with messy campaigns that end up just perpetuating damaging stereotypes. For every good idea there seem to be three or four that just miss the mark. 

Hey, here’s a job idea: cultural adviser! Let’s change the ratio and have most brands understand the values and issues we really care about

Credit: gabbyzapata / Instagram

Being aware of what Latinos think and want is key in the highly competitive US market, as Claudia Romo Edelman wrote in AdAge: “Hispanics by more than two to one (68 percent) feel their values are shared by other Americans. And those values are vital: family, work, education, and security for themselves and particularly for their children. They still believe in the American dream (69 percent), saying overwhelmingly that if you work hard you will get ahead (80 percent or greater across generations). Yet, barely half (54 percent) say they see their values reflected by major brands, similar to the number for media and pop culture (55 percent)”. Ouch! This speaks volumes about the lack of a true understanding of how fundamental the Latino market is for any business. 

Because some gringos just don’t get it, like Coffee-Mate branding something as Latino by adding flavors that no one associates with un rico cafecito

Credit: Digital image. Nestle marketing campaign

First of all, it is not a tradition to add Chocolate Abuelita or Lechera to your coffee. We mean, some people might do it, but it is not widespread. Second of all, what on Earth is your “inner Latino”? This campaign is just plain terrible. As Sue writesin the blog Phglesbian.com: “What the hell are you going to do to honor Black History Month? ‘Inner sassy black woman?’ What about Pride Month? ‘Inner queen? Touch your inner lesbian?’ This is a fail, Nestle, and Americans of Hispanic descent deserve better. Maybe you need to cough up some donations from a campaign that’s already on the shelves to help undo the damage”. Yes, queen!

Coffee-Mate, you are just digging a deeper grave for yourself! Yes, all Latinos are salsa-dancing sex-crazed hombres y mujeres…

Credit: Digital image. Nestle marketing campaign

Seriously, WTAF. They did just went there: sexualizing Latino culture is one of the cardinal sins of cultural appropriation and harmful stereotyping. 

And of course, Twitter got up on arms.

Credit: @artistmarclax / @cafenowhere / Twitter

We had never put the famous abuelita and the notion of a Latin lover together…. nothing against older adult intimacy… but just don’t, OK, just don’t. 

But… but… margaritas must contain tequila, right?

Credit: @Sobieski_Vodka / Twitter

Even a very inexperienced bartender or any tío organizing a carne asada knows that a margarita is made with lime juice, crushed ice, salt, and tequila, right? Well, apparently not, at least according to Sobieski vodka. Yes, according to this brand you can replace the very Mexican tequila, which has a denomination of origin, with vodka. First of all, vodka and tequila taste nothing alike. Second… why?

Bringing together family and war.

Credit: US Marines. Promotional campaign

Yes, there are many Latinos who proudly serve in the US military. However, it is a bit tricky to try to appeal to a certain particular demographic by appealing to the emotional connection that most Latinos feel to the notion of family. This is a sort of positive pat on the back that, however, is very complex given the huge life decision that enrolling in the military entails for soldiers and families. This is a borderline case of marketing that does speak to Latino values but simplifies a very intricate issue. 

Dear Macy’s, you could at least get the grammar right, perhaps?

Credit: 1567029508_HHM-Type (1). Digital image. Macy’s

Macy’s understands the importance of the Latino market not only because of local customers but also due to the huge amounts of tourists from Latin America that shop in their stores. It is all good… but they could do better with their campaign copy. “Unidos en cultura” makes no sense at all! Perhaps they meant “Unidos por la cultura”? The English slogan is “United by Culture”, so the translation feels like a half-hearted effort to appeal to “ethnic customers” (really, that is how gringo marketing lingo describes us!). Really, it is not that hard, we are sure that you have at least 50 bilingual, Spanish-speaking staff in your offices, so please do better next time. 

So to do it right why not get… I don’t know… actual Latinos to be part of the creative team? That’s what Nike did with the Los Primeros collection!

Credit: f6zulwr0fvmehebpfdb7. Digital image. Nike.

What a great way to create collection kicks while really digging deep into the Latin American soul. Nike describes this collection as follows “Honoring Latino Heritage Month, Los Primeros showcases distinct cultural expressions from four Latin American artists’ ancestry atop four iconic Nike silhouettes”. We don’t want to be puritans and say that international brands cannot celebrate Latino identity, but it is better if they do it right. Exactly what Nike did. This is the One Heart version of the classic Cortez sneaker, and it was created by Chilean artist Inti following patterns from indigenous textile art. That is how things are done, acknowledging that half of our Latino heritage derives from the proud original owners of the land that is now the American Continent. 

And look at this amazingly weird but very Latino fashion statement.

Credit: wvndm0ug4y1oehwiza71. Digital image. Nike

Few sneakers are as iconic as Air Jordans, and these beauties are decorated by Brazilian artist Pomb, a sensation in the street art world of Sao Paolo. Can we just get a pair already? We could totally rock this with a cool Mitú t-shirt!

Coca-Cola is a marketing genius… but have they done more harm than good to Latino communities?

Credit: hispanic-heritage-month-28-07PM-copy-604-337-dfbf7803.rendition.584.326. Digital image. Coca-Cola.

There is no denying that Coca-Cola has created one of the smartest and most memorable marketing campaigns in history. For Hispanic Heritage Month, they have created promotions that include creating personalized cans and bottles with Latino last names, as well as cans with temporary tattoos celebrating Latino identity. However, Coca-Cola has been linked to high rates of obesity, particularly child obesity, in countries like Mexico. We mean, celebrating a culture involves the general well being of society at large, right? 

READ: Vandals Destroyed A Hispanic Heritage Month Mural At Duke University And Here’s How Students Fought Back

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