The Hispanic Millennial Project

March 6, 2014

Posted by Jose Villa

In a past article I introduced the Hispanic millennial segment as potentially one of the most important and misunderstood consumer segments in the U.S. As with millennials in general, they are deservedly drawing the attention of marketers because of their size, lifetime value, and significant cultural impact. They are also drawing a lot of attention from brands and new media ventures because they present a challenge to marketers – as they evince key differences when compared to older Hispanics and their “general market” millennial counterparts.

A great deal of research published about Hispanic millennials is only scratching the surface of what we are beginning to understand is one of the most complex groups of consumers in the marketplace. Based on the demographic trends I shared in my previous article, every organization, brand, and marketer in the U.S. needs to understand Hispanic millennials if they want to be relevant today – particularly in markets where they are the majority of millennials like LA, Miami and Houston – and in the future.

Most of the research in the market today provides a good starting point and baseline understanding of millennials, but we see three fundamental areas where we need to dig deeper and change the paradigm:
• Segmentation
• Foreign-born vs. U.S.-born
• Points of Tension

Segmentation – Much of the information around Hispanic millennials subtly paints them as a monolithic group. While this is partially due to the limited initial research around this emerging segment, much of it reminds me of the overly simplistic characterizations of the broader Hispanic market during the early years of Hispanic market growth in the ‘80s, ‘90s and early 2000’s. We need to approach Hispanic millennials with a segmentation mentality. Equally problematic, we are applying old models – namely acculturation – to describe and understand Hispanic millennials. We need to fundamentally rethink the dimensions we use to segment this paradigm-shifting group whether they are demographics, psychographics, or behaviors.

Foreign-born vs. U.S.-born – This is a sub-point related to segmentation. Much of the research and analyses of the Hispanic millennial groups presents them primarily as a U.S.-born segment, ignoring the roughly 44 percent of Hispanic millennials who are foreign-born (Source: Experian Simmons) convoluting differences between them and their larger U.S.-born counterparts.

Points of Tension – Last, and arguably most important in establishing a much deeper understanding of Hispanic millennials is a need to understand the points of tension characterizing their lives. As advertisers we know points of tension provide powerful opportunities to communicate and connect with consumers. One of the defining characteristics we see in Hispanic millennials are the numerous and deep cultural points of tension they face. As a cohort living in two cultures, caught between generations, they face constant cultural tensions involving decisions related to family, career, food, language, faith and definitions of community.

Introducing the Hispanic Millennial Project

My agency, Sensis together with our partners at ThinkNow Research have decided to undertake an ambitious research initiative we’re calling The Hispanic Millennial Project. The Hispanic Millennial Project is a joint research study meant to provide an in-depth analysis of Hispanic millennials, looking at them in comparison to non-Hispanic millennials as well as their older Hispanic counterparts. The Hispanic Millennial Project will attempt to tackle segmentation and points of tension. We think it will introduce new ways to think about Hispanic millennials that will be compelling to every brand, marketer and agency.

We will unveil the first chapter in our Hispanic Millennial Report – including the results of our first wave of quantitative research – at the 2014 Hispanicize conference in Miami on April 1. We will also share insights here in the months to come.

(a revised version of this post ran on MediaPost Engage:Hispanic on March 6, 2014)

About Jose Villa

I’m the founder and President of Sensis, a cross-cultural advertising agency with digital at its core. I launched Sensis as a Web development firm in 1998 and one of the first agencies focusing on the Hispanic digital market. Our agency has since grown into a unique full-service ad agency – that takes a digitally-infused cross-cultural approach to the general market. I am passionate about cross-cultural marketing and always trying to push the envelope of multicultural advertising. I write regularly for MediaPost, AdAge, HispanicAd.com, and here! I also speak at a lot of advertising conferences like SXSW, Hispanic Retail 360, Hispanicize, and AHAA.

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