It’s “that” time of year again – Hispanic Heritage Month. Didn’t we just have “Black History Month” in February, “Irish-American Heritage Month” in March, Asian-Pacific American Heritage Month” in May? And “Native American Heritage Month” will be here in November. Now we have a month – that actually spans through TWO months – for Hispanic Heritage. Why should I care?
As a little backdrop, national recognition of Hispanic Heritage celebrations originally started out as just one week as designated by President Lyndon Johnson in 1968. In 1998, President Ronald Reagan established a full month of recognition from September 15 to October 15. The curious timeframe coincides with the anniversary of independence of five Latin American countries: Costa Rica, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, and Nicaragua, all of which declared independence on September 15, 1821. Mexico, Chile, and Belize celebrate their independence on September 16, 18, and 21, respectively.
Now that we have a month of official Hispanic recognition, just what are we supposed to recognize?
We celebrate the contributions of Hispanics to the fabric of our rich American culture. Many Hispanic and Latino influences are so common now in the U.S. that we don’t even recognize them as “other” anymore. There are food items such as cilantro, jalapeño, oregano, vanilla, chili, guacamole, nachos, tacos, tortillas (you do know they are “wraps,” right?) and Tabasco sauce (originated from the Mexican state of Tabasco). Some favorite drinks are daiquiris, mojitos, piña coladas, sherry, and tequila, useful for celebrating Cinco de Mayo (which is NOT Mexican Independence Day). For the kids, there are fiestas for breaking open piñatas, and Dora: The Explorer episodes to watch, games to play, even a new movie. Nine U.S. state names are derived from Spanish, such as Colorado, Florida, Montana, Nevada, Texas, and many city names like El Paso, Las Vegas, Los Angeles, San Antonio, and Santa Cruz. Most people know ranch, rodeo, canyon, patio, cargo, cafeteria, and cabana, in addition to the more obvious Spanish words like gracias, nada, hombre, amigo, and sí.
Okay, so we have assimilated a lot of words from the Hispanic community. Tell me why I should care, especially as a businessperson.
According to the Census Bureau, the Hispanic population has grown more than six-fold in the U.S. since 1970. In 2000, Latinos officially became the largest minority. There are nearly 60 million self-identified Hispanics in the U.S. Appealing to this vast demographic is imperative for business growth. The Census Bureau estimates that by 2060, the Hispanic population will reach 119 million. And every single one of them spends money on food, clothing, entertainment, services, housing, education, and more. As of 2018, the Hispanic segment spends 1.7 Trillion Dollars annually. YOU, the business owner, need to find a way to market YOUR goods and services to this vast and growing population. If all of your messaging is in English, you risk losing sales opportunities to about 38% of them, as they are Spanish-dominant or non-English proficient.
Okay. You have my attention. I SHOULD care about Hispanic Heritage Month. Now what?
For starters, expand your thought process to include ALL 12 MONTHS. It’s great to have a month of Hispanic focus, but why lose the other 11 months with inactivity? Liken this to kids on summer vacation. Educators estimate that students lose from 2 to 2-1/2 months’ worth of information by not having a consistent environment for learning over the summer months. The same can be said of your marketing practices. You may win some sales with a one-time push, but wouldn’t you rather have consistent growth over the long-term? To do that, you need to develop a marketing strategy to engage with Hispanics using the right vocabulary, imagery, and context. This is the time to make outreach to the Hispanic community an integral part of the future of your business growth. Invest in proper resources that are culturally competent, linguistically appropriate for your region, and native-speakers. That means not asking the Sales Manager who took Spanish in high school to translate your English messages into Spanish. Likewise, online free translation apps are not for complex sales campaigns. You need the experience of professionals to truly show more than a weak attempt at engaging Hispanics. Use this Hispanic Heritage Month to kick off your marketing imitative and watch your sales increase over the next year with sustained efforts. Now let’s celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month – for the next 12 months and beyond.