Acculturation Models: Death by Evolution?

One-way acculturation is dead, along with all the other models that don’t accurately represent the role of culture among Latinos. 

Fortunately, however, the richness of culture is alive and well, whether we are talking about foreign-born or U.S.-born or even total-market consumers. 

The Hispanic population broke the traditional view of assimilation that described the transformation of immigrant populations over time; Latinos simply never lost their language or culture.  Acculturation models were the next step in an attempt to provide a statistically based segmentation of Hispanics.  The most successful models include a broad range of criteria such as geography, nativity, length of time in the U.S., media consumption, education level, and even parents’ place of birth.  

Culture is the way in

These models are helpful to marketers and media by standardizing targeting across quantitative and qualitative research and data. However, they don’t fully take into consideration the role of culture, falling short with Latinos who don’t fit squarely into defined segments, such as U.S.-born millennial Latinos who are completely bicultural and navigate both English and Spanish media. And, even the best acculturation models lack actionable insights for the contexts where culture influences behavior. 

Culture is the way in. Latinos, from acculturated to un-acculturated, share cultural experiences and beliefs. Culture forms the foundation of an individual’s attitudes and behaviors, and the meaningful use of culture can drive the relevancy and immediacy of a message, regardless of acculturation.

In fact, both acculturated Latinos and un-acculturated Latinos, U.S.- and foreign-born, are gravitating to the center; Nielsen and EthniFacts have coined the term ambicultural to describe these new Latino consumers who views themselves as belonging to both 100% Latino and 100% U.S. culture.

Situational Ethnicity

We prefer a term that Latino media researcher and scholar Dr. Federico Subervi coined: situational ethnicity, which refers to how a Latino consumer relates to and expresses both cultural influences to varying degrees based on the context or situation.

As Latino-focused marketing continues to evolve and as the industry moves to total-market strategies, industry thought leaders must recognize the importance of the changing role of culture, both within the Latino market and in the broader consumer marketplace.

Companies that rely on traditional acculturation models on their own run the risk of under-appreciating the role of cultural context, which eventually will limit a brand’s ability to connect and build relationships with the growing Latino market − ultimately hurting its growth potential.

Culture-inspired Marketing

MarketVision’s culture-inspired marketing approach recognizes that culture provides a rich source of inspiration and improves our ability to communicate with Latinos across acculturation levels.  Knowing which cultural triggers to leverage according to the situation greatly improves a marketer’s ability to relate to, communicate with, and engage a given consumer target.

Acculturation is dead.  But culture is not only alive, it’s more powerful and far-reaching than ever before.