Latinas Are the New Mainstream Consumer, Driving Triple-Digital Sales Growth

Latinas have been the most talked-about demographic, but for many companies, they’re also hardest to understand, asserts Mónica Gil, chief marketing officer and executive vice president of NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises. “Many brands are using outdated data and strategies trying to reach Latinas,” Gil says. “Brands need to see Latinas as they are today, versus using past perceptions.”

Latinas are a fast-growing population of key buyers and influencers, and are civically engaged and driving media consumption — all while facing challenges such as a wage gap and lack of representation in media.

“The reality is,” Gil asserts, “Latinas are the new mainstream consumers and entrepreneurs; they’re poised to grow brands’ businesses.”

Gil’s assertions are back by the report “Latinas Powering Forward,” created jointly by NBCUniversal Telemundo Enterprises and Comcast NBCUniversal. The study examines key attributes of Latinas living in the U.S., including their academic advancements, buying power, civic engagement, and population and workforce growth.

Two of the findings that marketers should pay close attention to, Gil advises, are the population boom and Latinas’ buying power. “About 65 percent of the 29 million Latinas in the U.S. are under 40 years old,” she says, pointing out that they’re within the coveted 18–49 demographic. “They’re in a series of firsts; first time buying a home, for example. And they’re equipped to buy products from energy drinks to cars. Latinas are important to any advertiser trying to grow.”

This is despite the significant wage gap Latinas face. The report found that Latinas earn 54 cents for every $1 a white man earns. “I knew there was a gap,” Gil says, “but I didn’t realize the size of that gap.”

Even so, Latinas are an “economic powerhouse,” Gil says. They have an outsized impact on household consumption, which translates into a considerable influence on Hispanic’s fast-growing buying power — projected to reach $1.9 trillion in 2023, according to the report. Latinas have helped to propel 247 percent growth (from 2014 to 2018) across several categories, including automobiles, beauty, investment products, and mobile devices. “Latinas are breaking myths that they aren’t making major purchases,” Gil says.

Latinas also have a considerable impact on mainstream culture and trends. The report calls out actress and singer Selena Gomez (the fifth-most followed person on Instagram, with 159 million followers); actress, dancer, producer, and singer Jennifer Lopez (the new face of accessory brand Coach); and actress Sofía Vergara (the second-highest-paid woman in Hollywood) as examples of trendsetting Latinas who are powerful mainstream cultural >influencers. This is yet another reason that “brands need to think of Latinas as the new mainstream,” Gil emphasizes.

Brands should also gain a better understanding of today’s Latinas, Gil advises. One important attribute to understand is “Cultural Bothness”: Latinas are 100 percent Latin and 100 percent American. “They live in both worlds seamlessly,” Gil explains. “Today’s Latinas, for example, want their kids to speak Spanish and want to celebrate their heritage.”

In fact, language is essential to brands trying to engage Latinas. “English may capture their attention, but Spanish will capture their emotion,” Gil adds. “You can’t have one without the other.”

For this reason, a brand’s advertising and content must be culturally relevant and, where appropriate, highlight the brand’s social purpose. “This need to for cultural relevance is nothing new, but some brands still don’t do it,” Gil says. “Don’t assume behaviors are the same as they were in the past. Use insights to inform the conversation.”

And remember that, today, “purchases aren’t just transactions,” Gil adds. “They’re about value; what does the brand do for them? It could be a political statement to buy a specific brand, for example.” Research has shown that most consumers, including Latinas, want to purchase brands that believe in social responsibility, she points out. “About half will purchase a brand that supports a social cause,” Gil says. “Brand purpose is the future of growth.”

One key point of cultural relevance that brands should keep in mind: soccer. “There’s no bigger expression of Hispanic identity than soccer. It’s like a religion and the World Cup is the cathedral,” Gil asserts. “To me, it’s innately who we are as a culture. It brings unity between age and gender and language; it’s a cultural connector — we watch soccer in groups.”

Those groups include highly engaged Latinas. “You’re seeing young Latinas go into sports more than ever before,” Gil says, adding that Telemundo has several notable female sportscasters. “And Latinas are playing rather than just watching.”

Latinas are also more and more civically engaged, so 2020 is a critical time to connect with them as voters, according to the report. Gil notes that “Hispanics will be the largest racial group eligible to vote in 2020, and candidates should be aware that many are first-time voters.” She adds that many don’t have a party affiliation yet and are likely to vote based on the candidate, not the party. “Hispanics will go to the polls across the United States,” Gil says. This is due, in part, to Telemundo and many other organizations encouraging and supporting Hispanics’ civic engagement. “We don’t direct them how to vote,” she says. “We just want them to vote.”

Whether a brand or a candidate, connecting with Latinas requires both understanding and supporting them. Gil recommends, for example, hiring them now as an investment in this growing labor force. “Hire them, invest in them, train them,” she says. “Make sure they’re in roles that help make decisions, not just hear decisions once they’re made.”

Gil also emphasizes that brands should invest in understanding Latinas. “They aren’t that difficult to understand,” she says. “They’re modern and are breaking stereotypes. They have disposable incomes. They are the new soccer moms. If you’re betting on growth, bet on Latinas.”

This article originally appeared on MediaVillage for NBCUniversal.