Thirteen years ago, Maria Twena was unpacking groceries in the kitchen when her husband said: 

“You know, you never buy the same brand of anything twice.” 

He had just read a marketing report about how Hispanics are extremely brand-loyal. Why didn’t his wife, the daughter of foreign-born Hispanic immigrants, have similar shopping habits? Why didn’t she have an affinity with specific brands? Why weren’t brands connecting with her?

That conversation shifted Maria’s entire career. Now EVP, Brand and Marketing at Welcome Technologies, Maria encourages a “bilingual, bicultural” approach to marketing that targets U.S.-born children of immigrants like her.

“We hide in plain sight, but this market yields exponential revenue for brands if you speak to us,” says Maria in a Leadtail TV episode.

One in four children in the United States has immigrant parents. So why haven’t more brands capitalized on this enormous untapped market? 

Understanding Cultural Differences and How They Influence Your Marketing

It’s no secret some demographics are more loyal to brands than others. Hispanics tend to be the most loyal consumers: Around 53 percent find a source for products and stick with it. 

However, Hispanic immigrants and their U.S.-born children have very different purchasing habits — something brands have overlooked for years.

“American companies think immigrant children are English language-proficient or dominant, so they already reach them with general advertising-marketing. That’s always the argument I would get,” says Maria. “My response soon became, ‘You’re reaching this audience, but you’re not touching them.’ Those are two completely different things.”

Retro Acculturation

So why do immigrant children have different relationships with brands than their parents do? 

Maria says it’s all because of a process called retro-acculturation:

“There’s something that happens to children of immigrants, especially U.S.-born children of immigrants, where they don’t want to be Latino or Hispanic or ‘outsiders,’ so they leave their homes and culture and begin their American way of life. Later, they return to their roots, typically after a key life event like the birth of a child or the death of a parent. Sociology and psychology journals talk about this.”

It’s at this point that these consumers reconnect with their culture and adopt new purchasing behaviors. 

Brands should engage these consumers, not with general advertising/marketing, but with specific campaigns tailored to an audience often caught between two cultures. 

“We’re hybrids,” adds Maria.

Bicultural Marketing Best Practices

One of the most critical considerations for marketers, Maria says, is understanding the difference between collectivism and individualism when advertising to immigrant children, especially children with Hispanic parents. 

Hispanic cultural attitudes are often collectivist, but American attitudes are generally individualist, so nuanced marketing campaigns should target an audience motivated by both group goals and personal rewards. 

“You ask a bilingual, bicultural person what drives them, and they say ‘family’ and ‘self,'” says Maria.

Another consideration is the difference between language and culture. If someone speaks English as their first language, it doesn’t mean they share the same cultural attitudes as other English-language-dominant groups. Campaigns, therefore, should exclusively target the bilingual, bicultural market — an often-overlooked segment of the population with very different purchasing habits and behaviors than other demographics.

“It’s not just about the language. We need to understand the cultural insights of that consumer to better serve their needs,” says Maria. 

Check out the entire conversation with Maria Twena here or listen to the podcast version here