THE BLOG
11/13/2013 05:18 pm ET Updated Jan 23, 2014

Is Thanksgiving a Hispanic Opportunity? It Should Be.

If the first rule of marketing is to know your audience, then most marketers are well aware that their targeted audiences have an increasingly multicultural constituent. Spending from emerging ethnicities, with Hispanics in particular, is growing exponentially, as the latest American Marketscape DataStream Report found that Hispanic households are projected to spend over $400,000 more in their remaining lifetimes than non-Hispanic White households. Month after month, year after year, we continue to better understand the present and future impacts these groups will have on sales.

When it comes to reaching Hispanic consumers, there are a number of important best practices and tips. Things like making the right level of investment (tip: 99 percent of the time it's too small); including the right stakeholders; making sure you are looking beyond language and country of origin to deliver a truly personalized experience. That is all true. But there's one critically important message that no one seems to tell brands: be yourself. This becomes especially true around the holiday season.

The concept of "being yourself" applies to a brand's perception that it cultivates over time. Marketers invest billions over time to protect their brands. So why do they change their image when it comes to marketing to Hispanics?

A personalized approach is one thing, but changing your identity to please a different group is another. This can lead some brands to create a Hispanic equivalent to their product around Thanksgiving, or an Asian component to a holiday shopping campaign. It's done in good conscience. But it's not the right way to reach multicultural Americans.

It's the wrong approach for a couple of reasons. One, this approach misses part of the point on why these consumers came to in this country. Speaking as a naturalized citizen myself, I left my home country for a reason. Things are better here. I am proud of my Hispanic heritage, but I also embrace many aspects of American culture. Creating a "Hispanic" flavor of an American brand (whether it's soup or pastries) may seem contrived and could very well miss the mark in terms of both palate and perception. Why not embrace your brand's own American heritage and invite newcomers to enjoy it the way it was meant to be? If you want to address their nostalgia for foods back home, perhaps create a separate brand or link up with a brand they already know and love.

An appropriate analogy may be drawn when you're traveling abroad on vacation. Most people want to eat the food of the host country -- they are interested in learning the traditions and cultural nuances of the place they're visiting. This applies to many multicultural consumers living in the United States today.

Second, it classifies all emerging ethnicities in the same box. There is an incredible amount of granularity among emerging ethnicities in the U.S. Each consumer is unique -- each has experiences that shape their degree of interaction with a particular holiday. There are millions of potential consumers that would gladly participate in an American-style Thanksgiving, if they had an additional opportunity to bring their families and friends together. Brands, especially food and beverage producers can play a major role in that process. The complex task of creating a "Hispanic version" of an American product could prove challenging, especially with a food product -- imagine the variation of tastes between Caribbean and Mexican cuisine, for example.

When it comes to holidays such as Thanksgiving, there is no Hispanic or Asian comparison. There is one unified American component, which should be marketed to all Americans, equally. To better reach multicultural Americans around Thanksgiving, brands should take the first step and make the investment by extending the invitation to join the festivities. Certain groups should not be ignored, just because their roots are not tied to this specific holiday. Changing this mindset represents a growth opportunity to be embraced -- and one that could result in very positive contributions to an organization's bottom line.