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The Dora Generation: How Kids Helped Latinos Win the Census

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In my last two HuffPost entries I addressed the stellar showing of Hispanics in the
2010 Census: 50 million strong, accounting for more than half the population growth in the United States over the past decade, and making staggering gains in crucial states like Texas and California as well as traditionally non-Hispanic states like North Carolina, Ohio and Indiana. Leading this growth are Latino children and youth, a segment that is not even yet old enough to vote, but who have a remarkable impact on today's trends, pop culture and economy.

Kids under 18 have accounted for a significant portion of Hispanic growth, and a large chunk of them are 5 and under: In California and Texas alone 90% of new births can claim Latino heritage. I like to call them the "Dora Generation," after the popular Nickelodeon cartoon character Dora the Explorer.

The show was devised over a decade ago and soon took off and became one of the most popular children's icons in history, spawning a multi-million dollar empire of products (books, dolls, clothing, games, CDs, backpacks) marketed equally to Hispanic and non-Hispanic parents and children. The Dora phenomenon continues unabated today with a new generation of kids following perfectly bilingual Dora and her sidekicks Boots, Diego and others in their adventures, being inspired by their curiosity, and taking on her Latino culture as their own.

Dora's original audience is now composed of tweens, and they represent an even more
crucial market for brands. Not only are they much more digitally savvy and media saturated than any generation that came before, this group is also much more likely to be multicultural. They were also raised with stories and trends that were more likely to draw from diversity: like Dora, of course. The Dora phenomenon, like this Census itself, signals an important threshold for the growing Latino influence in the mainstream.

What The Dora Generation Can Teach Business

• Kids marketing and multicultural marketing have become one, as most kids come from a multicultural background, especially Latino. Brands should tap into the unique experiences of these kids growing up in two worlds as fodder for product innovation; a new Dora might be next in line.
• Rethink your marketing strategies when speaking to moms. Ask yourself whether your brand is incorporating Latina cultural insights into your product development given that Latinas are the main growth pillar in the mommy segment.
• Dora is a smart girl and she knows there's money to be made by knowing other languages, especially in this tougher inter-connected global economy. This presents some product opportunities in the creation of bilingual educational toys for the kids, as well as language and cultural products for adults.
• Think of ways of incorporating Latin culture into the mainstream to engage both your Latino customers as well as mainstream audiences.
• For the media industry, Dora's success is a wake-up call to create more properties that are culturally rich and diverse, especially to reach U.S. born young Latinos -- many of them original Dora Generation kids -- looking to both connect with their culture and share it with their peers.
• Go green. Generation Dora has been raised to respect the environment and its inhabitants. Brands should expect to continue this engagement by coming up with cool and inspiring ways to tap into respect and curiosity for our planet. The growing Dora tweens will also challenge companies in the next generation of green marketing.
• Dora and her friends like to visit Latin America and the world. While the Census points a strong multicultural picture in the U.S., the global kids market is even stronger and growing faster. Companies should rethink how they approach international markets, and how these markets can also serve as product innovation fodder for what we promote back at home.

But perhaps most important, a focus on los amigos:

While the Census numbers fueled by the Dora Generation present a market that is growing, the Latino community and its children still face strong social obstacles including poverty and lack of access to education. As companies and brands engage Latino families, they must find ways of giving back and promote the full development of Latino kids. They represent the future of the Latino community and our nation. It is only by investing in Latino kids that the true power of Generation Dora will be felt and we can all enthusiastically say "Vámonos."