It’s all about the ‘chicoismo’

There's no question that the Hispanic youth market is offering the most potential of any U.S. demographic subset these days, and the numbers are pretty exciting.
June 1, 2002

There’s no question that the Hispanic youth market is offering the most potential of any U.S. demographic subset these days, and the numbers are pretty exciting.

More than 17% of the country’s total population of citizens under the age of 18 is Hispanic; and in some regions in California, Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Florida, Hispanic youth are becoming the ‘majority youth.’ In Los Angeles County, for example, Hispanic youth make up 57% of the under-18 population, with New York Bronx County coming in a close second at 56%.

Moreover, while the total under-18 population declined by 13% from 1999 to 2000, the Hispanic tween segment (ages 10 to 14) grew by 27% and Hispanic teens (ages 15 to 19) posted a 15% growth.

Hispanic families also tend to over-indulge their children and invest more in toys, snacks, soft drinks, clothes, CDs, videos and entertainment than any other population segment. According to a New Strategist reference book called Household Spending: Who Spends How Much on What (published in November 2001), Hispanic households spend 44% more than the average household on boys apparel, 60% more on girls apparel, 71% more on children under the age of two, and 120% more on infant accessories.

And if those numbers alone aren’t enough to get your marketing mojo going, how about the fact that targeting the Hispanic youth demo is more cost-effective in the long term because Hispanics are concentrated in only a handful of U.S. cities.

So how do you begin to tap into this huge and growing opportunity? In-Culture marketing that keys into the Hispanic demographic’s unique cultural characteristics is the only way to go, and some basic concepts that regularly figure into In-Culture campaigns include the following:


This term refers to the high degree of inter-connectedness that’s typical in immediate and extended Hispanic families. Many decisions are made by the whole family, whereas they might be made solely by the children or solely by the parents in non-Hispanic households. Putting this knowledge to work, the Girl Scouts of the USA runs its recruiters through Cultural Awareness Training classes that teach them to focus on the relationship-building aspect of Scouting when persuading Hispanic families to let their daughters join.


Kids play an incredibly central role in the Hispanic family, as well as exuding a high level of influence on purchase decisions. Market researchers (and parents, for that matter) know that the ‘nag factor’ starts to kick in at around age two.

But Hispanic families intensify this development with some ‘compensatory’ behavior that stems from their over-developed need to provide their children with what they did not have growing up, resulting in an even more powerful ‘Latin nag factor.’

As a consequence, TV ads placed around Spanish-language shows that kids tend to watch with their parents–like Mi Casita (Galavision) and Plaza Sesamo (Univison)–benefit from both the ‘Latin nag factor’ and the parents’ desire to indulge their kids.

As far as general media behavior goes, Hispanics log in 9.71 hours of media time (TV, radio and print) each day, which is more than two hours more than non-Hispanic whites. Hispanics also tend to watch more TV than non-Hispanic whites because many watch both Spanish-language and English-language channels.

Similarly, radio listening is much higher when you add in the time Hispanic kids spend tuned in to Spanish stations, and savvy marketers are increasingly taking advantage of the power of this medium.

Kraft’s new Tombstone Mexican Style pizza brand more than doubled its sales target from 4,000 to 10,000 units when it partnered with Spanish-language radio station KHCK-FM in Dallas, the local Six Flags Theme Park and Albertson’s grocery stores for a buy-and-win promo that ran in 2001. For each purchase of two Tombstone Mexican Style pizzas, KHCK listeners received a free all-day pass to Six Flags, which they could pick up from the KHCK-FM touring van at 12 different Albertson’s locations from 4 p.m. to 5 p.m. each weekday.

Approximately 54% of the 12.5 million U.S. Hispanics under the age of 19 are part of the first U.S.-born generation in an immigrant Latin-American family. This means that the Hispanic culture is still very strong and relevant to them, affecting how they make and influence purchasing decisions.

They’re proud to support brands and products that approach them with a genuine understanding of their unique cultural identity, so marketers who embrace In-Culture strategies now will have it made with a booming demographic that’s showing no signs of slowing down.

Isabel Valdés is president of Isabel Valdés Solutions Inc. (, as well as co-chair and partner of Santiago and Valdés Solutions, an In-Culture marketing agency that specializes in reaching multicultural markets. This column contains excerpts from her newest book–Marketing to American Latinos, A Guide to the In-Culture Approach, Part II–which Paramount Market Publishing will release next month.

To glean more Hispanic youth marketing insights, plan on attending Isabel Valdés’ keynote speech at KidScreen’s Marketing to U.S. Hispanic Youth event later this month. For more details about this event, visit our website at

Excerpted from the forthcoming book ‘Marketing to American Latinos, A Guide to the In-Culture Approach, Part II’ (Paramount Market Publishing Inc., Ithaca, New York, July 2002– © M. Isabel Valdés, 2002

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