From Hesitation to Hope: A Marketer's POV on Hispanic Heritage Month

By Jessica Ricaurte

My feelings toward Hispanic Heritage month are complicated. As a Latina born in San Juan, Puerto Rico who has dedicated the last two decades to multicultural marketing, my life is devoted to honoring my heritage.

My days are filled with trying to understand the nuances of Hispanic culture and advocate for inclusion. I love to get lost in the prose of Isabelle de Allende, and on sick days I make my tía's caldo de pollo. Most recently, I was overwhelmed with pride when Bad Bunny won the Best Artist of the Year at the VMA Awards and proclaimed that he did so without compromising his culture or language.

But historically, Hispanic Heritage Month gave me hesitation. This HHM, it's important to note the significant societal changes that have led to valuable developments in multicultural marketing. The demands for authenticity from consumers and marketers have not only shifted the marketplace, but in doing so, has bolstered brand resonance and loyalty.

HHM always seemed like a dreadful time when marketers received systemic requests from brands that don't offer a year-round multicultural strategy. They sometimes lack multicultural creative, representation in product sites, in-language strategy, or dedicated measurement. It is also worth noting that the cultural media landscape has shifted significantly.

In the past, advocacy from consumers was not as prevalent as it is today; multicultural marketers drove the conversation. Inevitably, this led to performance issues and the most dreadful outcome: brands thinking MCM doesn't drive revenue. HHM got treated like a seasonal holiday and our community as merely something to sporadically attempt to profit from. Without appreciating our community, its traditions, and its complexities, brands can't realize their potential to drive greater resonance and loyalty.

But in 2020, that changed dramatically, as the rest of the world did. The murder of George Floyd caused enormous social disruption globally. This, of course, was amplified by the pandemic. Like many, I was overwhelmed by emotions of sadness, anger, and fear (and I still am).

I also became a mother, far away from mi familia. At first. I struggled realizing that my plans for passing my culture down to my son were based on experiences that we could no longer enjoy. Not only couldn't I take my son home to Puerto Rico or walk the halls of Museo del Barrio, but we also couldn't even cross the city to make arroz con pollo with my immunocompromised tía.

I knew I had to find ways to channel my fears into activism for my community. Yearning for my country, my community and its culture, and desiring to further ensure its celebration, my views on HHM started to shift; for the first time I truly began to understand its significance. In 2020, I was grateful to find ways to celebrate my culture virtually. All those HHM activations that historically frustrated me became extremely meaningful. That period also drove me to make changes in my career enabling me to work toward empowering the Hispanic community.

So as this Hispanic Heritage Month approaches (and comes to a close), my own journey continues to evolve. I find myself empowered by the market's evolution and fiercely protective of the integrity of the celebration. The last two years have led to greater consideration of multicultural marketing and greater inclusion in the marketplace.

More brands are leaning in and having conversations surrounding best practices around authenticity and targeting. The rise in diversity in-fronts has also allowed for investment in our further ability to develop content programs. However, even though there is an apparent drive for inclusion, adoption is still in its infancy.

As a result, it's imperative to ensure brands make conversations actionable. I highly encourage brands to be part of the Hispanic Heritage conversation, but only if they are trying to be inclusive year-round. They can use this time to listen and learn, to be a champion for their diverse employees and to create spaces fostering conversations.

With greater appreciation and fluency, brands can further achieve an authentic multicultural strategy. If not, then consumers and this Latina marketer will be quick to express their concerns.

The views and opinions expressed are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect the official position of the ANA or imply endorsement from the ANA.

Jessica Ricaurte is the CRO of Adsmovil and BRIDGE board member. Jessica is an industry veteran in the multicultural space with 18 years of experience. She possesses a unique mix of business development, product, creative, and storytelling skills and is hyper-focused on the multigenerational Hispanic market. Prior to joining Adsmovil as a chief revenue officer, she led Yahoo's diversity and inclusion sales category.