We are now used to the traditional way beer is sold in the U.S. — through images of partying on the beach, in the club, or at the sports stadium. Over the years, not much has changed in delivering the message that popular beer brands are synonymous with good times spent with family and friends.
But in an effort to target second generation Latinos, some beer brands are changing that dynamic. Take Mexican beer brand Estrella Jalisco, recently introduced to U.S. consumers by Anheuser-Busch, and Bud Light. Summer campaigns for both brands specifically focused on second generation Latinos, but did so in ways that didn’t focus exclusively on their ethnicity or the origin country of their parents.
One ad from Estrella Jalisco is set in a familiar setting — a sports stadium, this one featuring a match by the Mexican National Team. The ad’s narrator switches back and forth between English and Spanish and the ad shows Latinos and whites celebrating the sport. “We are all in this together, no matter what,” he says.
The Bud Light ads are also bilingual. In one, a medieval king and his caravan cross the desert to meet up with an oracle, Susana. In Spanish, she looks into a crystal bar and imagines the FIFA World Cup approaching, which means the king needs to stock up on his stash of Bud Light.
Nothing about either campaign is designed to be rooted in one world or another. The actors, the messaging, even the humor, is universal. What ties both together is lifestyle. The culture-first approach of both campaigns suggests that second generation Latinos may live in both worlds — those of their parents and grandparents, but also those of native-born English speakers — but they do not self-identify as living in either one. Authenticity, for them, goes both ways because they easily flow between two languages and two cultures.
This is where the cross-cultural approach is effective. Unlike traditional marketing that separates people of color from the greater population and targets them accordingly, we understand that people are more connected, not just by their race or ethnicity, but by their values and beliefs. So targeting what people are passionate about can be more effective than simply targeting people by what they look like.
This means an end to the outdated ways to sell Mexican beer or other beverages — in which the product is presented in the context of something foreign or “other.” The cross-cultural approach does not recognize anything as “other” but instead sees opportunities within disparate worlds to showcase what they have in common instead of what sets them apart.
This will require a more nuanced understanding of Latinos in the U.S. For example, not all of them speak Spanish. More than half of Hispanics in the U.S. were born here, which means, according to the Pew Hispanic Center, a record 33 million speak English proficiently. This group represents the majority, or 58%, of all Hispanics in the U.S.
Secondly, brands that are successful in reaching second generation Latinos understand that they don’t need to telegraph cultural cues or give them context. This approach avoids talking down to its intended audience. Instead, it shows that it too is part of the tribe. We’ve seen this same dynamic in successful entertainment products like “Crazy Rich Asians,” which spends little time explaining nuanced traditions from Singapore, or Pixar’s “Bao,” the animated short shown before “Incredibles 2” that made no effort to explain small details of a typical Chinese house — like the rice cooker in the dining room, the grocery store calendar in the kitchen, the lucky cat on the shelf, or the tinfoil covering the drip pans on the kitchen burners. Director Domee Shi said they were all nuances she knew every Chinese person would recognize as authentic.
Being authentic, inside the family home and outside in the wider world, is something that bilingual Latinos understand because they successfully live in both every day. Brands that can speak to them through their passions, values, and beliefs instead of their ethnicity or origin country of their parents, will be the ones that appear modern and, most of all, relevant.
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