Friday, January 15, 2010

The Melting Pot

Since I work in radio, I deal with statistics and numbers all the time. But you really have to go above and beyond the averages and mix in some real life examples of who we are.

My Dad's side of the family traced their history back 250 years and discovered they migrated to New England, (Maine, New Hampshire & Vermont) from... Canada!

We have more checking to do to find out how they got to North America.

On my Mom's side, it is easier. About 110-120 year ago my great grandparents arrived in the United States from Austria and Germany.

These days, the largest minority group is Hispanic. But before you lump all of them together, read this from Mediapost:

An Inside Look At Multiculturalism
When hiring for Captura Group, I am always on the look-out for people who combine an innate understanding of the Hispanic culture and digital medium. When I met Jennifer Manriquez a couple of years ago, I realized that she possessed both qualities and something more. She and her family represent a new multicultural general market and are an example of why, by 2050, minorities will be the majority in the United States.

What does that mean for us marketers?

We need to proactively address the demographic shift that's occurring right now.

Jennifer was born in North Tonawanda, N.Y., a community of 32,000 people, out of which 97.9% are Anglo, and where Kimmelweck rolls are hugely popular. Jennifer remembers her father asking her if her friend Adrian from high school was Puerto Rican. Jennifer did not know what he meant. She asked Adrian if he was Puerto Rican and that was the beginning of a journey that has transformed her into being what America is becoming, more and more multicultural.

North Tonawanda meets Mexicali

Jennifer ended up moving to San Diego, where she met Arnulfo Manriquez, or "Nufi," an immigrant from Mexicali, Mexico, and got married. She then became Jennifer Manriquez, and the country became a little bit more diverse.

Jennifer distinctly remembers her first experiences trying to fit in to the Manriquez family. At a family wedding, Jennifer was with Nufi's multiple sisters and aunts who didn't realize she spoke Spanish.

"Ella esta muy flacita, no es Latina para nada" ("She is too skinny, she is not a Latina"), they said in front of Jennifer, who played it cool. When her future cuñadas and tías realized she spoke Spanish, they were slightly embarrassed, but, more importantly, a bit more accepting of the skinny white girl from North Tonawanda.

It took a while for Nufi's mom to come around as well. At an early family dinner, la suegra cooked spicy chile rellenos for the family and a bland chicken dish just for Jennifer. Jennifer, who loves spicy food, immediately downed the chile rellenos, and her future mother-in-law said with a smile, "You really are a bit Mexican."

Tamales meet Kimmelweck Rolls

Today Jennifer and Nufi are happily married and have three kids. Although they mainly consume English media, they speak to their children only in Spanish at home. They celebrate Christmas on both Dec. 24 with tamales and salsa and the 25th with ham, scallop potatoes and Kimmelweck rolls.

When Judge Sonia Sotomayor was nominated to the U.S. Supreme Court, Jennifer's oldest daughter asked her, "What is a Latina, Mom?" Without hesitation, Jennifer answered, "You are." Her inquisitive daughter then asked, "What are you mom?" and Jennifer said, "I am white."

Jennifer's advice to marketers is to inject multiculturalism into advertising and messaging. "Advertising that reflects my family's multicultural reality is what resonates with me."

Lee Vann is founder and CEO of Captura Group Captura Group. For nine years he has led Hispanic interactive initiatives for clients including the U.S. government, Allstate Insurance Co., Century 21, PayPal and Ford Motor Co. Rea

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