Marketing Higher Education to Hispanics

It's About Cultural Insights More Than Language

As 1,300 higher education marketers settled in for the opening keynote at the American Marketing Association Symposium for Higher Education Marketing in Chicago last month, I expected the keynote speech to be focused on one of the hot industry topics such as rising tuition, affordability and value of a higher education degree, the best way to use social media to reach prospects, moving students along the journey from prospect to enrolled student, online learning….the list goes on. I was surprised when Sergio Alcocer, President of Latin Works, began his speech, “Latino Narratives in 2015: The Most Modern Experiment in the World.”

Sergio spoke about the critical influence that Hispanics/Latinos will have on the upcoming election, the fact that immigration is a hotly debated topic and that as of the 2000 Census, Hispanics were the biggest minority in the country. These facts, in addition to statistics citing that 50% of kids under 18 and their parents are multicultural and 33.2 million Hispanics speak English proficiently, led him to the point that it is flawed thinking to believe that we can continue to divide a marketing budget by ethnicity. The lines are too blurred.

What does this mean for us as marketers? It means we need to fully understand the target markets we are trying to reach. I live in South Florida and speak Spanish. My kids are Hispanic and fluent in Spanish, but does that mean we need to reach families considering a higher education degree in Spanish? No.

We need to have a strategy, not just a budget line item. There is no magic bullet when it comes to reaching the Hispanic target market, but it is clear that you can’t just translate an ad like we might have thought in years past. It is now our responsibility to understand the culture, be culturally relevant and design effective campaigns that have emotional appeal.

How are you ensuring that your organization is reaching this critically important, fast growing market segment?

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