In Woody Allen’s 1983 movie Zelig, Leonard Zelig, the film’s protagonist, is described as the ultimate conformist. At one point in the movie the narrator says of Zelig:
“The Ku Klux Klan, who saw Zelig as a Jew, that could turn himself into a Negro and an Indian, saw him as a triple threat.”
Not unlike Leonard Zelig, biculturals conform to their surroundings and whatever cultural context surrounds them. Like Zelig’s narrator warns, these shape shifters present a multifaceted threat. Applied to marketing strategies, biculturals present a threat as much as they do an opportunity. How then do marketers turn the threat on its head?
Writing for Media Post, Sensis’ Jose Villa tackles the bicultural issue. Villa describes biculturals as young (average age of 27) and on average have higher education and income levels than their less acculturated peers. Given their purchasing power, their status as cultural influencers, not to mention their growing numbers, biculturals would seem to be a marketer’s dream come true.
Of the Hispanic subset Villa explains “First biculturals don’t fit into the demographic and behavioral profile most marketers understand as “Hispanic.” They may not consume Spanish-language media. Many don’t even speak Spanish.”
The rule of thumb about biculturals is that there is no rule of thumb (Villa points to three things marketers SHOULD NOT do to reach them). Biculturals’ economic and cultural realities are circumstantial and unique to the individual, so it’s hard to fathom a one-size-fits-all approach. In his article Villa describes the bicultural prototype like this:
Acculturation: Partially acculturated to fully acculturated
Country of origin: U.S. born
Language preference: Bilingual or English-preferred
Age: Under 45
Culturally: Active in both mainstream and Latino culture
While Villa certainly defines one possibility for biculturals, I feel the term itself sets marketers up for failure because of the observer effect (as soon as something is observed it changes its state). As soon as you start trying to pinpoint and rationalize their motivations, you are bound to see biculturals shift and change shape (a la Zelig), making it easy for them to fall through the holes in the general market net.
This post is also available in: Spanish