Mother, there's more than one

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LEXIA Insights & Solutions

At LEXIA, we want to learn about the habits of Mexicans and Latinos wherever they are. That's why we work with neighbors in the United States to get to know that very important figure in the Latin American imaginary: The mother.

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For several decades, migration from Mexico and other Latino countries to the United States has been a constant, so that Latinos in the United States are one of the most important markets and brands in that country are looking for ways to approach them. 

To achieve this goal, Latinum Network, a market research agency based in Bethesda, Maryland, turned to LEXIA Insights & Solutions to learn about the habits, needs and desires of one of the most important figures that Latinos have anywhere in the world: mothers. 

The first thing we were able to establish was that, in the case of Latino families in the United States, the saying "mother, there is only one" no longer works, because we detected three different groups: 

  • Unacculturated - Born in Latin America, they arrive in the United States as adults. They are those who, despite having lived there for some time, are unable to assimilate the cultural practices of their new land. They don't learn English and their children are the link to the outside world, although sometimes language drives them away because young people prefer to use English. They are not happy with their stay in the United States and are constantly looking for items that remind them of home such as food, media content or traditional parties. 
  • Bicultural - Born in Latin America, they arrive in the U.S. as youth or as early adults. They take elements from both worlds. They seek to adapt without losing the essence of their roots, which they also instill in their children. They live happily in their new country and understand the advantage of speaking both languages as an advantage and seek to reap the benefits of moving to the United States. Although they maintain traditions of all kinds, they also adopt North American festivities and customs.  
  • Acculturated - Born in the United States. They are usually considered North American and may even be married to members of other cultural groups, so they incorporate adopted traits from their new communities. Many don't learn Spanish and don't like it when people assume that they speak it because of its appearance because they take it as a stereotype. They don't deny their roots, but they're not interested in looking to the past either. 

Using a triad system, in which several mothers (whose families were also interviewed), in addition to two friends recommended by her (all of similar ages and with the same level of acculturation), worked a series of dynamics, these exercises allowed us to know common traits and differences between each segment. 

Among the insights revealed, for example, is the fact that all, regardless of their level of adaptation, conceive their Latin side as emotional, that of traditions, family, party, unity, music and celebration; while the U.S. component is much more practical and cerebral: security, individualism, money, organization and economic progress. 

The importance that each mother attaches to each of the two components depends on her level of acculturation, which is directly related to the stage of her life in which she arrived in the United States. 

Another common trait is the role that Latino mothers are expected to play inside the home, which is called the "role of the CEO," i.e., organizing the house, taking care of the children, working (mostly in trades or manual labor), shopping and preparing food; leaving aside the "role of the I," which is to take care of themselves, rest, buy things for them, go to the beauty salon, or spend time with their friends. 

That is to say, it is valued more that they put the well-being of others above their own.   

That's why, rather than looking for things for them, they have as their main motivation that their children grow and develop in their new country. They project their hopes on them and measure their success by their academic achievements (finishing high school, going to college), because they perceive them as the key to more and better opportunities than they had. 

Their husbands or partners are perceived as "partners" or "allies" in this task, although it is worth pointing out an important trait: in the United States the culture of effort is valued, so women do not feel limited to being just housewives, as traditionally happens in Latin countries where men are the main provider. In the northern country women adapt their role according to the customs and social habits of their new land. 

They move, so to speak, from the unicycle (the man as sole provider), to the bicycle, where both share the effort and responsibilities, but also the rights and prerogatives, all to get their family through. 

In the case of friends, Latina moms see them as companions on the trip, although each group has a different focus.  

  • Those not acculturated - use them as a support group during their stay in the United States, a closed community, whose main nexus is the language they share and interests are of minor importance. 
  • Biculturals - maintain old friendships, but are also open to meeting new people thanks to their knowledge of English. 
  • The acculturated ones establish new ties with people from all groups, based mainly on shared interests and hobbies. 

In terms of media content, the higher the level of acculturation, the more diverse the choices they make.  

  • Those who are not acculturated - watch and listen to broadcasts in Spanish, which remind them of their home and have a purely emotional connection.  
  • Biculturals - keep what they like in Spanish and take what serves or attracts them from the English programming. 
  • The acculturated ones - for their immersion in the American culture they prefer content in English, of North American content and diverse subjects. 

As for the Internet, they all use Facebook and, according to their degree of acclimatisation, the number of applications and social platforms they use is increasing. 

Another common aspect, regardless of the level of acculturation, is the distaste they feel for stereotypes about Latinos: "they're only good for cooks or bricklayers, they're ignorant, uneducated, and have children so they won't be deported. 

These are just a few of the insights our research detected, which allowed us to conclude that, although the United States wants to sell itself as a "Melting pot" where ingredients are stirred and equalized creating a unique collective identity, it turns out to be more like a "Salad Bowl", in which the ingredients are together, but maintain their individual identity. 

Therefore, market strategies to reach out to Latina mothers, recognizing them as catalysts and influencers, must be based on: 

  • A transition from multiculturalism to interculturality, in which there is not only "tolerance" of differences, but also recognition of differences as a valuable asset and freedom to express them. 
  • No to barriers, yes to bridges. No stereotypes, yes coexistence. 
  • Recognize the importance of learning English, emphasizing the advantage of speaking two languages as something that adds rather than subtracts. 
  • Transcend stereotypes, show Latinos as professionals, academics and entrepreneurs, not just as service providers, because this is identified with the aspirational goals of mothers for their children. 
  • Opening the spectrum of relationships, many acculturated Latina women marry members of other communities, such as Muslims, Europeans or Asians. 
  • Create narratives based on reality. To move away from the stories of "Cinderella" typical of soap operas and to work on other resources that praise individual effort and self-improvement. 
  • Generate attractive opportunities and offers that can be paid for with family savings, almost always managed by the mother. 

All the findings were presented to Latinum Network in November 2011 and continue to be, even today almost 10 years away, the basis of their campaigns and strategies for the Latin market, because... 

Mother, there's more than one. 

Watch the Latinmoms video here: 

Lexia Insights & Solutions

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Roberto Lozano

Roberto Lozano es Licenciado en comunicación por la UNAM y Maestro en comunicación por la Universidad Iberoamericana con especialidad en Investigación por la UNAM.   Ha trabajado en agencias de consultoría política y de marca desde hace 15 años. También ha sido profesor del área de comunicación en el Tecnológico de Monterrey y la Universidad Iberoamericana  Colabora en LEXIA Insights & Solutions como estratega de marca desde hace ocho años. Ha trabajado en proyectos de consultoría en opinión pública y en las categorías de tecnología, consumo, automotriz, servicios

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