Ideas and insights > Hispanic Heritage Month: Joining the conversation without appropriating the culture.

Hispanic Heritage Month: Joining the conversation without appropriating the culture.

Our thought leader:

Katie DeGennaro
Katie DeGennaro
Associate Creative Director, Copy

For Hispanic Heritage Month, JK was honored to welcome guest blogger and former JK art director, Jason Alejandro.

Jason is a Puerto Rican graphic designer and educator based between New York City and Philadelphia. He is currently an Assistant Professor of Graphic Design at the College of New Jersey and serves on the AIGA Design Educators Community Steering Committee. In addition to his teaching role, Jason is also a practicing designer and strong advocate for expanding diversity, equity, and inclusion in education and the arts.

We asked Jason to share his thoughts on how brands can more authentically honor Hispanic heritage in their marketing efforts.

As diversity and inclusion become more and more important to consumers, brands continue to look for new ways to represent diverse audiences. But even with the best of intentions, marketers need to be careful that they’re not jumping on a bandwagon without truly understanding the people or culture they’re trying to engage.

Take, for example, the Hispanic/Latino demographic—which makes up 19.1% of the U.S. population, according to the most recent Census estimates. Brands may see Hispanic Heritage Month as an opportunity to connect with a rapidly growing and impactful audience—and done right, it can be. But it’s also important to respect the true significance of the month by keeping certain considerations top of mind.

1. Avoid cultural clichés and stereotypes.

This year, clichés like Mexican folk art, sombreros, and “fiesta fonts’ have seemed particularly over the top. But using this type of surface-level imagery (which is not representative of all Hispanic or Latinx cultures) can perpetuate harmful stereotypes—and offend the people you’re trying to reach. 

Instead, give your team enough time to do some proper research. Better yet, leverage the diverse voices within your organization. And if your team doesn’t have many (or any) employees who identify as Hispanic or Latinx, well, see my next point.

2. Hire Latinx creatives.

While Latinx creatives remain underrepresented in the marketing and creative spaces, the numbers are growing steadily and the talent pool is strong. If you’re not sure where to start, consider online directories such as Latinxs Who Design or the Latinx Design Directory, an MFA thesis project by Zuli Segura. 

The bottom line is, whether you’re launching a brand, kicking off a campaign, or simply creating content to celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month on social media, content for the Latinx community is best created with them.

3. Avoid a one-size-fits-all approach.

Hispanic heritage is a rich and diverse tapestry of cultures, traditions, and people—and the term “Hispanic” applies to a range of cultures. From Caribbean Afro-Latinx communities to indigenous groups in Mexico and Central America, each has its own customs and consumer behaviors. So a campaign that resonates with a Cuban-American audience might miss the mark with a Mexican-American audience.

To remedy this, marketers should consult cultural experts and consider focus groups to create culturally sensitive content that drives more respectful and impactful campaigns. Recognizing the immense diversity within Hispanic heritage isn’t just the right thing to do—it’s good marketing.

Final thoughts from JK.

As our DEI statement says: we believe that each of us is responsible for respecting the dignity and diversity of all people and creating an inclusive work environment that encourages unique perspectives, open collaboration, and honest communication. 

We’re grateful to have built relationships with Latinx creators like Jason and we’re committed to sharing the stories of diverse talent through our work, our words, and our actions. As Hispanic Heritage Month comes to a close, we invite you to reflect on how your business participated and what you can do to ensure you’re showing up authentically as you incorporate diversity, equity, and inclusion into your marketing.

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