This research examines the effectiveness of advertising techniques used in print magazines that target Mexican American consumers. These techniques were illustrated through the different ethnicities of the models and the languages used in the advertisement. The relationship between preferences of Mexican American consumers for ethnic representation in advertising and the subject’s level of acculturation was investigated. This research will help business firms market more effectively to the Mexican American target audience in the Dallas–Fort Worth region.
Table of Contents:
Introduction and Literature Review
Through continuous research by marketing and anthropological scientists, many results have been found concerning the differences between Anglo American and Mexican American market values.
In several research projects performed by Vaezi (2005) and Ueltschy (2002), Mexican Americans were found to hold varying opinions on the use of the English language in American advertisements. Those Mexican Americans who were well accustomed to Anglo American life and had a solid understanding of the English language seemed to prefer English in any American advertisement. However, several Mexican Americans who were not as comfortable in the Anglo American culture and did not speak English well, if at all, preferred Spanish to be used in all advertisements, or at least a mixture of the two. Through these research studies, the researchers were able to find a strong relationship between Mexican Americans’ understanding of English and their preference of language used in advertisements.
Acculturation and Values
In the research studies of Peppas (2006), Ueltschy (2002), and Vaezi (2005), Mexican Americans were found to have very similar patterns of acculturation and market values.
Acculturation is defined as both the “degree to which a minority adopts the culture of the majority” and “the degree to which the minority retains its own cultural characteristics” (Ueltschy, 2002, p. 2). These researchers found that the level to which a Mexican American was acculturated was directly related to the level of desire the subject held for his or her own cultural characteristics. In other words, when a Mexican American who was not acculturated was being targeted in an advertisement, that person preferred to see Mexicans as part of it. Conversely, when a highly acculturated Mexican American was shown an advertisement created for his or her interest, not much preference was shown in terms of which was included in the ad, Anglo-American or Mexican models or language.
According to Guo et al. (2006), Peppas (2006), Ueltschy (2002), and Vaezi (2005), Mexican Americans preferred expensive and “flashy” belongings. Research findings show that Mexican Americans believed they displayed their wealth or status through the ownership of expensive items. Mexican Americans place much importance on owning objects that will give them the appearance of great wealth and prosperity.
Marketing to the Mexican American population cannot be uniform because each individual holds values and desires based on his or her level of acculturation and heritage. The main conclusion found throughout these studies is that the marketing strategies used with this demographic section should take into account the specific type of individual they want to attract. For instance, if a firm is interested in attracting more educated, highly acculturated Mexican Americans, it should consider using only English in its advertisements and take into account the desire of this group to own a “flashy” or expensive item. Many aspects should be considered when planning the marketing to this diverse group of people, and much research is needed in order to provide a more complete idea of its desires and interests.
This research consisted of the use of a booklet of advertisements that included three pairs of advertisements using both the English and Spanish languages, as well as Anglo and Hispanic models, as a measurement of the effectiveness of marketing to Mexican American females. One advertisement booklet was administered to each subject; every booklet contained exactly the same advertisements.
Subjects had ample time to study the advertisements and consider each product being presented. Following this observation period, the subject group had a question-and-answer session in which all the subjects discussed their level of interest and recall for the products in each pair.
One focus group consisted of six Mexican American subjects with varying levels of acculturation to the United States based on their language preferences and fluency. For example, subjects who were fluent in English only were considered fully acculturated, whereas those subjects who were fluent in both English and Spanish were considered only partially acculturated.
Results were analyzed and trends in each group’s individual preferences were evaluated.
The results of the focus group exercise suggested that there was a high level of correlation between the degree of acculturation the participant claimed based on her fluency in Spanish and English and the preferences she admitted to having in reference to particular print advertisements. The relevant features of each print advertisement and the division of the pairs are presented in Table 1.
Six female Mexican American subjects participated in one focus group study. Each participant was issued a booklet of six print advertisements that were divided into three pairs. Prior to issuing the booklets to the subjects, each individual was asked to identify whether she was fluent in English only, or in both Spanish and English. Each individual’s response is listed in Table 2.
After reviewing the discussion of the focus-group participants and evaluating the preferences expressed by each individual, an inferred correlation was found between the acculturation of the Mexican American female consumer and her preferences for products in response to advertisements. The participants’ summarized preferences are as follows:
- 50% of those participants who were fluent only in English preferred to see an Anglo model in the advertisement. Only 25% preferred to see a Hispanic model.
- 100% of the participants who were fluent in English only preferred the advertisement be printed in English.
- 100% of the participants who were fluent in English and Spanish preferred to see a Hispanic model in the advertisement.
- 50% of the participants who were fluent in English and Spanish preferred to have the advertisement printed in Spanish.
The results are presented in detail in Table 3.
These results suggest that highly acculturated Mexican American female consumers were more likely to prefer the English language and the presence of Anglo models. Those not as acculturated seemed to prefer the use of Hispanic models and either the exclusive or partial use of the Spanish language in the advertisements.
Important factors presented by individual participants during the focus group are as follows:
- Subject #1: She preferred Anglo models because they seemed to be more “versatile” in their appearance. Although she could decipher small bits of Spanish from some of the advertisements, she felt that the use of it rather than English was demeaning and assumed she was uneducated.
- Subject #2: She admitted to having no preference for the models’ ethnicities, even when presented with non-Anglo and non-Hispanic models.
- Subjects #3 and #6: Both preferred to see the use of Hispanic models in the advertisements because they felt most similar to them. Both preferred English to be used rather than Spanish, and Subject #3 stated that it was because she also felt the use of Spanish was demeaning and assumed she was uneducated.
- Subject #4: She stated that she felt no significant bond with Hispanic culture and preferred that the English language and Anglo models be used in advertisements.
- Subject #5: She revealed that her identity was rooted in her family’s Mexican ancestry and was delighted when both the Spanish language and Hispanic models were used in American advertisements.
This research is very helpful to marketing firms in determining which details to include or exclude in their advertising campaigns in an effort to target a particular group of consumers. If the firm is able to determine its target audience as either acculturated or unacculturated Mexican American consumers, this research suggests which details may prove to be most attractive to that group. It should be noted that this research is very limited by the number of participants and region of study. It is, however, very useful to marketing firms in the Dallas–Fort Worth area that wish to target female Mexican American consumers.
- Guo, C., Vasquez-Parraga, A., & Wang, Y. (2006). An exploratory study of motives for Mexican nationals to shop in the U.S.: More than meets the eye. Journal of Retailing and Consumer Services, 13(5), 351–362.
- Peppas, C. (2006). Attitudes of Hispanics and non-Hispanics in the U.S.: A comparative study of business ethics. Management Research News, 29(3), 92–105.
- Ueltschy, L. (2002). Multicultural marketing: Advertising strategies for the Mexican American market. Marketing Management Journal, 12(1), 1–18.
- Vaezi, S. (2005). Marketing to Mexican consumers. Brand Strategy, (190), 43–45.