'Speak to us through the filter of culture, not race or language' – Elmwood's US president Elle Morris on marketing to Latinas

As a woman with pale rosy skin, freckles, green eyes and red hair, I often hear, “You MUST be Irish!” Well, folks, I’m Latina. Hailing from English and Cuban descent my coloring is my mother’s. Many of my Delgado (Cuban) cousins have the same green eyes – some are brunette with darker skin; some are paler with blonde hair. Latinas are not all dark haired and dark skinned. Our hair varies in texture from straight, curls, thick, thin and everything in between. We defy stereotyping.

Next people look at my name – Elle Morris. Stemming from Elenita, which means little Elena in Spanish, my Anglo friends couldn’t (or wouldn’t) say Elenita when I was growing up in Connecticut, so the nickname “Elle” was born. My given name is Maria Elena de la Vera Cruz. My family still calls me Elenita or Elena.

My Cuban grandmother, or my Abuelita, shaped how I see myself as a woman. She and my mother taught me how Latinas care for their families, express their love through preparing meals, and how women are to be viewed as sisters – not competition. We place a high level of importance on our appearance and to be guardians of our culture. Latina beauty is about investing in self for the long-term through attention to hair, skin and body – in products, services and cosmetic procedures (As I say to my Anglo friends, you go buy your Mercedes or Jaguar, but I am driving this face around for the rest of my life - when they question my expenditures on Botox and facials). The rituals surrounding beauty as well as the relationships we have with our own “tribe” are critical to WHO WE ARE. I never leave the house without full make-up and hair – it’s a sense of pride that all Latinas have, not a desire to impress others.

This, in turn, created the dichotomy of who I am and who many Latinas are – executive by day, doting Latina mother and wife at home, beauty involved woman, shop-a-holic and social media junkie. We are multi-faceted, complex women who are comfortable in our own skin, resilient and optimistic – and beauty marketers must address us as the women that we are.

We are also incredibly social with a strong sense of community – a legacy from our ancestors who gathered in “las plazas” of Spanish colonial towns. We thrive on communication and validation from each other. Latinas have become a prominent force in social media communities – or today’s “las plazas." I’ve got over 1,000 friends on Facebook – and my own Latina Posse which includes Cubans, Dominicans, Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Columbians, and Venezuelans from all socioeconomic backgrounds. We share everything from the latest haircut, new eye make up or an amazingly effective skincare product and “kitchen logic” beauty recipes. We trust each other and that is evident in what we buy. 63% of Latina women consult social media before purchasing products or services and 44% of Latina women share or recommend brands/products with their social network.

I am in the unique position to blend both my profession with my personal experience of being Latina. Retailers and consumer goods companies speak to us with bi-lingual packaging; great for first generation Latinas, but as second and third generation Latinas, we speak, read and write English. In fact, we are more likely to use a blend of both languages.

So what’s the common denominator that retailers and consumer goods companies can leverage to speak to our burgeoning US population? Speak to us through the filter of culture, not race or language. Show us that you know how we live, how we communicate with one another, how we take pride in our appearance, and that we are complex women, not some stereotype that television portrays us to be.

Latinas generally shop 20 per cent more often than other women and spend 37 per cent more per shopping occasion than non-Hispanics in a multi-channel environment. In the beauty category, we spend three times as much as non-Hispanic women. We shop with our senses and enjoy the omnichannel shopping experience, trending significantly higher on shopping enjoyment over other consumers. We appreciate the design and quality of package design (hint: invest in your packaging – attention to craft and detail really matters to us).

Brands and retailers who speak to Latinas as if they are part of the family and truly understand what’s important to us will win our loyalty and trust. Beauty brands that want to succeed with us need to reconsider how they’re reaching and talking to us. Latinas cannot be lumped in with Hispanics as a whole or the African American market. Beauty brands need to have an authentic, personal understanding of our skin tone variations, hair texture and color variations as well as skin type variations. We are tired of “making due” with products not specifically for us, like foundation that isn’t close to our skin tone. Seriously, I can’t find foundations that are pale enough for me.

Gone are the blanket identifiers and stereotypical beauty ideals that oversimplify our backgrounds, needs and lifestyles. The strong and empowered Latina woman is not who you thought she was -- she is complex and constantly evolving. Brands that want to truly connect with the new Latina-driven market will embrace a more modern view – one that celebrates the many faces of today’s Latina.

Elle Morris is president of the Americas at Elmwood

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