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Digo’s Guillermo Pérez: “There is a Richness in Latino Culture that is Still Untapped in Hispanic Marketing.”


Cultural sensitivity is a critical skill for any marketer who wants to truly engage consumers in multicultural America. Guillermo Pérez, Chief Creative Officer, Digo provides tips and guidelines for brands to follow to ensure they are inclusive and respectful of the Hispanic community’s culture.

Cultural sensitivity “goes beyond making a J. Balvin burger or a Bad Bunny pair of socks,” says Guillermo Pérez, Chief Creative Officer at Digo.

What is Cultural Sensitivity?

Cultural Sensitivity
Guillermo Pérez, Chief Creative Officer, Digo

Cultural sensitivity means that a marketer is aware and accepting of cultural differences. “It implies that you withhold judgment of cross-cultural practices, and that you can deal effectively with these differences,” says Dr. Winston Sieck, founder and president of Global Cognition,  a cognitive science research organization devoted to improving education and professional development.

Respect for People’s Strength, Culture and Knowledge

Hispanics are not a monolithic group. Asked about what type of messaging (content, idioms) it is important to be sensitive about  in terms of not resonating the wrong way with certain groups/nationalities of the Hispanic population, Pérez says that Hispanics are  heterogenous not only when it comes to  nationalities, but also to different generations. There are many differences in opinion and lifestyle within Latino communities themselves,” Pérez says. “Within different age groups, where generational shifts provide powerful contrasts in issues like the role of family, women, gender, religion, etc. Hispanics understand diversity in such a broad way. It’s in our bones because not only are we incredibly diverse within our communities, but also, the origins of our culture come from a melting pot of natives, Europeans, and Africans that integrated centuries ago, even before the United States of America.”

What else does a marketer need to be culturally sensitive about? Pérez answers that as a marketer you need to take care of the same things as for any other major group in the U.S. “In any case, there is more leeway because Latinos grow surrounded by different values and sensibilities from their elders, contemporaries, and peers. We are not as touchy.”

Cultural Sensitivity: Pay Close Attention to Cultural Heritage

The most crucial thing to take into account is the importance of different elements of cultural heritage, like music, food, and traditions, Pérez asserts: “Bachata is not Mexican. Cumbia is not Caribbean. Someone of Mexican heritage might be less offended if you wear a sombrero or luchador mask. But trust me, if you put BBQ sauce in a taco, they would.”

As examples of marketing initiatives that resonate the wrong way with the Hispanic consumer, Pérez says that movies and TV series and songs are often venues were misconceptions are born. As an example he mentions that when hew grew up, he was always surprised by the depictions of Latin American cities: “there was always somebody playing congas and dancing on the street next to a soldier with a machine gun, people barefoot with sombreros saying Chinga tu madre in Cuba,” he notes.  “These misconceptions become part of the culture. You see it in product naming,” Pérez mantains. For instance, he says, that for many Americans, queso means “dipping sauce like cheez wiz.” However, he asserts that queso means cheese. Parmesan, Muenster and Asiago are quesos. “The word was hijacked. This is something we’ve suffered a lot. So, campaigns or ideas are not where we find these biases; it’s at the source. It’s to call salsa a spicy red stuff in jars… it’s assuming every Dominican plays baseball… stuff like that.”

Country of Origin Source Makes its Way to U.S. Latino

Interestingly, according to Pérez, almost everything in Latino culture comes from the source, from the country of origin, and makes its way to U.S. Latinos.  “Latinos always go to the sources from their country of origin, that’s where their music, food, sports, family, etc. is. It’s their home, even if they’ve never or barely been there or speak bad Spanish.” As explained by Pérez, “once in the U.S, it becomes something else. In the U.S., they make it their own. They enrich it,  mix it, simplify it. Salsa music, for example, was born in NYC. Sure, the artists were Puerto Rican, Dominican, and Panamanian. Still, the narrative of the U.S. experience is the same for us: once it arrives here, it becomes its own identity… as Pizza did for Italians.” 

Constantly Shifting Cultural Relevance

Cultural relevance is constantly shifting, according to Pérez. “The reason for that is that Latinos are extremely creative with language; every year, tons of new words and expressions become a thing. Dozens of them permanently in speech, making their way into U.S. Latinos. It is a living thing; one must always be listening to find the new KLK, Güey, Carnal, Pana, or Bobo.”

Cultural Sensitivity: Avoid Stereotypes…

Among the stereotypes to avoid by marketers who need to be culturally sensitive, Pérez cites the following.

  • Latinas being hyper-sexed assuming they are telenovela-beauty-queen-“MILFS… assuming that your Latina dentist or pre-school teacher would show up looking like J-Lo on the red carpet.
  • That Latinos are lazy, careless about education, and not trustworthy. That Latino men are homophobic and “macho,  more violent and reckless. 

…and Extremes

Extremes to be avoided include:

  • The view that Latino moms are old ladies just waiting to feed all grandchildren with a smile or that they just care about their kids and not themselves.
  • That Latinos would be grateful for doing any crappy job and have lower ambitions and expectations.
  • That they do everything in a big gathering with a piñata, confetti, cake and a ton of kids running around grandpa in his rocking chair.

“Avoid extremes. I say that’ll be smart”, says Pérez.  “But most importantly, don’t be afraid to ask. Latinos will not get offended if you ask, for instance: “How does your family do this?”

Great Creatives

In terms of great advertising creatives Pérez says that recently the bar has been lowered in a weird way because there is creativity that touches on cultural issues but always from the perspective of “the Savior,” And frankly… we don’t want or need to be saved. We stand for the same as everyone does. We just do it our way.

Asked about which creatives over the last 12 months he particularly likes in terms of how they deal with cultural sensitivity, the Chief Creative Officer of Digo cites the following:

  • Creative: McDonald’s “Viejitos” ad.
    Why?  “It’s so endearing and genuine.
    It shows our values and where they come from without coming across as forced. It’s adorable.”
  • Creative: “Sprintpinella” for Sprint
    Why? “The campy ballad was almost as good as the Dueño de Casa campaign from years ago. But again, in a way that is relevant in the U.S.”

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