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Cinco de Mayo is a day most Americans associate with two-for-one margaritas and bottomless salsa or maybe even with Mexican Independence. In reality, it’s the anniversary of a David vs. Goliath-esque battle that took place between Mexico and France in the 1860s. More than a century later, it was co-opted by alcohol marketers to sell booze to Spanish-speaking Americans. Quite the tenuous thread, considering that outside the state of Puebla–where the battle took place–it isn’t widely celebrated in Mexico. But this post isn’t intended to cancel Cinco de Mayo revelry; quite the opposite. With an Avocados from Mexico poll revealing that only 22% of Americans know what they’re actually raising their cervezas to every 5th of May, consider this a brief primer on how to celebrate a day of Mexican heritage, resilience, and pride respectfully, without the appropriation of a sombrero. As marketers ourselves, it’s the least we can do. Picture it: Mexico, 1862. What started as a naval invasion to secure debts owed by Mexico to European governments turned into a sly attempt by France to take over the country. Emperor Napoleon III–nephew of his namesake Napoleon Bonaparte–set his sights on claiming a French-backed stronghold in North America. But before his troops could invade Mexico City, they were remarkably defeated by Mexican general Ignacio Zaragoza and his men in Puebla de Los Ángeles. Though Napoleon ultimately occupied the country until 1867, this battle remains a symbolic and historic moment of Mexican resilience and sovereignty with as few as 2,000 Mexican soldiers fighting off three times as many French ones. Against the backdrop of the American Civil War, Mexicans living in California–wary of France’s Confederate support–regaled their underdog countrymen’s victory over foreign powers with the first Cinco de Mayo celebrations stateside. Today, the largest Cinco de Mayo celebrations take place in Los Angeles, California. From cultural pride to corporate gains In the 20th century, Chicano activists embraced the holiday as an occasion to celebrate their broader Mexican heritage and fight for their civil rights. President Franklin D. Roosevelt is also said to have had a hand in raising its popularity through US-Latin American policy. But, as happens with most holidays, Cinco de Mayo’s origins were usurped by commercial interests. In the 1980s, beverage brands saw it as a prime opportunity to sell more beer and launched marketing campaigns to Spanish-speaking Americans. As Paste magazine put it, “An ethnically-themed holiday falling on a relatively blank calendar space between St. Patrick’s Day and Memorial Day, just as the weather is starting to warm up? Nothing could be more perfect.” The rest, they say, is history. Or rather, historical ambiguity? Celebrating responsibly Of course, supporting your favorite local Mexican restaurant or bar on Cinco de Mayo is a wonderful thing. But without the sobering context and history of a day that is typically anything but sober, it’s easy for Cinco de Mayo to simply be an excuse to throw back too many tequila shots at a chain restaurant wearing a stick-on mustache when it could be an opportunity to authentically immerse yourself in the culture. So, without further adieu, here are a few ways we recommend celebrating and a few that should be absolutely stricken from the itinerary. By now it should be obvious, but for those not of Mexican descent who may be unclear: trust your instincts and forgo dressing as a caricature of Mexican attire. That means no sombreros, no ponchos (called serape and jorongo in Spanish), and absolutely no fake mustaches. Embrace the culture without making a mockery of it. In this same vein–for marketers and everyday folks–don’t give English words a Spanish flair in an effort to rhyme or be cute. It’s not Cinco de Drinko. Go ahead and sip on a freshly muddled margarita, an ice-cold tequila, or even a smoky mezcal, but refrain from getting sloppy at best or offensive at worst. Better still, talk to your bartender and ask to try a cocktail you haven’t had before like a paloma, michelada, or horchata. Beyond enjoying Mexican spirits or beers, it’s the perfect opportunity to eat delicious, authentic food. Seek out family-owned Mexican restaurants, food trucks, or ingredients you haven’t tried before, and avoid chains if you can. Take a Mexican cooking class taught by a Mexican or Mexican-American chef and learn how to make traditional recipes at home like mole poblano, a traditional sauce of Puebla. Read a book by a Mexican or Mexican-American author, watch a Mexican show on your streaming service of choice, or sing along to a playlist of Mexican musicians. Attend a Cinco de Mayo festival in your area to experience traditional music, dancing and dress, and activities for the whole family. Tell your friends what you learned in this blog post! Or better yet, continue reading about the intersectionality of Mexican and American history. AMP and Advantage Employees Weigh in on Cinco de Mayo “In my family, Cinco de Mayo is usually combined with Mother’s Day and boxing fights. It’s a weekend of bonding, delicious food, and good times. However, I did grow up seeing it celebrated inappropriately by my peers. As an adult, I notice that there is more of an effort to explain what the day actually commemorates and how to celebrate appropriately. The comradery of this makes me more proud to be Mexican-American and even encourages me to celebrate my culture more with my family.” - Destiny Velazquez, Engagement Strategist at AMP “Cinco de Mayo is a holiday that in Mexico we don't really celebrate. As Mexicans or Mexican-Americans in America, we cringe about [it] due to the insensitive depiction of our heritage and culture and seeing it narrowed down to maracas, sombreros, and culturally appropriated Americanized dishes that fail to represent the rich gastronomy that Mexico has to offer. As a result, as an ERG, we originally chose to bypass Cinco de Mayo as an occasion to celebrate or even acknowledge. But the more we thought about it, the more we thought about the need for us to be part of the solution. Cinco de Mayo will not go away, and we do not want it to go away. We want more people to embrace it and celebrate it appropriately. It is an opportunity to share our culture, tradition, and history, and it’s an opportunity to bring our communities closer together.” - Gerado Orta, Co-Chair HOLA (Advantage’s LatinX ERG) and VP Strategic Planning at InMarketing Services "Yo soy (I am) Peruana. In the town I grew up in [in] New Jersey, Cinco de Mayo was not something I saw celebrated or acknowledged; most of my friends were from Puerto Rico, the Dominican Republic, Cuba, or from South America. And because I am Peruvian, Cinco de Mayo was not part of my cultural upbringing. It wasn’t until I began working professionally in corporate America, that I was introduced to Cinco de Mayo. Frankly, it never felt right the way the holiday was presented, associated with tacos, margaritas, and sombreros. I have friends who are Mexican and saw the holiday as perpetuating stereotypes about Mexican culture. I did my research and learned more about the origins and significance of the holiday – something, unfortunately, missed when talking about Cinco de Mayo. If you want to celebrate or partake in another communities’ cultural traditions or celebrations, learn about [them] first. Sometimes people confuse dressing in a certain way or imitating another cultures’ traditions as appreciation, [when] what they are doing is appropriating another culture. This can be off-putting or seen as disrespectful by individuals in the other community. Even if the intent was meant to be positive, “I was just trying to celebrate x culture,” what’s important to remember is the impact it can have on another community. The best advice I can give [is] showing appreciation for another culture starts with educating yourself first on what’s acceptable and what’s not before taking any action. And if you make a mistake, which is bound to happen (I mean we are human), acknowledge it, learn from it, and don’t do it again." - Giannina Seaman, Senior Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion at Advantage Solutions
Size inclusivity is one of the hottest topics in today’s fashion industry. From creator trends on TikTok to full-blown brand transformations — like Old Navy’s Bodequality campaign — this idea is popping up all over the fashion world. While there is a clear connection between fashion and size inclusivity, this is a conversation that brands in all industries can and should be engaging in. Read on to learn how and why size inclusivity has become important to many fashion brands, as well as how non-fashion brands and their customers can benefit from incorporating size-inclusive strategies, tactics and creative. A revolution in the fashion industry There’s been a revolution in the fashion industry over the last 15-20 years. In the early 2000s, many retailers offered clothing sizes only up to L or occasionally XL, and the plus-size stores that existed (e.g. Lane Bryant and Torrid) were few and far between. This was back before “body positivity” and “real beauty” became buzz words, back when it was rare to see models over a size 0. Fast forward to today and size inclusivity is woven into the fabric of many fashion brands. Budget-friendly brands like Target and high-end fashion brands like Christian Siriano have evolved their clothing lines to include more sizing options for consumers. The global plus-size clothing market is worth $178 billion, while the US market is worth $24 billion, according to Vogue Business. When it comes to size representation in advertising and marketing, fashion brands are embracing diversity more than ever. Two brands we admire in this space are Thinx (check out their Instagram channel for inspiration) and Aerie (shoutout to the #AerieREAL campaign). It’s important to note that size inclusion in the fashion industry has traditionally focused primarily on cisgender women, although some brands like Rihanna’s Savage X Fenty — which spotlights plus-size male models — have started to change that. We’re excited to see how brands will evolve to better represent people of all sizes and genders. What happened in the past few decades to bring size inclusivity to the forefront of fashion? Much of the work being done today to promote size inclusivity has its roots in the Fat Acceptance Movement, which began in the late 1960s. Since then, an increasing number of people have been advocating for size inclusion. Size inclusivity is also part of a larger movement for more diverse representation of bodies that intersects with race, sex, disability, gender, and more. Social media has rapidly propelled the movement for inclusivity. A 2016 article from Adweek sheds light on this point: “On platforms like Instagram and Twitter, women who have for so long felt ignored by mainstream fashion are finally able to have a voice. They're sharing body-positive selfies and hashtags, following plus-size bloggers like GabiFresh and Nicolette Mason (whose massive audiences have led to magazine columns and designer partnerships) and letting brands know exactly what they think.” Social media has helped publicize the desire for representation and has given consumers an interactive platform they can use to ask brands for it directly. In addition to advocacy and social pressure from consumers, many fashion brands have begun to engage with size inclusivity because of the financial benefits. In a 2018 interview with Elle, famed fashion designer Christian Siriano said that adding plus sizes to his line tripled his business. And as previously mentioned, the US market for plus-size clothing is worth $24 billion. But the rising popularity of size inclusivity in fashion goes deeper than advocacy, social media or even finance. Size inclusivity is powerful because it resonates with a universal human truth: People want to feel like they belong. As co-founder of Body Confidence Canada said in a BBC interview, “Being able to walk into a store and find your size makes customers feel they are seen.” Feeling seen is a powerful emotional response. It’s the kind of thing that can positively impact someone’s personal life and their purchasing decisions. From this perspective, size inclusivity is a win-win. All brands should care about size inclusivity If you don’t work with or own a fashion brand, you may at this point be wondering how size inclusivity applies to your brand. Clearly, there’s a connection between fashion and size. Clothing items are almost always differentiated by this characteristic. But what if you sell a product or service that’s less clearly related, or appears to be completely unrelated? Should size inclusivity still factor into your marketing strategy? Yes. The reality is that people of all sizes drive cars, wear perfume and buy houses. People of all sizes travel the world and go to concerts. Someone who wears a size 0 is no more or less likely to need glasses than someone who wears a size 24. Muscle mass doesn’t determine your taste in toothbrushes. So, why is there such a small range in the bodies we see in advertisements for these products? Addressing popular arguments against size inclusivity Argument 1: Showing bigger people in the media promotes poor health and glorifies obesity. In an article about a Sports Illustrated fashion show that included plus-size models, BBC News quoted Dr. Brad Frankum, president of the Australian Medical Association in New South Wales, saying: “If we send very overweight or obese people down the catwalk modelling clothes, what it is saying, in a way, is that we are celebrating obesity. I think that is dangerous because we know it is a dangerous health condition.” This argument is erroneous for several reasons. First, it’s impossible to determine someone’s physical health by looking at their size alone. Size does not tell us how often a person works out or what their diet, blood pressure, etc. is. Second, this argument fails to take into account healthy reasons for weight gain. Someone might gain weight as the result of switching between antidepressants or trying to work on an eating disorder. Some disabilities are also associated with weight gain, and that’s certainly not a good reason to exclude someone from representation. Third, while there is no strong evidence to support the idea that representing larger bodies is “dangerous,” there is ample evidence to show that size stigma has harmful effects. Examples can be found here: “Eating Disorders and Social Media Prove Difficult to Untangle” from The New York Times “Weight stigma study in the U.S. and 5 other nations shows the worldwide problem of such prejudice” from The Washington Post “The Impact of Weight Stigma on our Mental Health” from Center for Discovery Eating Disorder Treatment Argument 2: It’s not fine to be fat. This language is taken word for word from the headline of a 2018 opinion piece from The Guardian. Journalist Lizzie Cernik writes: “…as we move away from the skinny goals of the mid-2000s and embrace different shapes and sizes, one group of campaigners has taken things a step too far. Fronted by plus-sized models and social media influencers, the fat acceptance movement aims to normalise obesity, letting everyone know that it’s fine to be fat.” Who gets to decide which bodies are “fine” and “not fine”? Cernik presents being fat as a moral failing. This ignores the reality that size varies for so many different reasons. It’s also body shaming, which never feels good to the person being shamed, and has proven negative health side effects, like increased rates of depression and anxiety. As advertisers and marketers, is this the attitude we want to show towards our current and potential customers? We think not. But let’s remove emotion from the equation for a moment. Consider the average American consumer. What do they look like? The CDC states that 73.6% of adults ages 20 and up are “overweight, including obesity.” If we do not include overweight and/or obese individuals in our marketing and advertising, we are excluding almost three-quarters of American adults from representation. This does not seem like good business sense. Argument 3: Beauty matters and straying from beauty norms in a brand’s marketing will negatively impact the perceived attractiveness of its products. We agree that beauty is often important in advertising and marketing, and we also believe that beauty takes countless shapes, forms and sizes. Only viewing beauty through societal norms is limiting. Additionally, beauty trends and perceptions are changing all the time. Renaissance paintings portray very different body ideals from magazine covers. These days, “thick” figures are popularly seen as attractive. Dad bods are celebrated. Un-Photoshopped belly rolls are lauded. Size inclusivity is in. Argument 4: My customers don’t care about size inclusivity. Tennis legend Billie Jean King said, “You have to see it to be it.” If people can’t see themselves in our campaigns, if they can’t relate to the people we show using our products and services, how are they supposed to connect with our brand? And if they don’t connect with our brand, why would they want to buy what we’re selling? More and more consumers are looking for authenticity and connection, and diverse representation is one way to achieve this. Here are some things your brand can do to get involved with size inclusivity, no matter which industry it is in: Use size inclusive stock imagery and footage. Intentionally search for images that include people of varying sizes. Check out AllGo for free plus-size stock photos. AllGo also offers inclusive design consulting services. Work with models of all different sizes. Unsure where to look? L'Officiel has a great list of inclusive modelling agencies. IMG models recently created a division called Brawn that represents plus-size male models. You might also consider scouting models on social media by searching popular hashtags like #SizeInclusive and #InclusiveFashion. Partner with influencers who reflect a range of sizes. Again, using relevant social media hashtags can help with your search. Consider talking about size inclusivity on social media (if it feels on brand and authentic). If your brand has a good track record of being size inclusive with its products, services or representation, consider sharing why it matters to your brand on social media. Another way to join the conversation is to kindly but firmly shut down body shaming when you see it in the comments on your social posts. Stay on top of size-inclusive trends across industries. Don’t be afraid to look to other brands for inspiration! While the fashion industry is a great place to start, there are also brands in other industries putting out great size-inclusive work (shout out to Sephora). Avoid body shaming and weight-related jokes in your campaigns. No matter what your intentions are, body shaming and jokes about size are almost guaranteed to offend someone. And since the majority of Americans are now considered overweight, as previously mentioned, you could end up offending a lot of someones. Think about how you can make your workplace more size inclusive. This might look like offering more sizes for company clothing or choosing office furniture that accommodates higher weight limits. In the past few years, many brands have made efforts to increase representation in their marketing and advertising campaigns, but few outside of the fashion industry have made size inclusivity a priority in these efforts. Can your brand help lead the way?
The Hispanic consumer can no longer be ignored. Too many opportunities are lost from lack of attention and conversation around reaching this audience. As a Latina, I feel it is an important issue to address. At the root of this problem is a lack of understanding. Why are Hispanics important? What makes us any different? How do we even reach this audience? Let's go one at a time. Before getting into the material, let me clarify a few terms. The term Hispanic refers to people who originate from Spanish-speaking countries, while Latino/a indicates Latin-American origins, including countries speaking Portuguese, French and many others. For the sake of simplicity, I will be focusing on Hispanic Americans but some of the material, especially related to culture, can be applied to other Latin American communities. Why are Hispanics important? According to US census data, by the year 2044 the US population will be majority multicultural. This includes Hispanic Americans, Asian American, African American and more. At the moment 43% of the population is multicultural, that's 143 million people, 65 million of which are Hispanic. Beyond population, how about the money they bring to the table? Hispanics in the US have a higher buying power than Italy’s GDP. Pretty impressive, right? Additionally, they are dominating in a number of markets such as food, clothes and phone services. On a human level, representation, while not a new conversation, is currently standing at centerstage. People want to see themselves in the media they consume. Seeing one’s self represented creates a bigger emotional impact and attracts attention. Misrepresentation and stereotypical representation is a reality for most minority groups. For Hispanics in particular, we are too often represented as criminals, drug dealers, prostitutes or the loud dramatic best friend but almost never the strong independent main character, or the doctor, engineer, entrepreneur. Slowly things are changing. Salma Hayek recently appeared in Marvel’s, the Eternals, as a guide, leader, and main character. A Netflix show called One Day at a Time follows the story of a Hispanic American family, touching on subjects like mental health, sexuality, and race. Change doesn’t happen overnight and it requires dedication and understanding. Lets play a part in furthering this change. What makes Hispanics any different? There are two factors that differentiate Hispanics from the American consumer: language and culture. These differences are at the root of most difficulties and confusion experienced when trying to reach this audience. Not understanding these differences can lead to mistranslations and misrepresentations which have a negative impact on how people in this community view certain brands. Language It is important to recognize that though we as Hispanics share a language, it is not a monoculture. This can be seen through variations in the language itself, food, music, and traditions. As Spanish speakers we have different accents, dialects, and slang depending on our country of origin and even the region within each country. This makes sense if you compare this differentiation to the different British, Australian, and American accents you hear while traveling or watching movies and TV. Even within the US we have slightly different words for things like fizzy drinks; soda, pop, coke, etc.. The Hispanics living in the US come from all 21 Spanish-speaking countries so we have to be careful to use copy that doesn’t have a negative or completely different meaning to a certain country. This is going to require a few minutes of extra research from you team, but it’s worth it to avoid mistakes other brands have made in the past: To demonstrate their advancements in comforts, American Airlines launched their “Fly in leather” campaign in Latin and Central America. The translation used was “Vuela encuero”, unfortunately in some countries that is translated to “Fly naked” Similarly, Coors translated their “Turn it loose” campaign to something meaning “suffer from diarrhea” It should be noted that for the two examples above, the translations were technically correct word for word, but the teams involved in this did not take into account colloquial meanings and slang not typically recorded in google translate or translation dictionaries. To avoid any miscommunications it is safest to do a little research before finalizing your copy. Culture Culture is the reason why we think and act differently. It dictates what we value and what we look for in our surroundings. A famous social psychologist, Geert Hofstede, developed 6 cultural dimensions, one of which - “individualism” - is particularly important within the context of advertising. The Individualism scale helps define culture by identifying what is valued within the community. Countries with higher scores are categorized as individualistic, meaning they value individual success, personal reward, and personal benefit. While countries on the lower end of the scale are collectivistic, valuing family, group success, and group goals. The US is one of the highest scoring countries in the world at 91, signaling individualistic values. Spanish speaking countries, while varying in score, are almost all collectivistic. Research has linked this cultural dimension to how consumers react to different themes within advertisements. Consumers from individualistic countries react best to themes of autonomy, achievement, personal benefit, and expression of uniqueness. Consumers from collectivistic countries react best to themes of avoiding negative outcomes, maintaining harmony, social connectedness, and fulfilling social roles. For the Hispanics in the US it is not so simple. Hispanic Americans are on both sides of this scale at the same time. Because of different levels of exposure to both cultures, not all Hispanic American consumers have the same cultural identity. So, how this framework is applied depends on individual experiences. There are three named variations of cultural identity within this area of study; Acculturated, Bicultural, and Unacculturated. Acculturated Acculturated Hispanic Americans identify more with American values. For this reason they should respond more to individualistic themes, and the English language. Differing from Americans, however, they would respond well to Hispanic cultural references. This can be something like casting, music, and more. This is especially true today where a lot of people are making a conscious effort to connect to their heritage. In fact, today 66% of Hispanic Americans say “the Spanish language is more important to me today than it was five years ago.” Bicultural Bicultural Hispanic Americans have equal levels of the two cultures within them and their identity differs depending on how they negotiate the two cultures in their heads. The more common of the two, integrated biculturals, combine the two cultures and thus will react best to a combination of values, and language. Compartmentalized Biculturals, on the other hand, separate the two cultural identities and thus react best to either American values or Hispanic values. Unacculturated Unacculturated Hispanic Americans identify more with Hispanic values meaning they respond best to collectivistic themes, and the Spanish language. This group is very rarely a part of the target for brands, but a portion of this segment can however be reached using the efforts for the two other previously mentioned groups as (comprehension stat). It seems that the sweet spot within all the groups is a combination of values, language and culture. Most importantly it highlights the fact that in order to reach Hispanic Americans the material does not necessarily have to be in Spanish. Key takeaways How do we reach this audience? 1. Knowing your audience: This can help when choosing the best approach. Who are they? Acculturated? Include small nods to the Hispanic culture. Bicultural? Include stronger Hispanic themes like family, and togetherness. Unacculturated? Consider a unique creative concept to execute in Spanish. If you don’t know, your best bet is to incorporate Hispanic culture or values in some way throughout your content. Remember, at the end of the day, you probably know your target the best so trust your gut. Make sure your Hispanic American audience is a part of the conversation. 2. No direct translation: From all the differences in culture and values, having the same approach for everyone seems to fall short. This is one of the reasons why you should try to avoid direct translation. From the outside this might be seen as lazy or inauthentic and have a negative impact on brand perception. Beyond that, it simply might not have the same emotional impact that the material had in English. This is not a hard and fast rule, direct translation could work in some situations, but what is important is to take time to discuss this deeper rather than make a split second decision. Most consumers are smart, they’ll catch on to your intentions. Alternative ways to approach this could be tweaking the concept to be more relevant to the Hispanic American audience, then develop it solely in Spanish. Another option is to include a Hispanic perspective in the English material. Think about the statistics about the US population, make content truly representative of that diversity. 3. Double check your Spanish: If you are using Spanish, double check everything. Watch out for colloquial meaning from different countries and common translation mistakes. Some ways that you can do this are consulting native speakers if they are willing, and checking the internet. When consulting the internet be aware that Google Translate will not help the majority of the time, instead try using Urban Dictionary. For example, when looking up the phrase “que lo que,” Google Translate says “what what.” While technically directly translated the words mean “what the what,” this phrase is used in the Dominican Republic as “what’s up?” Urban Dictionary does however pick up the meaning and provides examples of its usage in day to day life. The most common translation mistakes come from false cognates. These are words in two languages, in our case English and Spanish, that sound the same but mean something completely different. For example, the words embarrassed and embarazada, while they look the same, the Spanish word translates to pregnant. Not knowing this could lead to some very confused consumers. 4. A sprinkling of Hispanic culture: Sometimes all that is needed are some small changes to creative. Including elements of Hispanic culture can go a long way, even without any language changes. Making the community feel represented can sometimes be enough to reach the Hispanic audience. If using this approach, watch out for overused stereotypes, and take into account the country by country differences. You might not be able to find a food that every Hispanic would immediately identify with but many would relate with a three generation household or going to a kids birthday party with more adults than kids. There are many small details that can be added beyond casting that will add to the authenticity of the material. 5. Spanglish: Spanglish is something that most Hispanic Americans can say they use regularly. It is a mix of the language used to optimize how we get something across. Sometimes there just isn’t a word in English for a certain feeling or object and vice versa. Adding this element to advertising material is admittedly tricky to navigate and execute but if done right and in a natural and logical way it could attract the attention of Hispanic Americans engaging with the content. 6. Be Intentional: All of these approaches have one thing in common: all of them will fail if they are not backed by the right intention. If you try to reach this audience just to reach them it will most likely translate into the work. In order to improve this gap in knowledge we need to make a conscious effort to have conversations, think about decisions, and develop useful practices.