As you read the following POV, crafted by the Digitas Multicultural Center of Excellence and Adelante BRG teams, it’s important to understand that there is not going to be a clear-cut recommendation when it comes to using Latinx, Latino/a, or Hispanic.
Context is everything. It’s incumbent on our teams and clients to dig deeper and go beyond the custom of generalization and labeling. Reductive approaches are often shortcuts disguised as efficiencies––they tend to characterize lazy or hasty work.
This particular topic is incredibly layered, and occurring in the midst of significant societal change relating to cultural identity and gender. The characteristics of this change are also very different across nations. Complex topics don’t always need simple answers. We have to be accepting of that fact and then progress with both righteous intentions and thoughtful executions.
The Current Climate
- Latino/a & Hispanic are typically used interchangeably but have slightly different meanings. (More details can be found here)
- Latinx is an English term that has grown in popularity in the last few years and aims to be inclusive of non-binary individuals in the community.
- We see mixed support across generational lines, with Latinx having been embraced at a higher rate by the younger generations who are pushing for more inclusion and the removal of gendered language from their lexicon.
- A new Gallup poll released Wednesday, August 4th said that for 57% of U.S. Latinos, it does not matter what term is used to describe them.
- Based on Pew Research, when making a choice, a majority (61%) say they prefer Hispanic to describe the Hispanic or Latino population in the U.S., and 29% say they prefer Latino.
- Meanwhile, just 4% say they prefer Latinx to describe the Hispanic or Latino population.
- Young Hispanics, ages 18 to 29, are among the most likely to have heard of the term – 42% say they have heard of it, compared with 7% of those ages 65 or older.
- The term Latinx can spark backlash from the people it’s meant to represent, with growing data to support that it’s evolved to be an offensive term for many, some even call it a “racial slur.” Recent data from ThinkNOW research shows that 60% of Latino/Hispanics dislike or find the term Latinx offensive.
The McCOE Recommendation
It's important for brands to understand the diverse backgrounds that comprise the Latin community and to want to speak their language, but brands need to be very careful with how they connect with us, so it doesn’t feel inauthentic.
- Show, don’t tell. Resist the urge to use identity labels in your ads unless they are truly needed. Let the culture and respect shine through the work itself.
- Don’t force it. If the brand is not making any other effort to engage the community apart from this one heritage month, the use of the term Latinx in ads in consumer communications has the potential to come across as forced.
- Ask yourself, who is the communication for? The decision to use Latinx, Latino/a, or Hispanic should be driven by the demographics of the target audience, the objective of the message, the context where the message is going to be used, and the ongoing efforts to communicate to these audiences.
- Are you speaking to mostly men, women, or anyone along the spectrum?
- Are you seeking to demonstrate inclusivity? Or are you merely afraid to be called out?
- Are you seeking to create meaningful connections with Latin consumers or are you speaking to a predominantly white audience?
- Are you starting a new relationship with Latin consumers or do you have existing ties?
- Be prepared. Whichever term you end up using, we recommend crafting 1-2 public-facing responses for use on social media/press to respond to consumer questions for the choices you made.
Ultimately, there is not a consensus within the community for which term to use. The term you choose to use comes down to the context where the message is being used, making an informed decision, being transparent with why the decision was made, and being equipped to engage with consumers who have feedback.
- If developing Spanish-language communications, use an "e" vs an "x": Latine(s).
- Ensure consistent usage across internal and external communications.
- Seek support/input from your internal stakeholders within the Latin community.
- Latinx and Hispanic generally should be used to refer to a broader group of people, typically along with “community” or "people.” It's not advised to refer to an individual as Latinx or Hispanic.
- If featuring content or telling stories about individuals, they should be empowered and encouraged to use the term they are most comfortable with when speaking about themselves. Don't be afraid to celebrate the specific background (Mexican, Cuban, etc.) because it comes across as more personal and meaningful to use it.
- The tone and intent are critical. All communications should celebrate, honor, and promote positivity of the culture. An authentic, meaningful story should be the guiding light, not the label being used.