The Rich Investment of Multiculturalism

While this conversation takes place during Hispanic Heritage Month, this conversation with Gaby was long overdue, and it certainly won’t be the last.

Multiculturalism is not just a good idea in marketing, but good practice in life to understand and relate to the rich experiences brought by other cultures.  In marketing, we can be very tone-deaf with messaging if we haven’t considered or researched our message with other cultures and their values.

Understanding the needs, attitudes, and values of others enables you to create, market, and build a better product for a wider audience.

Transcript

[00:00:00] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: When we think of multiculturalism, we do need to have perspective because those perceptions also coming from other consumers, that are your colleagues, those perceptions are built in because of their own reality. And a lot of times those perceptions are built in to marketing strategies and final creative product.

And those perceptions are not right. It’s not because they are intentional. It’s because they don’t have that perspective. So a lot of times things are driven in the marketing world by perception of those that have the power to create, but it’s not being driven by those that have the perspective to create.

[00:00:53] Bumper Intro-Outro: Welcome to Endless Coffee Cup, a regular discussion of marketing news, culture, and media for our complex digital lifestyle. Join Matt Bailey as he engages in conversation to find insights beyond the latest headlines and deeper understanding for those involved in marketing. Grab a cup of coffee, have a seat, and thanks for joining

[00:01:20] Matt Bailey: Well, hello, dear listener, and welcome to another edition of the Endless Coffee Cup. And we have a brand-new guest today. One that I’m very excited about, uh, Gabby and I met months ago at an Association of National Advertisers conference. And I will say, this is, this is what keeps the podcast going is, it’s to mimic the conversations you have at conferences, at get-togethers.

And, and I think Gabby and I, we could have talked for hours, but Gabriela Alcantara-Diaz. And you’re from the Florida area and dealing in multiculturalism, which I found just to be so fascinating and certainly worth more than just one episode here at the Endless Coffee Cup. Gabby, could you, maybe give us a little bit of a background and introduced yourself, please.

[00:02:10] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Well, thank you, Matt. It was such an interesting conversation that we had, and I’m so glad that I met you and actually enjoyed thoroughly your presentation….

[00:02:18] Matt Bailey: Ah, great.

[00:02:18] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: …on data analytics, and, uh, I’ve used some of your tips actually in our presentations. It was, it was very enlightening because I think as marketers, sometimes we tend to over-talk and, uh, and over present and having a visual, right, that delivers your main message is so key in storytelling. So that was my key takeaway from your presentation and your highlights.

[00:02:41] Matt Bailey: Thank you.

[00:02:41] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Um, so as you’ve mentioned, I’ve been in multicultural for quite some time. Uh, proud to say that I’ve been in the business for over 30 years and I started, uh, right out of college here in Miami, Florida. And, uh, I was actually born in Uruguay in South America, a small country nestled between Brazil and Argentina. And as my late mother would always say,Uruguay was the Swiss of the America’s.

So she was a proud Uruguayan. I consider myself an Uruguayan American, I came at the age of five, was a Spanish speaker, and, uh, basically was, uh, raised in the states and, uh, raised the family here. Proud to say I’ve got two wonderful U.S. born Hispanic children, Hispanic American children. So with regards to multicultural, an interesting insight is that, you know, at that time, I really didn’t even know what multicultural was. I thought that I was just the typical American kid that was born in another country but was American and had parents that were immigrants.

[00:03:44] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:03:45] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: And that led my career to really understanding the needs of a multicultural marketplace in the U.S.

[00:03:51] Matt Bailey: That is so intriguing. I mean, I love to hear that story and yeah, I heard a little bit more detail before, and I think that’s just an amazing thing that you just thought you were like everybody else. And, and I think that’s, isn’t that the goal of multiculturalism, is that inclusiveness, that I’m just like everybody else here, you know, making people feel comfortable in their own skin, so to speak.

[00:04:17] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Exactly. And I think it was very unique to Miami at that time, you know, even though I was a Hispanic American, I was raised in a, in a community where, uh, the largest share of Hispanics at that time were Cuban Americans back in the early seventies.

And then we had, obviously, a very large, what we call and try to, to sort of structure the conversation, are, um, non-Hispanic whites. Uh, because again, Hispanics come in multiple races, we’ve got, you know, ethnic profiles that come from all parts of the world, including Europe and, uh, obviously during Hispanic heritage month.

But basically, you know, it was interesting because we had African Americans, we had the Jewish community, but we all were unique in our ways, but what brought us together was this American dream, the American community, and understanding that, you know, really, you know, even to this day, taking the best of both worlds. Um, you know, oftentimes it’s like, there’s a, a saying that there’s a, the American way where it’s much more structured and you’ve got, uh, the ability to follow certain rules or laws.

And then you have the Mediterranean culture where, you know, when you think of family values or just the family gatherings, the more codependency and group thinking. So it was really the melding of all that, you know, then to see the influence of the Haitian American community. That, uh, the West Indies, you know, that impact the black community in south Florida. Uh, it just makes it for such an enriching community, enriching experiences, really.

[00:05:59] Matt Bailey: Oh, absolutely. I am so fascinated by my father’s stories. So he grew up in Newport, Rhode Island, uh, in the forties and fifties. And at that time it was a huge Naval town. And, he, you know, he tells me stories that, you know, of all the different people that live nearby and the landlord, you know, she was from Greece, uh, was a first-generation immigrant, and her husband owned these properties and he would go down to the store and just, just this richness that was part of his childhood.

And, and then even as an adult, meeting some of those people that he grew up with and, and all around that, that, there are many times that I feel like, you know, growing up in the Midwest, I kinda missed out on a lot of that, because especially when you are part of a community, you know what you’re describing, just, there’s just this richness, this experience of different cultures and what they value.

And I, you know, and then I’m sorry, the food. Those are some things that, you know, it’s very similar to when I hear my father’s stories, as well.

[00:07:08] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Yeah. So, you know, it’s interesting because food, and music to a degree, but food really brings everyone to the table. And you have no barriers, uh, you don’t have any judgment, and, and I think food is a great metaphor, uh, because it really, uh, it, it really just brings people together. And when you bring people together, you start conversations, and by starting conversations, you intrigue individuals and you want to learn more and, uh, and you sort of open your heart to folks.

And I just find it that, you know, even coming from the advertising agency world, I think that there’s also a parallel where, uh, you know, you work on various categories, various industries and clients, and at the end of the day, things are not really that different in terms of the marketing approach. I mean, yeah, you sort of fine tune the strategy, and the same thing happens with people.

Um, you know, we, we sort of all just want to be embraced. We want to be respected. We want to be acknowledged. And, uh, you know, we, we do, we have a lot more in common, but understanding those subtleties makes it for even a more richer conversation. You know, I find myself always exploring personalities because I think that, you know, when you think of, um, the Greek wedding, that huge hit, I mean, it was just so wonderful because I could relate to some of those things, but part of the entertainment value of that movie was. The cultural uniqueness of the Greek American community.

And I, and I’m purposely focusing on that community to say that the same happens with Hispanic Americans that come from different parts. The same thing is happening with black Americans, with the growth of immigrant blacks that are coming from other parts of the world, in addition to the growth of the African American that has been here for generations.

So the uniqueness in those personalities is what makes it so fun, entertaining, and interesting. Uh, I find it extremely, extremely interesting. It’s my passion. What can I tell you?

[00:09:30] Matt Bailey: Well, I could tell yes, and that, and you do such a great job, not so much of selling it, but positioning and showing the reality of it, but also the attractiveness of it. Uh, but I want to get to let, let’s just start at the very top. Why should companies be aware of multiculturalism in their marketing? Let’s just, I’m going to throw you a big softball.

[00:09:54] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: You know, when you think of multiculturalism, right? Uh, America, as we all know, has been built on multiculturalism, right?

[00:10:00] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:10:03] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: You know, talking to your dad’s story and you think of the influence of Italian Americans, the Jewish community that came in, the Greek, the German.

So when you look at multiculturalism and you look at the youth factor, we also have to be thinking about a labor force. We have to be thinking about our business operational models, and we can’t be shortsighted. We, as we all know, we’re, we’re building business plans, right? That are five years ahead, 10 years ahead.

So you’ve got to make sure that you’re implementing structures that really are relating to this transition in the marketplace. And it is transformative. You know, when you look at the millennial community and the Gen Z’s, over 50% or more in the Gen Z are multicultural. Obviously when you break down, then, the percents, that multiculturalism by when you look at the pie and the share of the pie, it is driven by the Hispanic community right now, uh, you know, the latest census data. We know that 62 million Hispanics are here.

Now, when you start thinking of multiculturalism, again, it’s, it’s talking to the issue of cultural norms, relationship building, uh, language issues, preference and categories, to branding strategies where you may have, let’s say an allegiance to a certain brand because of your heritage, with that brand that maybe was influenced by family structure.

You’ve got the, the, uh, cross cultural complex dynamic where, cross-cultural now, as we all know, going back to food, a lot of the food influence is not being driven by main, mainstream America.

[00:11:59] Matt Bailey: Mhm.

[00:12:00] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: You know, food strategies are being driven by global taste. And at the end of the day, America is a microcosm of the entire world, and we have it right here and we’re not taking advantage of it.

[00:12:14] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. I completely agree with you. And one of the most fascinating things, you know, just to, to reinforce that, we, we just came through the Olympics. And that’s one thing I absolutely love is when the American athletes come in and it looks like we took people from all the other teams and put them on our team.

Uh, it’s just a great, great picture of America because you have everything going on there and, and it does, it makes the other nations look very, uh, you know, monochromatic it, you know, almost boring because you know, we’ve got everybody. But yeah, I mean, just the food thing, I know with the, I used to do a lot of travel. Now I don’t.

Um, one of the things I’ve always tried to do is, when I experience the food, when I come home, I want to reproduce that. You know, I, I, especially, I laugh about vegetarian food in America has got to be the most boring thing in the world, but you go to other countries and the vegetarian dishes are amazing. And I’m like, this is what would appeal to people if they wanted to eat more, uh, you know, vegetarian dishes is, go see what other people are doing.

So that, there’s so much to celebrate and enjoy about, you know, experiencing these different cultures and, and, you know, even something through the travel, uh, of just learning to appreciate the differences rather than, you know, I’ll give one example from one of my travels.

I had a, uh, a manager that I traveled and we were in Costa Rica and he was getting upset that his coffee cup was not filled immediately after the meal. And I, I am kinda telling him, “Look, if this is going to upset you, this is going to be a long trip.” I said, “You gotta be prepared to sit here for two or three hours. Otherwise, you’re not going to be…” and he just kept getting angrier, that, “What kind of service,” you know, “are they going to have here?” and I’m like, “You need to just calm down. This is going to last a while.”

[00:14:20] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Right. It’s the expectation, which is interesting.

[00:14:24] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:14:24] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Right? It’s the expectation because in Costa Rica, part of the beauty of the culture is that they don’t want to push you out, which happens in the U.S. in a lot of the Hispanic restaurants.

[00:14:35] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:14:36] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: They want you to stay because it’s all really about conversation.

[00:14:40] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:14:40] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: The coffee is just an instrument to really generate conversation and have you enjoy the moment. It’s not the other way around.

[00:14:51] Matt Bailey: I love that.

[00:14:52] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: So there’s an issue of perception of time, there’s the issue of perception of socializing, and the purpose of the gathering.

[00:15:02] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. That’s one thing that absolutely struck me when I was in Spain and I asked about a reservation and that’s when I learned that in Spain, when you reserve a table, you reserve the table all night. It’s not like here in America, you get it, and for 45 minutes it’s yours, and you got to get out.

And I’m like, I love this culture. I love this. They want you to sit around and I love, I’m going to take what you just said and make it a sound bite to promote the podcast, because that’s exactly what I’m going for. So you get it. I love it.

[00:15:34] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: I get it. But you know, if I can Matt, talking about them, I feel like you, you, you hit it on the nose with regards to the Olympian. Um, I, uh, posted something on LinkedIn this last weekend, like we’re focusing on Hispanic heritage and Semilla, uh, Multicultural, which is our advertising agency, we, we’ve got two agencies, uh, which actually I didn’t talk about at the beginning. I’m not very good at branding the agencies because I want to get right into the market information for you.

[00:16:03] Matt Bailey: Right. Right.

[00:16:04] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: But, um, our focus was all about, uh, we want to focus on, uh, understanding my roots. And what we’re finding is, you know, Hispanic heritage is wonderful, then a lot of companies will come out and they take the month and that’s wonderful.

But at the end of the day, we are no less Hispanic Americans before or after Hispanic heritage. It’s the same way that we’re no less Americans before 4th of July and after 4th of July. It’s the same metaphor. So we’re Hispanic Americans throughout the year, and what we’re also finding because of the growth of the U.S. born Hispanic, a lot of younger Hispanics are really trying, they’re trying to understand their roots.

And although, you know, again, I’ve been in this industry for 30 years and we’ve, we’ve heard about, um, how they’re sort of, you know, reinvigorating their heritage. But now, because they’re at the forefront of this transformation in America, and because of the digital transformation, having a voice that they choose to say what they want to say in whatever language they please, they are really trying to understand and, and truly understand what their roots.

So there’s this whole battle right now that’s even happening in the Hispanic world where it is about, we’ve got indigenous heritage, we have European heritage, we have Afro heritage and a lot of the younger Hispanics are, are battling with that and trying to understand where do they fit in all of that.

So it was interesting in the U.S. Open, you had these two young women, multiculturalism is not only in America, it is happening globally. And you had these two women that, they were both born in Canada, mind you, but two different types of ethnic groups. The, the, the one that, that, that one, I can’t remember her name right now. She basically was born in Canada, but her mother was Filipino, I believe, and Romanian.

[00:18:15] Matt Bailey: Yes. Yes.

[00:18:16] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Uh, and then the other was, her father was from Ecuador and, or I’m sorry, Chinese. And then I think the Ecuadorian Filipino, something like that, but it was just the whole multicultural spectrum. So one person that follows me on LinkedIn, uh, uh, what was it? She’s Philippine American, Filipino, and she’s proud of it. So the fact that I acknowledged that.

[00:18:39] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:18:40] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: So, you know, these women that are on the global stage, representing the U.S. Open are racially and ethnically diverse.

[00:18:49] Matt Bailey: That’s fantastic. I love it because, I think ultimately when you look up to people, you want to feel that that can be me. I can do that. And when they look like you, when they have a background like you, I think that does a lot more inspiration because you can place yourself there. And that I, that’s so important. And it’s great to see, you know, in the tennis world, how, yeah, it’s so much more diverse and so much more talent.

[00:20:00] And, and it, you know, I kind of think back in the days where, you know, it’s very much, you know, monochromatic. And sometimes I, I equate that even into our marketing industry. We were just at a conference, you know, months ago. And especially the more tech oriented the conference, I think the more monochromatic it gets, and you lose something there, and this is something I’d rather you go into, but what do you lose when you don’t have influence from other cultures? From other viewpoints when you’re developing a marketing plan or, you know, we can even go bigger picture than that. But what do you lose when you don’t have that?

[00:20:06] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: You know, I, I really think that you just lose perspective. You know, there, there are a couple of things because we focus a lot on Latina driven strategies, you know, we’ve been doing it, we focus on the upper mobility of Hispanic Americans and also focus a lot on, on Hispanic women. But I think that women in general need to have a place at the table, regardless of what color and race, you know, it doesn’t really matter. I think that the conversation you and I were having earlier about the gymnast.

[00:20:38] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:20:38] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: One of the questions that was asked by the senators, uh, one Senator, a female Senator, I believe is, was there a female FBI investigator?

And the reason why I bring this up is, if it happens at that level, marketing is. But if it’s happening as societal level, where to be able to have the sensitivities, and it’s not because it’s right or wrong. It’s because it’s a female, it’s part of your world.

Like as a woman, I know when I watch certain movies, especially foreign movies that are directed by women. I know it off the bat without even knowing that it was a woman director, because there’s a sensitivity in the images, uh, the way that the woman is portrayed and just little subtleties and things that you just know that it, only a woman could have thought about. So, if you think of it from a macro perspective and starting just with the macro gender, we need more women.

And then, when we think of multiculturalism, we do need to have perspective because those perceptions also coming from other consumers that are your colleagues, those perceptions are built in because of their own reality. And a lot of times those perceptions are built into marketing strategies and final creative product.

And those perceptions are not right. It’s not because they are intentional. It’s because they don’t have that perspective. So a lot of times things are driven in the marketing world by perception of those that have the power to create, but it’s not being driven by those that have the perspective to create.

[00:22:41] Matt Bailey: Wow. That is powerful. Um, the difference between power and perspective. So, let’s talk about what happens when a campaign like that is developed. What’s a great example of a clumsy multicultural, example, campaign?

[00:23:00] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: You know, yeah. And, and I’m not going to name brands because I, I think at a larger level what’s happening also is, you know, we talk about pop culture in general and we know that pop culture oftentimes is influenced by the creative minds, right?

[00:23:19] Matt Bailey: Mhm.

[00:23:20] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Those creative minds are probably a lot more open-minded to multiculturalism and non-gender bias, you know, with the LGBTQ communities and all of that. But by the same token, I think that marketers that sort of take on that approach, but they don’t go deep. So they may highlight multiculturalism, just sheer packaging, but they’re not necessarily going in deep into having a conversation with that multicultural group, and again, allow me for that storytelling to come from perspective versus perception. And I think those two P’s are critical for the future.

[00:24:11] Matt Bailey: Hm. Yeah.

[00:24:12] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Because again, what connects them is the power. So are you going to give the power to people that have a perception of multiculturalism? Or are you going to give the power to those that have a true perspective of multiculturalism?

[00:24:28] Matt Bailey: That is great. I mean, the difference I, I, from what I hear you saying, the difference is checking the box versus what’s the story. How do we genuinely portray this rather than, and I think a lot of times when you approach it as checking the box, “We have to have multicultural here.” You end up with a stereotype, you end up and, and, you know, and I will say there’s a lot of stereotypes that are very, very true.

And I think done the right way, with a community that can laugh about itself, it works and that’s really seems to work, but approaching it with a “check the box mentality,” like you said, that leads to perception, and which then results in a very clumsy campaign where people “oof,” you know, after they see that, “Oh, that’s, I hope, how do they getting away with this?”

[00:25:19] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: But if you play on stereotypes, for example, you know, we’re experts in multicultural, right? So we’ve, we’ve developed strategies from the ground up, and evaluating the categories, and then understanding what the brand strategy should be. So for example, uh, one of our clients, we understand there’s a shift in immigration and also the changing face of Hispanic America.

So we basically took two ethnicities and we understand that also oftentimes, uh, the language and the way that it’s spoken, depending on who you are and where you come from in Latin America, and also raised in the U.S, you use certain words differently. So the whole commercial was based off on that, on making fun of it, but understanding that going deep was that the way a Colombian uses the word gift is very different to the way a recent arrival Cuban American uses it.

But we were able to, it was a humorous spot, but there was humor because it truly came from that, like we always like to say, the Semilla, the origin of a pure idea, the purity of that idea really came from a cultural insight that allowed us to have humor.

[00:26:42] Matt Bailey: That is such a great example, because that was my next question. I asked you for a clumsy campaign, you avoided it, which kudos to you. Great job. Uh, but you explained it more and then you gave me a phenomenal example, which is my next question.

And I love that because yeah, that’s what you mean by going deep, that you have to understand these nuances and because it’s a bridge, it’s it divides, but it’s a bridge because it helps us understand one another, but also there is a lot of, I mean, what you explained is there’s a big playground to find these opportunities when you have that deeper understanding of what’s being developed and what’s happening on the ground.

You know, I always joke about if artists have a blank slate, they have more frustration. They don’t know what to create. But I remember telling an artist, okay, you have a three inch by five inch space and it has to have this shade of color. And this is what else is on the page. And immediately they’re complaining like, “You’re, you’re restricting my creativity.”

Uh, but then ultimately what they realize is they had more creativity. They had more to work with because of the restrictions. It enabled more freedom, more, how about, uh, you know, uh, approach with this. And I think that’s so exactly what you explained here that you really drilled in to a very specific idea and then had fun with it. I love that.

[00:28:14] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Exactly. And so the marketplace will refute you, you know, because again, the brand is working with a multicultural partner that truly understands those nuances and can, can really honestly speak to the marketplace without having the fear that they’re gonna, you know, make a mistake. And, you know, and to your point about the artist, it’s, it, it just, it makes for better theater. And when it makes it, for better theater, it makes it for better and greater business results because you further engage consumers.

Consumers remember, you know, when, when we worked on, uh, on a platform for one of our largest clients that we had years ago, our, our leadership team, the platform was all about enriching relationships, it was about enriching. But for the non-Hispanic white consumer, it was really about, that relationship was based on simplification, whereas, for the Hispanic consumer, it was about enriching the relationship.

So the, the brand benefit was slightly different to a degree, how to get to that relationship. So for me, I want your relationship if you can simplify my life, from a non-Hispanic white. But from a Hispanic consumer, I want to build a relationship with you if you can enrich my life, not simplify my life.

[00:30:00] So that brings it again to a macro platform. So, you know, in our agency, with Semilla Multicultural, again, because we’re bicultural and we’re multicultural, we understand the dynamics of a brand strategy. And, and again, and we always say that your Hispanic strategy, your, if, you know, your multicultural strategy that brings in a Hispanic approach, is really to drive, at the end of the day, your business. That’s what you’re here for.

Uh, you know, obviously with that, you want to expand your purpose in the marketplace, obviously, and you, you know, you, you want to drive sales, you want to build your business, but at the end of the day, you hope to also make, uh, make a footprint in the marketplace. And I, you know, I always like to give the example, um, you know, we’ve handled many brands throughout the years and, you know, we’ve had brands that we’ve, we’ve had for 23 years over 3 different agencies and to be able to then go and see how Hispanic marketers also, now I’m getting into more of the purpose driven messaging and understanding our legacy that you can come full circle and also use your platform to bring back to the community. Because, you know, at the end of the day, we want to elevate the Hispanic community. We want to enrich the Hispanic community. And we know that there’s the evolution of Hispanic America’s here, and there is upward mobility.

So to be able to, to say that now you’ve got, you know, certain supermarkets in local Hispanic neighborhoods because of what you did, you know, or the fact that you have brands that in fact drove, uh, sales for off premise companies, you know, and mom and pop shops, uh, because of what you were able to do in the marketplace, it, it means something. It really does.

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[00:33:18] Matt Bailey: I, I’m fascinated because of, you know, how, and this gets to brand perception, earlier, what you explain, where, how a brand is perceived, the messaging is perceived differently based on the values of the target audience. And what I, what I love about that is even though we’re saying that there is, you know, non-Hispanic whites value this and Hispanics value this, what I love about this, it’s not true for 100%. That there is crossover.

There is different perceptions, but to build your messaging to say that not only are we simplifying, but we can also bring more value deep in that relationship. There are people that look for both of those on both sides. And what it does is it makes your brand richer, and you’re adding more value and more benefit to it by explaining, “Here’s what we can do, and here’s another way of looking at it.”

It’s, you know, I equate that to, you know, as I’m building that brand, different people have different needs and those needs drive the perception of the brand, and when I make my brand more accessible to a certain group of people, it adds a dimension, and that dimension could be valuable to many others that I never even thought about.

[00:34:45] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Exactly. And I think that, you know, a lot of times marketers don’t necessarily think about the multicultural segment as generational, and they should be. I think that for a long time, the conversation always revolved around, “You’ve got a, you know, you’re working with immigrants, it’s first-generation, you’re sort of establishing a relationship.”

Well, again, the growth of the Hispanic community is in U.S. born Hispanics. And you may have first- and second-generation Hispanics that, in fact, are helping build your brand and you need to use them to further expand your brand footprint.

[00:35:28] Matt Bailey: Now that’s fascinating, cause I remember you talking about that, and I found that to be so fascinating. The generational differences in Hispanics. Radically different. You know, you know, first-generation or, or older to the younger generations, what’s the dynamic in that? I found that so fascinating when you were explaining that.

[00:35:49] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: There’s sort of two things happening right now, because when, when you think of the U.S. Hispanic, you have to think about Latin America, Mexico, sort of as parallels, and the Caribbean.

So the digital transformation has also influenced a lot of what’s happening in Latin America with regards to values, uh, with regards to upward mobility, uh, with access to women in the workforce. So, you know, there’s still a link, right, between some of the, the sort of relatives and friends, the back and forth.

And then within the U.S, you also, because you have second generations already, you know, born and raised, and now you’ve got a third generation that are here as again, third generation Hispanic Americans still living in the same neighborhoods or possibly moving, is that those values are starting to shift. So there’s some common denominators, you know, with regards to family, and progress, and education, but we’re seeing it in the political spectrum.

Uh, we’re seeing it with issues that have to do with, uh, civil rights, you know, and, and the discourse is happening at the, at the dinner table with generations where you may have more conservative grandparents, but then you’ve got more liberal grandchildren and they’re trying to find a midpoint and they’re both influencing each other.

So marketers need to understand that, that there’s still, there’s still a lot of interdependency to a degree, but also that interinfluence. Those discussions are happening at a greater level in Hispanic households than they are possibly in the, uh, in the sort of general market or the non-Hispanic households.

[00:37:46] Matt Bailey: Oh, absolutely. Absolutely. I, a couple of years ago, I moved my parents in with us. They’ve got an in-law apartment and I will say the richness that it has added to have my parents and have frequent dinners and yes, have that dynamic, but also the awareness that that’s not normal, you know, and that’s now one thing, you know, in my travels, in, in Central South America, that is something I’ve always found just wonderfully fascinating is the amount of generations that normally get together, that live together, and it only just improves the family dynamic.

I’m, I’m fascinated with, I would call it the, the “American Independent Culture.” That started around the late forties and fifties where becoming independent and living on your own as your own nuclear family and leaving that multi-generational way of living. And I don’t know. I feel like we have lost something, being a non-Hispanic white. I feel like we have lost something by pursuing that because I am thoroughly enjoying, it has its ups and downs, but I love having my parents here and even more, my children love having my parents close by and the relationships and the bonds.

I can see where, you know, in the Hispanic community, yes, there’s much more talk, there’s much more discussion. And I can only imagine that that leads to greater understanding and appreciation of the more conservative grandparents, the more liberal children, and actually talking about that, which is fascinating.

[00:39:28] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Exactly. Exactly. So it’s important to understand that, because for marketers, when you’re really, uh, you know, speaking to that consumer, it’s really not just an independent voice. And it also happens with, with the digital navigation where oftentimes, you know, uh, the Sherpas, uh, you know, these Hispanic digital navigators that are proficient in English, they’re doing their own searches for themselves, but also, they’re helping possibly a Spanish dominant cousin or grandmother. You know, I have a friend that his 93-year-old mom loves Instagram, and she is constantly always commenting in Spanish, you know, and she’s known me since I was 16, you know?

[00:40:00] And so, and then her, her grandkids live all over the U.S. and the world, and they just love visiting her in Miami so they can have her Flan and her Cuban food. So it, again, it just, you know, those roots and I, and I go back to during Hispanic heritage month, what, what our agency sent me yesterday and I do too is, understanding my roots.

And I think that that’s where we are right now. And I would venture to say that a lot of folks like yourself, there’s so much richness that your parents and your grandparents brought to America, you know, that it’s just a beautiful gift that you can give your children to have their grandparents around, uh, like a history book. And it’s, it’s live. It’s live. They could share, they could talk, and, uh, you know, it, that’s priceless. Nothing can replace that.

[00:41:21] Matt Bailey: Oh, no, not at all. Not at all. My, two of my daughters have learned how to quilt because of being around their grandmother, so I absolutely love it. It’s, it’s, it’s really added so much here.

Being exposed to the Hispanic family structure, you know, it’s something my wife and I had noticed very quickly and saw that there’s something special there and it can be appreciated. And I think also from a marketing perspective, because my mind works that way too, I’m like, there’s more than one decision maker in that house. There’s multiple decision makers and you’ve gotta be aware of that. You can’t use the, the old model. Uh, you’ve got to accommodate those types of approaches as you approach the, the Hispanic market.

[00:42:07] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Right. Exactly. Exactly. Yep. It’s a, it’s an interesting, it just, it made me think about another commercial that we did that was a little humorous, but, uh, that it just talks about, you know, you and I earlier were talking about pageantry and, uh, you know, the beauty industry and, and how that influences women and young women, and, uh, in certain parts of Latin America, which carries over to the U.S. Hispanic for certain ethnic groups, beauty is very, it’s, it’s high valued as an attribute and it’s societal and, uh, and this commercial in particular, a product is given for free, but the daughter and the mother are, you know, they’re getting the free product.

And then obviously the mother thinks that she’s getting the free product because she knows she’s so pretty and all of this. And then her daughter sort of stops her on her tracks, you know, in her tracks and says to her in English, you know, “Everybody gets it for free mother.” You know, it’s like, it’s not because you’re beautiful, you know, but coming from the daughter, and for this particular ethnic group, again, it speaks to the colloquialism of that particular ethnic group and how beauty plays a role. But again, the daughter is the only one that can tell her, “Listen, it’s not because of your beauty.”

So those are the kind of things, you know, it’s a generational humor and, and humor plays really well in the Hispanic market, if done well and done authentically. And, and again, you know, we, we always like to say, you’ve got to peel the onion, you’ve got to peel the onion, and the, the, the more you do that, or you start with the essence of a pure idea and it starts with that seed of an idea. Um, but it’s gotta be pure. It just, it can’t, it can’t be muddled through perception. And that’s where a lot of marketers blunder.

[00:44:05] Matt Bailey: Well, I think you said it when you said humor done well is powerful. There’s so much wrapped up in those two words. Done well. Yeah. And unfortunately, yeah, I think there’s a lot of blunders in humor and it does, it requires that deeper knowledge of, “How is this going to be perceived? Will everyone perceive this the same way?”

 You know, there’s a lot wrapped up in that done well statement. I think we’ve seen too much of things done not well, uh, and that, uh, sort of colors…

[00:44:41] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Yes.

[00:44:41] Matt Bailey: …the perception of, and I always tell people, “Humor is great. Humor is great. Watch out, but humor’s great.”

[00:44:49] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Exactly, exactly. And, and we are a kind of jolly community. I mean, we are festive, vibrant, and, uh, and again, there’s certain personality attributes. I mean, you don’t want to generalize because that’s what happens a lot of times, it’s easy, like you said, check off the box and then you generalize. And, uh, you know, those folks that are maybe managing your business through perception, not perspective, uh, I’m going to coin that. I like that. I don’t know, Matt. You’re making me think a lot. Um…

[00:45:18] Matt Bailey: I, you know, you’ve been used, well, wow, oh that’s awesome. I have never heard that as a compliment, but I’ll take it.

[00:45:27] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: But it’s, you know, it’s the jolly and the vibrancy and, and how you can exude that in that connection, you know, that brand connection with the Hispanic market. But again, it’s, it’s about doing it well, and you can only do it well by really starting with that, that pure idea, that pure insight. And you’ve got to peel the onion. You’ve got to do the work.

[00:45:48] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. Absolutely. I’m reminded, so I, I’ve been doing a lot of work in the Middle East, uh, the past year. And one thing that was shared with me by some of my students is there, I think it’s an Instagram, but there’s also a website called Arabs of Shutterstock. And it is absolutely cringy because it’s all stock photos of Arabs, but, and they’re pointing out, “Here’s why it’s bad.” You know, “No one wears their head dress like that. Nobody does this. Nobody…” and it’s ridiculing the clumsy attempts of stock photography to capture the Arab community.

And that has turned into an entertainment unto itself is look, look at what people are trying to impose, you know, look at their view here. And they have no understanding of the culture, no understanding of, of the, the dress. And, you know, so finding those, you know, I like, I call it, it’s like finding gold because wow, from an outsider perspective, that helps me understand them so much more.

And maybe I, when you said humor done well, I also like to say, we learn very quickly through ridicule. Uh, so when I see something being ridiculed, I learned very quickly, oh no, don’t do that. There has to be an active awareness of observation, especially when working with a community, you can’t go in with a, an idea of, this is what I want to get accomplished, because if you do that, you’re going to miss the nuance. You’re going to miss the opportunity to learn something greater.

And every time I’m with a different culture, it has to be an active awareness of what’s happening. And what can I learn just from, you know, observation of a situation, a conversation. Without that mentality, you’re going to blunder and sometimes yeah, you make mistakes anyway, but if you’ve shown your openness, it’ll be accepted because, you know, I can’t expect someone to understand my Midwestern culture.

We do some weird things, and I can’t expect anyone just to step right in and do, you know, do everything culturally right or sensitive, and honestly, don’t worry about it. Uh, so yeah, I think it just, it requires that awareness. That’s what you’re going to learn from.

[00:48:15] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Exactly, and, and, and then, but you’re inviting, you know, if you have someone that’s coming from the east coast and is not familiar, doesn’t go to the Midwest, it’s like you probably so proud and you would love, right, to embrace that person and really speak about what makes you so interesting. And the same thing happens across the U.S, and you, we’re a huge country, you know, when I go back to Uruguay, and I’m sure it happens with a lot of, uh, you know, multicultural consumers that still have family back in other countries, I’m the one that sometimes has to say to them, “Well, you know, not all Americans are like this.” it’s like America, because they also have a perception.

[00:48:57] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:48:58] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: So I’m there defending and, and not saying, you know, what, what you’re seeing is not America. It’s not our true Americans. And it’s the same thing. Um, you know, you can go to Texas and I mean, they’re, just, we all have such unique areas across the U.S. because of all those immigrant groups. I mean, the Germans were so influential in the Midwest, right?

[00:49:26] Matt Bailey: Right.

[00:49:26] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: You’ve got, I mean, here in Tampa, they still celebrate like the largest Cuban sandwich. I mean, a lot of Americans may not know that in Tampa, you had a large influx of Cubans and the Greeks. The cigar factories that started in Ybor City.

[00:49:42] Matt Bailey: Yes.

[00:49:43] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: It wasn’t in Miami. It was in Tampa.

[00:49:45] Matt Bailey: Right. Right. I remember going there, that’s, uh, a wonderful trip.

[00:49:51] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: So I just think that, you know, in general, I think companies, uh, where I think the, at the forefront of, of multicultural, we know that it’s, it’s really about marketing and operations, uh, I think we’re, we’re having to understand where obviously diversity and equity and inclusiveness, where is this all going to guide?

[00:50:00] There was obviously a lot of conversation that took place last year, and we’ll see where that, where that goes. It requires training. It requires, again, having perspective from the right individuals and not perception because if we continue to work based on perception, most of the time you’re going to be off track.

[00:50:37] Matt Bailey: Yeah, absolutely. That was a valuable lesson last year that really, you know, the job was to raise awareness and it was successful. And I think it’s made a lot of companies question now, how are we being perceived? And are we limiting ourselves with that perception? So I think it’s been a great challenge, and to see how companies, the market, brands have reacted has been a very positive thing.

[00:51:04] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Yep. So we’ll see, I mean, corporate responsibility and, uh, and it, and it takes everything. It’s internal stakeholders, it’s recruitment of, of people of color, um, you know, Hispanics, African Americans, it just, it’s, it’s everything. It’s not just, it’s not just the marketing strategy. It really isn’t. It’s not just, if you’re there for the long haul and we’ve seen it ourselves.

Uh, you know, we were very instrumental and very, uh, fortunate, I guess, starting 30 years ago in Florida. You know, when I started working with a local agency actually, which we ended up working with the BBH of this world, the Leo Burnetts, even before BBH, you know, was even on the map. And, uh, and it was interesting to see how having those insights really even drove some of the global strategies, because there was more similarity between Hispanic Americans living in the U.S. and people in other parts of the world, than Hispanic Americans and their American neighbor.

[00:52:12] Matt Bailey: Wow. Yeah.

[00:52:13] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: So for some of the global brands that we worked on, like Johnnie Walker, we were really more in tune with the international mindset than even within our own borders. So I think that, um, you know, again, it, it, it just requires a full-fledged commitment to the marketplace. And some of these brands, like you think of public supermarkets from a local standpoint, even, you know, Amscot Financial in Florida, or you think of, uh, Pfizer, you know, even Target to a degree, which started later in the game.

Uh, you know, some of these companies have a footprint, but they started years and years ago and they invested in talent in their own companies. So you have to also have that perspective inside the company. It should not just be relegated to an outside partner.

[00:53:10] Matt Bailey: That’s powerful. That is. And I, and I love the Johnnie Walker example because I, I think that goes back to when you find those trends, when you find that information, it actually opened up a wider understanding and a wider market by learning that. And, you know, I, I’m amazed at how many people still view this with an element of resistance of, you know, multiculturalism, it’s, it’s a Gen Z thing, it’s, you know, the dismissiveness of the idea when in reality you’re missing opportunity.

You’re missing opportunity for how your brand will be perceived and finding benefits and perceptions that you may not even know exist. But if you knew them, if you embraced them, oh my goodness, how it would change. And, and that is so, so powerful.

[00:54:12] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Yeah, I, I’ll leave you with two things I think marketers need to think about, which is, first of all, again, understanding that the multicultural segment is younger, and as companies roll out additional business models, or sort of transforming their business model, or looking at new product rollouts, and even expanding into other categories, think of the multicultural market as they leapfrog.

So what you were maybe doing with your general audience 10 years ago, and you continue to do, you basically are just going to leapfrog and go right into a new prototype product, possibly an expansion of a, of a brand series that you’re looking at, or even in a business model like we talked about, transformational and digital, where we know that Hispanics in general, they live off their iPhones.

They live off their mobile phones. So for them, it’s a lifeline. So there’s great opportunity. You’re leapfrogging. You’re not having to basically migrate them. So that’s number one. Think of it as a leapfrog strategy. And secondly, oftentimes marketers will put in a lot of muscle, a lot of money, a lot of resources into product rollout.

Think of your multicultural strategy as an extension of your strategy, where you may have to take a Hispanic approach and you should to basically drive your overall goals, your business goals, but also understand that oftentimes a multicultural strategy could be very much like a new product rollout, with huge, with huge, uh, rewards at the end, in terms of cultivating a meaningful brand growth.

[00:56:08] Matt Bailey: Absolutely. I often think back to sort of my early days in digital, where I focused a lot on accessibility. And part of that story was, the more accessible you make your website, you’re opening it up for people who you’ve never thought about. And the best example where, you know, we think about the, the ramps for wheelchairs, you know, that helps families with strollers, it, you know, it helps delivery people as they’re delivering, you know, it helps more people than just that intended group.

And what you’re explaining is the same thing, that as you explore multiculturalism, it’s going to enable you to tell a richer story. Uh, Gabriela, this has been wonderful, wonderful, and I always enjoy our conversations and I look forward to a lot more.

[00:57:00] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Me too, Matt. It’s been wonderful. Thank you so much for, for giving me the opportunity to share my passion on multicultural.

[00:57:06] Matt Bailey: Oh, absolutely. And as always, Gabriela, how can people find you? And here’s your chance to tell us a little bit about Semilla Multicultural.

[00:57:15] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Well, thank you. Uh, as I said, you know, I’ve, I’m a 30-year veteran in the multicultural space. Uh, Semilla Multicultural has been around for 11 years. We’re a creative agency consultancy of sorts where we basically bring in research strategy development all the way through creative, uh, again, doing it right. And, uh, making sure that you’re driving something with a pure insight. And we basically focus on a gamut of categories.

We’re very, very strong in the food and beverage, uh, given our experience with public supermarkets, and with Birds Eye, with Johnnie Walker, with Boston Beer. So, uh, you know, we’re, we’re sort of heavy hitters in, in that industry and healthcare as well as finance. And, uh, we always like to say that with Semilla Multicultural and another agency that I actually opened last year called gadMCinc, and it’s really more of a purpose driven agency, but collectively these sister agencies are trying to deliver on cultivating meaningful brand growth through enriching relationships with a dynamic, vibrant, and upwardly mobile Hispanic America.

And that pretty much is the nutshell. And one of the things that I personally want to pursue in the next 10 years, and you and I talked about this as, how do we use our platform for better good, is we really want to continue to drive a wellness lifestyle with Hispanic America. We want to enrich communities through generating more wealth in Hispanic America. And we want to drive higher education, which leads me to a very special project that I launched last year in honor of my late mother, that was a nurse in Uruguay.

And it’s called Our Nurses Son Bravas, and this is a project of love where, uh, when COVID started last year, I saw the opportunity and it’s so imperative that Hispanic nurses and nurses of color have a voice in the marketplace, that are acknowledged, that they’re recognized, and they’re supported, and ultimately, I want to be able to be the bridge between future nurses and having them become nurses, and drive that growth of Hispanic nurses around America.

[01:00:00] And we’ve been very fortunate to, uh, have a group of nurses of color that we’ve interviewed, and they’ve become part of our group of Nurses Bravas. And they represent these communities that you and I are talking about. So when we talk about marketing and marketers, think of healthcare, because these are also patients, and these are patients that are now navigating a system alone in a hospital where they may need assistance in trying to translate information.

The fact that those cultural nuances of having more of that emotion and that hugging and whatever they can do to elevate their emotional stability can be brought to them by these Nurses Bravas. So I’ll end on a good note and hope that everyone stays safe and, uh, and really embracing our health heroes for everything they’re doing today.

[01:00:46] Matt Bailey: Wonderful. Wonderful. I love that, that project of love, that is a, a phenomenal project and, and certainly wish you the best with that. And we’ll talk offline more. And, uh, Gabriela, thank you so much for a wonderful conversation. I always know when, uh, I see you and when we can get together, there’s going to be a long conversation, and this was no exception. Thank you so much for your time.

[01:01:09] Gabriela Alcantra-Diaz: Well, thank you so much, and for everything you do, Matt. Thank you so much. Talk to you soon again.

[01:01:14] Matt Bailey: Alright. And dear listener, I hope you enjoy this episode, and please let me know in the comments or direct through the page. Uh, let us know how you enjoy this episode and please be sure to reach out to Gabriela as well with any questions you might have.

And again, I look forward to seeing you again on the next episode of the Endless Coffee Cup.

Featured Guest:

Gabriela Alcantara-Diaz

Gabriela Alcantara-Diaz

CEO & Co-Founder, Semilla Multicultural

LinkedIn: Gabriela Alcantara-Diaz | LinkedIn

Gabriela ‘Gaby’ Alcantara-Diaz is a dedicated cultural brand strategist with over 30 years of
marketing and communications experience in helping clients cultivate meaningful brand growth
through enriching consumer brand relationships with an increasingly diverse, dynamic and
upwardly mobile Hispanic America.

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