Ethnographic Research Among U.S. Hispanics

Encuesta is a major proponent of ethnography (i.e. in situ contextual interviews) and often recommends these soft-insight gathering approaches instead of traditional qualitative methods such as focus groups and one-on-one in-depth interviews (IDIs). Given the amount of interest in this area, we are often asked to provide examples of our ethnographic research which is difficult as most of our work is proprietary in nature. Fortunately, one of our projects was made public last year by our client Univision Communications, the leading Spanish-language media company, in the form of a webinar that includes portions of the video footage from the sessions.

To learn more about the project and see the webinar, see the original press release below (10/03/11).

Univision Study Reinforces Deep Emotional Connection Bilingual Hispanics Have With Language and Culture

NEW YORK, NY – OCTOBER 3, 2011 – Univision Communications Inc., the leading media company serving Hispanic America, unveiled the findings of an ethnographic video research study which reinforces the importance of language and culture among bilingual Hispanics in the U.S. Presented in a “Hispanic 411: Insights to Grow Your Business” webinar recently, Univision revealed the four keys to help marketers demystify and understand acculturation. The goal was to help marketers connect with bilingual Hispanics.

“Univision has seen an increased interest from marketers to develop a deeper understanding of acculturation,” said Graciela Eleta, senior vice president of Univision’s Client Development Group. “This video ethnography allowed for a candid discussion from our audience on how they are emotionally impacted by language and culture. Using the insights of this study and others, we can help marketers and agencies effectively engage with bilingual Hispanics while not allowing acculturation definitions over complicate targeting efforts.”

The study, fielded by Encuesta, Inc., consisted of 12 contextual video interview-based ethnographic research sessions conducted in Miami, New York, Houston and Los Angeles with bilinguals who were either born in the U.S. or have been residing in the country for 75 percent of their life.

During the Hispanic 411 webinar discussion, Eleta and Liz Sanderson, senior director of Univision’s Client Development Group, revealed four keys to understanding acculturation:

Acculturation is not a linear journey. It is an ongoing and ever-changing process with no particular end-point; Hispanics don’t necessarily want to reach a “fully assimilated destination.” As such, Univision suggests using the word “acculturating” instead. Every Hispanic, from a new immigrant to a fourth generation Latino, is on his or her own personal path. As shown in the first-hand video accounts, young bilingual Hispanics are proud of their background, with second generation Hispanics identifying themselves by their parents’ country of origin.

Secondly, acculturation involves more than just language. Acculturation should not be confused with “Hispanics who speak English.” Language is a large passion point in the Hispanic culture, but so is food, family, music, sports, fashion, celebrities and spirituality. According to the study, bilingual Hispanics feel these passion points are integral to their identity and therefore feel a need to preserve them. Participants revealed they view Spanish as the language of self expression and emotion; it is the language of the heart. Young Hispanics also realize the value of being bilingual in the workplace and in passing down the language to their children.

The third key to understanding acculturation is that it’s additive not subtractive. Hispanics are incorporating American values, aspirations, traditions, holidays, foods and music and layering these on top of their Hispanic culture. In the ethnographic study, young bilinguals revealed they think this makes them more interesting. The study also revealed that Hispanics often switch between languages freely and unconsciously. Being bicultural allows them to experience the best of both worlds. This represents their “cultural duality.”

Finally, bilingual Hispanics’ cultural duality creates an appetite for all things Hispanic. More than Spanish fluency and more than English fluency, cultural fluency is what resonates with bilingual Hispanics. They are drawn to media and marketing messages that accurately and fully reflect their Hispanic-American lives.

To view the “Hispanic 411: Insights to Grow Your Business” webinar, which also presented implications for marketers as they develop and execute their Hispanic efforts, please click here.

Throughout the coming months, Univision will host additional webinars showcasing insights on the Hispanic consumer.

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