By Julie Barlow
Red Lobster Gives it a Shot en español

Photo: PR News Foto/Red Lobster

We were struck by this article in Businessweek on Red Lobster finally trying to break into the Latino market. Red Lobster is kind of late getting into the game. Major U.S. brands and companies have searched for ways to get Latinos to part with their cash for some time now.

What really struck us is: this is only the tip of the iceberg.

We first noticed American businesses’ great drive to capture the “Latino market” in 2009, when we saw a MasterCard billboard on the highway on our way into Phoenix Arizona. It was in Spanish and it advertised “lessons” on using credit. Who knew that Latinos are particularly averse to using credit and largely prefer using cash?

It was earlier on in our research for The Story of Spanish, and we still assumed the phenomenon of advertising to Latinos to be a peculiarity of the U.S. Southwest. Wrong we were! It turns out Hispanics represent roughly 17% of the U.S. population, and while not the richest segment of the population, they are the group whose per capita income is growing the fastest. Any U.S. company thinking about the future can’t avoid the Latino factor: Latinos are getting richer, but they won’t necessarily buy what everyone else buy, or be swayed by the same sales pitch, whether in Spanish or English.

Later in our research we realized this change has implications far beyond U.S. borders. Not only is the economic clout of U.S. Hispanics growing in the U.S. – it’s growing in the world. The per capita wealth of U.S. Hispanics is superior to that of the Spanish, in Spain! As a result, American companies aren’t the only ones trying to get a slice of the Latin market, so are companies from the rest of the Spanish-speaking world.

As Miguel Abad, cultural attaché of the Spanish consulate in Los Angeles told us, every Hispanic country in the world – including Spain – is working to get into the U.S. cultural markets by boosting their diplomatic links to the U.S.

What’s so surprising? With some 52 million Spanish-speakers, the U.S. represents 11% of the world’s 460 million hispanohablantes (Spanish speakers). That’s more than the vast majority of Hispanic nations!  And they are bound to be wealthier some day…

The Story of SpanishMore stories on Spanish in the United States can be found in our new book, The Story of Spanish, to be released April 2013 (St. Martin’s Press).