Understand Familia to Embrace Latinos

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Stories can unpack complex truths in a relatable, memorable way. This past holiday season, Disney Animation Studios released its animated family film, “Encanto.” This is the second Latino family story Disney has undertaken and it’s been embraced by families of all kinds. Disney has finally nailed what all PR pros should know – if you want to engage Latino consumers, involve their families. 

A whole-family approach for Latino families shouldn’t just include parents and children. Many Hispanic or Latino families live, work or play with multiple generations. The family bonds go even deeper if the family members depend on each other for prosperity or survival. 

Understanding Latino family values

Disney hit the mark with “Coco,” a Mexican-family tale about a grandson fighting to break free of the family rules. Miguel was told to work in the family shoe business and not to play music. The pressure to assimilate was within their family culture. “Encanto” is about a Colombian family with tween female lead Mirabel who is also struggling to find “her gift” in the midst of extraordinary family expectations. 

The power and pressure of la familia is the cultural fabric that weaves these stories together despite geographical differences. What’s eye-opening is how universal this experience is across different ethnic groups. 

Ask anyone who’s seen “Encanto” if they relate to the ingroup/outgroup dynamics. People of all types have been sharing on social media how they could relate to Mirabel’s struggle to live up to expectations, or discomfort of going against the family’s wishes. Especially her grandmother’s.

So many organizations struggle to have the influence on the Latino community that they want. If we don’t understand Latino family values or familismo, we’ll never get our communication strategy right. 

Working with familismo or “the idea of deviation, loyalty, mutual support and commitment to the family” is shown to correlate with outcomes like health, education and employment according to Dr. William D. Lopez of the Department of Latina/o Studies at the University of Michigan who wrote an article about how “Encanto” relates to Latino health research. 

Respecting the mother

The power of the mother, and more important the abuela, is the PR lesson in these movies. Showing respecto for her is demanded within and outside of the family.  

“Mom is ultimately the decision-maker in the family for Latinos,” said Yvonne “Bonnie” Garcia, a multicultural agency owner, author, and former director of Hispanic Marketing for Coca-Cola North America. 

As Garcia has explained to clients such as Fisher-Price, “dad may be the breadwinner, but mom is the one that pretty much handled the front of the house.” 

Respecting the mother is important within the family, but also important for those who interact with the family. 

“The grandma is the center of the family. Nothing happens in that nucleus without grandma being in the center of it all,” said Garcia.  

That’s a reality for Latinos and many families around the globe. 

“That grandma influence is stronger with multicultural consumers. Whether she’s a Black, Brown, or Asian grandma — there’s a respect that multicultural consumers have for the matriarch of the family. And that respect never dies. It continues from generation to generation as part of our cultural DNA,” added Garcia.

If you’re having trouble engaging Latino consumers, review your strategy. Are you engaging the entire family? Have you included abuela? She’s at the heart of a large network of your audience members. Get creative, be respectful, and engage this influential source. For Latinos, what she says may make all the difference. 

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