The U.S. Hispanic Beauty Market

Brand marketers recognize the importance of connecting with the U.S. Hispanic population through products, packaging and marketing.


There is no doubt that the Hispanic market is an important one for any brand to tap into. But the only way for brands to reach Hispanic audiences successfully is to understand them, know who they are, where they spend their time, the platforms they visit most frequently and how they consume their content.

U.S. Hispanics currently have $1.7 trillion in purchasing power, a number that’s sure to rise in the years to come. Here are a few things about the Hispanic market that every brand should know.

1. Hispanics account for almost half of U.S. population growth.

The expansion of the Hispanic population in the U.S. has been the main driver of America's population growth since 2000, although the rate of growth has been slowing over the past few years. Hispanics currently make up around 18% of the total U.S. population and are the second-fastest growing demographic group (after Asians).

 Another interesting thing to note is the fact that a little over a third of Latinos were born outside of the United States, a number that is lower than its peak of nearly 40% in 2000. This is in line with the fact that immigration to the United States from countries such as Mexico is declining— a trend which, if it accelerates, will have definite repercussions on the way that brands reach Hispanic consumers.

And even better news for the beauty industry, Hispanics are particularly interested in spending money on beauty products. “We know from our research that Hispanics over-index the beauty category. They purchase at a higher rate than normal,” says Palacios.

Big Beauty Beneficiaries

Spanish-language magazine Siempre Mujer recently released its Best of Beauty feature, highlighting the editor’s picks for the 50 best beauty products. The list was compiled by gaining insight from beauty experts, celebrities and best seller lists. Brands that made the list represent a Who’s Who in the beauty industry—L’Oral, Estee Lauder, to name a couple.

Interestingly, the majority of products were from international brands produced for the general market. Very few brands—arguably two—had roots that traced back specifically to the Hispanic community. This should not come as a surprise, experts say.

You don’t have any idea how much influence the U.S. has in Latin America. Residents are exposed to all of the media—they are aware of the brands,” says Tornoe. “When they come to the U.S., now they have the money to buy the brands that were just inspirational before.”

“American brands, particularly glamour and beauty brands, are more aspirational. They are better known, they are better advertised, and they signify levels of status and success. A lot of this market came to the country for aspirational reasons of self improvement. To be able to purchase a well-known brand is very desirable,” says Palacios.

“What I see is an adaption or a line extension of a mainstream brand that can appeal to an American living in Idaho or a Latino living in New Mexico—something I would call Inclusion Product Strategy rather than Exclusion Product Strategy,” says Mariv Chong, design associate for design consultancy R.BIRD, New York, NY, and manager of the ask mariv? website.

OPI, for example, launched its Mexico Collection of nail and lip shades last spring. “We were inspired by the gorgeous hues seen in daily Mexican life—the hand-painted tiles with touches of cobalt, the brightly colored doorways, the muted shades of sun-baked pottery, the vivid embroidered blouses, the bold red chilis,” says Suzi Weiss-Fischman, executive vice president and artistic director.

The line was marketed to the general public, but received a good response from Latinas, according to the company.

Room for Niche Brands. Global brands have a big opportunity among Hispanic consumers.

Ethnic-specific brands are clearly the underdogs in the race for the ethnic consumer, but they do serve value, especially in certain beauty segments. “Hair and skin care are the cosmetics and toiletries that are most relevant to ethnic consumers and offer the greatest potential for niche product development, due to physiological differences between races,” states the report.

Other brands have found that their niche is especially attractive to Hispanics. Ouidad is not an ethnic-specific hair care brand, but its focus on curly hair makes it a favorite with Latina women—an ethnic group that frequently has wavy or curly hair, says the company. The brand has taken out ads in Latina magazines in the past and currently features two Latina models in its advertising campaigns.

Connecting Through Packaging

Although there are arguably some physical characteristics that are typical of Hispanics, it is not the largest common denominator. “There are few [physical appearance] things that are specific to our race in particular,” says Javier Escobedo, managing partner for Ol, a Hispanic advertising agency in New York City. “What brings us together is the language.”

Perhaps the most notable characteristic of packaging that targets Hispanics is the inclusion of the Spanish language. Many beauty brands now include Spanish on packaging. But is it always necessary?

“About 1/3 of Hispanics are dominantly Spanish-speaking, 1/3 are bi-lingual and 1/3 are dominantly English speaking. In terms of packaging, the more mass, lower-end your product is, the more important bi-lingual packaging is,” says Escobedo, citing the fact that new immigrants—who tend to speak exclusively Spanish—cannot usually afford expensive products.

Bi-lingual packaging is also more important when the product is complicated to apply. “Bi-lingual packaging typically benefits when it’s a complicated value proposition. Lipstick, for example, is not complicated. Does it need instructions in Spanish? Probably not. But if you have a beauty product [with a level of complexity associated with product use] then bi-lingual instruction or direction can be helpful,” says Palacios.

Despite the widespread use of the Spanish language within the U.S. Hispanic population, experts caution against eliminating English altogether in Hispanic-targeted products.

“Spanish-only packaging takes a big chance of not being understood by Hispanic-Americans who only speak English and by the rest of consumers who may be interested in the product but do not understand it. It is not effective at all,” observes Chong.

The Personal Connection

Packaging is not the only way beauty brands are connecting with Hispanic consumers. “Purchasing beauty products through a catalog is very popular among Hispanics,” says Chong. “Many Hispanic women tend to buy from someone they know or someone who has personally recommended and presented the product to them.”

Direct sellers aren’t the only ones who can benefit from the preference for a personal connection. Many brands are hoping product recommendations from Latina stylists wield as much influence as friends-turned-sales representatives.

“Latinas have an especially strong bond with their hair stylists and we wanted to do something to honor that. Hair care brand Joico presented several products to a large audience of Latino licensed cosmetologists at the Paramount Runway Show in New York. The presentations were given in Spanish. “The majority of our models were of Latin descent with thick, coarse, dark hair,” says Joico artist Giovanni Villalba.

Joico also uses Spanish speaking collateral material and its packaging is bi-lingual.

Emotional Connections

In addition to packaging and personal connections, successful marketing campaigns also require relevant emotional connections.

“For Hispanics in general, promises don’t work very well. We have seen a lot of beauty ads that don’t connect with Hispanic people,” says Escobedo. “It’s about building the emotional connection. The perfect ad is one that goes beyond saying you’ll have silky, smooth skin. It’s saying that you’ll appreciate this soft skin when your kids kiss you…it will make you feel better as a mother.  The emotional benefit is incredibly important.”.

The Importance of Research

Whether a small or a large beauty brand, experts stress the importance of knowing the target audience before attempting to reach them.

“Hispanics are a market that draw from 25 countries both inside and outside of this hemisphere. Hispanics come in all different shapes, sizes and colors. How to target them is based on appropriate segmentation. In some instances, the complexion of a certain segment of the Hispanic population would require a different formulation or color palette. For others, it wouldn’t. There are a certain percentage with English skills and a certain percentage without,” says Palacios.

“When you say the word Hispanic, it involves so many different backgrounds. It’s such a diverse group,” says Tornoe.

Given their diverse nature, extensive research is necessary to effectively reach the group. “I’ve seen many people not budget right or allow enough funds to do consumer research. Don’t skip steps. Make sure you have appropriate consumer understanding and insight gathering. If you don’t have these two things, it will be difficult to be successful,” says Escobedo.  


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