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What Does it Mean to Be “Well?”

Contact Author Aleena Astorga Roeschley, Communicus, Inc.
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Marketers spend a lot of time discussing millennial Hispanics and how best to reach and connect with them. We all know how tuned in this group is to social media, and how the biculturals among them have one foot in the Hispanic culture and one foot in the more Americanized world in which they spend much of their day.

However, when it comes to wellness, we hear less about this target. Millennial Hispanics have not, to date, represented a particularly attractive target for marketers of products that provide wellness benefits.

While the growing importance of these 23 million Americans on the basis of their sheer numbers is clear, a lack of clarity about their attitudes toward health and fitness has prevented marketers from targeting them with products and services within the wellness sector.

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It behooves marketers who realize the enormous purse-power of the female bicultural Hispanic to not just assume we’re motivated by the same drivers as our non-Hispanic friends.

What Does “Health” Mean?

The health- and fitness-related attitudes of many young bicultural Hispanics are heavily influenced by their culture and by the attitudes and behaviors of their families. Their parents’ definition of wellness arose from a more basic set of priorities.

For them, wellness—more commonly thought of as “health”—meant having enough to eat every day, a place to call home and a stable home environment. Additionally, it meant being able to cope with external elements, like disease, that were thrown your way.

Of course, the process of maturing into adulthood for the bicultural Hispanic involves exposure to, and adoption of, many attitudes and behaviors of the outside culture. Today’s bicultural Hispanic woman is not just a product of the family in which she was raised.

The influences of friends, education, popular culture and the work environment have all contributed to the female consumer that we see today. 

Tradition, Pragmatism Dominate Choices

Avoidance of foods that are characterized as “bad” for us means eating foods that aren’t as fattening and that won’t cause diabetes or heart disease—as many have experienced in their families. Even then, we still won’t stop making the recipes that have been passed down from our grandmothers that we know are full of bad fats and have little to no health value.

The Hispanic role models that are aspirational for young Hispanic women are glamorous and beautiful to behold; they are well made-up, well-coiffed and have gorgeous bodies.

Eating healthy also doesn’t necessarily mean avoiding GMOs or eating foods rich in antioxidants. Likewise, selecting beauty products that are made with the best ingredients means choosing those that do the best job in solving a particular beauty problem, like addressing acne or dark spots, not necessarily those that use all-natural ingredients or those that were developed without animal testing.

The Beauty-Health Dynamic

For the millennial Hispanic female, her outward appearance is important. Our mothers told us that outer beauty was a reflection of inner beauty. Never go out without your makeup on. Make sure to put on something nice and style your hair before your husband gets home.

And when we look to the outside world, the Hispanic role models that are aspirational for young Hispanic women are glamorous and beautiful to behold; they are well made-up, well-coiffed and have gorgeous bodies.

As such, the aspirational goal is commit to what it takes to look beautiful. Having a good body is part of this, but the goal is a beautiful body, not necessarily a fit body. When pressed, a typical Hispanic woman will agree that it’s a good idea to have a healthy lifestyle.

Wellness in the traditional Hispanic family translates into having a physically comfortable existence, and the absence of disease. It’s a long way from there to eating right to improve overall well-being and to extend one’s life.

We need to avoid getting sick, and we don’t want to get fat. But the idea of being healthy through fitness and diet doesn’t quite translate.

For the typical bicultural young Hispanic woman, the connection between beauty and fitness is not the same as it is among her non-Hispanic counterparts. There are many things that equate to beauty, but being physically fit does not top the list.

As long as you’re wearing the size of jeans that you’re somewhat okay with, there’s really no need to hit the gym four days a week. And, just as the beauty-fitness connection is unclear, so is the connection between fitness and wellness.

Wellness in the traditional Hispanic family translates into having a physically comfortable existence, and the absence of disease. It’s a long way from there to eating right to improve overall well-being and to extend one’s life.

Defining Beauty

For Hispanic millennials, a beautiful body is slim in all the right places, but not necessarily defined. The Latino culture has a lot of celebrities, like Jennifer Lopez and Selena Gomez, but not a lot like Jillian Michaels (“The Biggest Loser”) and Joy Bauer (“The Today Show”).

Undoubtedly, Jennifer Lopez and Selena Gomez have fitness routines and an overall healthy lifestyle that keep them looking as good as they do. However, the extent to which they personally embrace and promote fitness, healthy eating and even, perhaps, wellness, simply isn’t a part of their public persona.

And sure, a young Hispanic woman can aspire to be fit like Michaels and can watch Bauer on morning television, but the personal connection is simply not going to be as strong for the typical bicultural woman as is her connection with the Hispanic icons.

Until Lopez and Gomez and their contemporaries start talking about their fitness routines, and until high-profile Hispanic versions of Michaels and Bauer are in the public eye, the process is going to be slow.

Consequently it behooves marketers who realize the enormous purse-power of the female bicultural Hispanic to not just assume we’re motivated by the same drivers as our non-Hispanic friends. It is a challenging task to target young bicultural women with products that are positioned around wellness.

It will take a better understanding of how this segment thinks about health and beauty—and how her background has influenced her attitudes and behaviors—than most marketers currently possess. There will be rewards for brands that get it right.

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