By Christian Filli (MediaPost)
It is generally accepted that Hispanics are often more brand loyal than the average U.S. consumer, especially during certain stages of their cultural assimilation process. People always say things like “Hispanics are more passionate” or “Hispanics are genetically different,” but I have yet to hear a convincing argument that explains this phenomenon. Instead, just applying a simple understanding of how our brains work to Hispanics’ assimilation in the U.S. will help shed light on why they tend to be more brand loyal.
First of all, loyalty is practically synonymous with “avoiding change.” As much as humans are designed to evolve, we are also designed to cultivate homeostasis. Our body temperature needs to be kept in check in order for our whole system to properly work, and our mind seeks equilibrium and stability through rationalization and gaining an understanding of the world around us. This innate tendency is a vital part of our defense mechanism, triggering internal alarms when something is out of place. In other words, it helps us detect perceived errors or dangers in our surroundings or inside our own bodies. Because of this, we tend to naturally resist change, even if logic tells us it’s okay. Some may call it mere stubbornness, but it’s really our survival instinct in action.
This instinct is controlled by the oldest part of our brain, the limbic system, and it’s no surprise that this is where our fear circuitry resides. Thus, any change that makes us feel uncomfortable can be seen as a threat, causing us to adopt a defensive behavior. The limbic system is inside the core of our brain, where neural circuits of long-standing habits are formed and held. This area is invoked by familiar routine, like instinctually putting an often-purchased product into the shopping cart without consciously paying attention. When we see a new product on a supermarket shelf and rationally compare its benefits to one we already use, our working memory takes the new information and matches it against the old. However, the core of our brain requires less energy to function, so the path of least resistance, literally, is to stick with old behaviors and habits.
I believe that oftentimes foreigners who have come to live in the U.S. take a long time to feel completely comfortable in their new environment. Their courage and resilience are highly evident, but adaptation is not easy and individual circumstances can make it even harder. While they are willing to undergo a lot of changes, all of this new information can feel draining for the mind. It’s not surprising that they find comfort in things that remind them of their ‘home.’
It has been scientifically proven that people’s brains can design new neural wiring patterns based on fresh input. Even the simple act of buying a different shampoo can stimulate new neural pathways to form. The increased ability to embrace change can make people adopt new products and brands.
It’s just a matter of identifying good insights combined with message repetition. We need to always remember that Hispanics are humans and understand them as such, combining that basic understanding with the complexities that come into play when they are challenged with so many changes in their lives.
That said, we must consider that a growing portion of the Hispanic population today is actually born in the U.S., therefore it will be interesting to observe how brand loyalty patterns shift. We might finally see marketers forget about the things of the past that Hispanics are attached to and start focusing on what future lifestyle they are creating for themselves.
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