Denise M. Massari
Shopping, while still painful for many students from the economic stand point, seems the most promising in the sense that I can promote a sense of ownership and control over the choices students make. As I delved a bit deeper into the shopping unit I realized that my students in many ways were uninformed shoppers, meaning they were not able to explain to themselves or others why they gravitate towards certain brands or why they spend money the way they do. While this does not surprise me, when I take the time to really think about it, it did surprise me that all of my students had the same reaction to the question, ¿Cuales anuncios te gustan más y por qué? (What advertisements do you like the most and why?). The Spanish language was not a factor here as I told students to answer the question in English. They simply did not know what to write and just about all of the students left the question blank.
However, all students were able to answer ¿Qué marcas te gustan más y por qué? (What brands do you like the best and why?). All students answered the brands part of this question in Spanish I might add-- but they again, could not tell me why they liked them. When the same three brands showed up again and again, I was not fazed as this is typical teenager mentality; but I was very intrigued that they could not tell me why these brands were so well liked. How are students connecting to these brands and why are they so important to have?
Before I continue, I believe it is important to define the word "Latino," as it will be used throughout this unit. Latinos in this unit shall refer to any Spanish speaking person whether he or she be a native or heritage speaker. This is to keep things simple as the discussion of the diversity among Spanish speakers and their identity would create another unit unto itself.
In my reading I came across an enlightening segment in Arlene Dávila's Latino's Inc The Marketing and Making of a People, which inspired me to find out the answer to my above question. Dávila discusses the impact a culturally manipulated commercial had on the sales of Wrangler jeans among Latinos, particularly in the Southwest. The Wrangler ad used the image of a cowboy, or a vaquero, from a historical standpoint. The vaquero, who was of Mexican American descent, was "the first cowboy in the United States." Cartel Creativo (the creators of this commercial) reminded the public of this fact and went on to say that he, the vaquero, "created all we associate today with cowboys." The connection made between Latinos and this product is very blatant. Dávila asserts that "canonized American symbols" such as this have been "latinized" to target the Latino community by fostering a sense of nostalgia --…"and finally today they (vaqueros) wear Wrangler western wear." While there was much skepticism at the time over whether the ad should be aired or not, the jump in sales abated any qualms and hence, there was a new avenue to explore in the world of advertising.
Davila's anecdote impressed upon me that the reason my students could perhaps not answer certain questions was because they could not distinguish the culturally appealing elements from the quality of the actual product. I truly believe that if I polled the Latinos who purchased Wrangler jeans, they, too, could not tell me why they did so. They would more than likely have answers similar to the ones I received from my students when I pressed further, "I don't know. I just like it." The "why?" started to become clearer to me the ad induced a deep, emotional connection because the Latino population is proud of their heritage and the vaquero holds an esteemed place in their history and culture. Recognizing this has driven me to teach students to become informed consumers by taking a deeper look into the targeting of the Latino community through media and advertising. I have chosen the Latino population because while it is my content area, there has been a concerted effort on behalf of the marketing industry to attract more Latino consumers and most significant, my students have had and will continue to have historical and cultural lessons regarding Latino customs, celebrations, etc… I also feel it will be easier for students to recognize these cultural elements because they are not their own.
This strategy will enable me not only to draw upon previously taught cultural material but also to introduce students to a new set of Latino traditions and customs. They will need to have exposure to and an understanding of said practices in order to recognize how the ads we analyze do indeed target the Latino population. The fact that an ad is in Spanish does not necessarily mean it is compelling a community to purchase something as much as it is simply providing information. The connection the marketer makes between the product and the community is where the investigation lies -- Is the product a quality product that is worth buying or am I buying it because the ad speaks directly to me as a consumer? It is here students will be able to apply what they have learned about the Latino community to pick out the "nostalgic" elements of the ad.