Hispandering: 10 brand blunders & lessons in cultural marketing.

Last updated on:

Jul 12, 2023 | Branding, Culture, PR

Yo no quiero Taco Bell

Hispandering refers to the act of a brand or public figure trying too hard to appeal to Hispanic consumers in an inauthentic or stereotypical way.

It often backfires by coming across as pandering or patronizing. Here are 10 examples of American brands that committed hispandering and faced backlash:

  1. Taco Bell’s “Viva Gorditas” campaign in the early 2000s featured the chihuahua mascot dressed in a sombrero and poncho while mariachi music played. Many criticized it as relying on ethnic stereotypes. Taco Bell pulled the ad after receiving complaints from Hispanic advocacy groups.
  2. McDonald’s “Fiesta Menu” from the late 2000s promised “authentic Latino flavors” but just tweaked existing items like adding salsa to its burgers. It was seen as inauthentic and trying too hard to lure Hispanic customers.
  3. Kmart’s shipping box print that coincided with Hispanic Heritage Month in 2014 featured offensive cultural cliches like maracas, tacos and chili peppers. Many customers threatened to boycott over the insensitive design.
  4. General Mills launched fruit-flavored yogurt called “Tres Leches” to appeal to Hispanics in 2010. However, tres leches cake isn’t made with yogurt and Hispanic consumers found it inauthentic. The name was later changed.
  5. In 2020, Disney World in Orlando, Florida added Panama to the name of its Splash Mountain ride without any substantial changes beyond putting “Panama” in the Spanish pronunciation. Critics called it “Hispandering to the max” via token branding.
  6. During Cinco de Mayo 2016, grocery chain Hy-Vee promoted a “Mexican fiesta” sale with employees wearing sombreros. Customers found it relied on offensive stereotypes of Hispanic culture. Hy-Vee apologized and stopped the promotion.
  7. In 2017, the cooking brand Goya posted an image labeled “how to celebrate Cinco de Mayo” that showed various Mexican food items arranged to look like a face with a sombrero on top. Many saw it as perpetuating stereotypes.
  8. A 2013 McDonald’s commercial celebrating the Hispanic community featured an over-the-top attendant yelling “Feliz Navidad” repeatedly to customers. Some Hispanic groups said it portrayed Hispanics as loud and overly festive.
  9. Netflix’s 2018 Cinco de Mayo tweet that read “Let’s taco bout Netflix” next to a gif of a dancing taco was seen as trivializing Hispanic culture and promoting tired cliches. Many criticized the tweet as insensitive hispandering.
  10. And the last one, for now, is simply brands that have no business pushing their business on a Latin American holiday just for the brand awareness. Add value to the conversation; don’t just slap your logo for Cinco de Mayo.

In summary, brands that rely on ethnic stereotypes, inauthentic content, token branding and trivialization of cultural holidays often get accused of hispandering. It’s important for marketers to avoid these pitfalls and engage Hispanic consumers in an authentic, thoughtful way. Overt hispandering tends to generate backlash, so marketers should learn from past examples.

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