American + Latina

Episode Overview

Being American and Latina can feel like living between worlds — growing up with one cultural heritage in the home and another you must learn to navigate once you leave your doorstep. Amber sits down with Melissa Rodríguez, founder of Social Media Relations, a social media and digital advertising agency based in Los Angeles, California that helps businesses connect more meaningfully with the dominant Latina market. Melissa reflects on her experiences, views and values as a second-generation Latina, growing up in the U.S.
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Topics Covered

Second-generation Latina
Melissa Rodriguez is the daughter of Dominican and Puerto Rican immigrant parents, who raised her in Massachusetts. Growing up with Spanish speaking parents, Melissa vividly remembers translating for her mother up until she was in her twenties, an experience many second-generation daughters learn to navigate as part of a blended cultural identity.  

Growing up, the culture her parents instilled in her in their new home in the U.S. felt enriching.  It was only when she entered school that Melissa realized she was different — not watching the same T.V. shows as her friends or knowing about organized sports like soccer. Melissa considered these activities luxuries, because she didn’t have the means.

The first time she noticed she was different was in daycare when the teachers told her she needed to speak English because others couldn’t understand her. That moment she realized she had to be a different person outside the home and that was a turning point. Melissa remembers her mom trying to learn English at the kitchen table; her father helping her with the little English that he knew. Melissa reflects on how hard they worked to give her and her siblings a better life; the catalyst to do more with hers.

Embracing her roots
Like many Latinas, family is the core of Melissa’s world. After graduating from college, she went on to work at a corporate account firm where she found herself making more money than her parents. She wanted to support her family and begin creating generational wealth. She then moved into blogging and shifted into marketing. It wasn’t until she met her business coach that she realized her identity as a Latina was a differentiator. Her background gave her attributes that made her stand out. For years, she did her best to “fit in” but never really did. Not “Latina enough” and not full American, Melissa’s story is one that we often hear from children of immigrants. It’s a narrative, Melissa admits, that held her back for years.

Marketing to second-generation Latinas
Melissa discusses how powerful the Latinx community is and some of the biggest mistakes brands are making when trying to connect with second-generation Latinas. For example, when it comes to English vs. Spanish, for many second-generation Latinas, English is their native language. It’s how they learned to read and write and what they went to school for. Infusing Spanish into a campaign can help reinforce their cultural identity; creating an entire marketing campaign in Spanish does not. In the end, everyone wants to be seen and heard and that means first understanding who you’re trying to reach.

Infusing values into your branding to reach the community
Food, family and values are woven into the fabric of Latinx life. Incorporating these elements into branding helps show target audiences that businesses understand and respect them. Melissa gives an example of how businesses/marketers can take one piece of content and position it so it resonates with the Latinx community. She uses the example of a movie trailer that highlights the senses that resonate most with the Latinx community.

Immigration and the Latinx community
Latinx families are discussing the conflict of U.S. Immigration policies at the kitchen table. Melissa speaks to the responsibility that marketers have when sharing data about communities of people — how focusing on fear push people to the brink of invisibility, which has a domino effect on the way people feel in their country and the way resources are distributed.

For companies looking to do better, Melissa recommends that they “get in the game.” The companies that recognize the importance of the Latinx community are growing. Ten years from now when companies are stuck or stagnate, they will realize what a mistake it was to ignore this powerful, growing demographic. And by that time, it may be too late.

Melissa Rodriguez

Melissa Rodríguez is the founder of Social Media Relations a performance-driven marketing agency focus on B2C and B2B brand awareness and growth agency for the professional services, real estate, and mobile apps industries.

Prior to this Melissa was a Consultant for over 6 years with Ernst & Young, specializing in the Media & Entertainment sector, where she worked closely alongside clients such as Disney and it’s subsidiary ESPN on their digital efforts strategy. Melissa has recently launched Mel Rodriguez & Co. a targeted consumer-focused marketing agency that helps companies break into the Hispanic market and tap into a 1.8 Trillion dollar market share.

You can connect with Melissa on Instagram and Facebook.




Produced by: Kai-Saun Anderson
Music by: Podington Bear - Soft Driver and Rope Swing
Photo by: Pawan Sharma

About the host

Amber Anderson

Co-Founder + Head of Strategy
Amber Anderson is the co-founder of T+P where she specializes in strategy, marketing and product management.

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