Ah, Cinco de Mayo: margaritas, tacos, inebriated men and women mumbling the lyrics to “Despacito,” and a lot of half-hearted attempts by brands trying to be culturally relevant. In all the years I’ve been in advertising, Cinco de Mayo hasn’t changed a bit. If you ask the folks celebrating on Saturday about Cinco de Mayo, you’ll hear all kinds of irrelevant yet hilarious justifications for celebrating this holiday of mysterious origins. And in the end, we all laugh.
I’m here to tell you, it’s okay.
Cinco de Mayo is almost as American as hot dogs and fireworks. Admittedly, it’s quite an impressive excuse that Americans invented to get together with friends, buy a lot of beer, and party. It’s one more date for consumers to spend and brands to sell. It’s also one of the few celebrations that Mexicans and Hispanics living in the U.S. adopted from Americans. I mean, who doesn’t love celebrating with their compadres and drinking a chela (Mexican slang for beer), or two, or three…you get the point.
Truthfully, Mexicans don’t care if Americans use Cinco de Mayo improperly. In fact, we laugh at the absurdity of something so unimportant for us being such a big deal here in the U.S. Every year, brands see Cinco de Mayo as a gold mine for cultural relevance. There’s an overwhelming amount of money, ideas, work, and time dedicated to getting people to celebrate with them. That being said, it’s possible for a brand to botch its opportunity and end up in a PR nightmare.
This raises a couple questions: what are the best ways to celebrate Cinco de Mayo and connect with audiences in a meaningful way? And more importantly: how can brands celebrate without looking like culturally illiterate dumb-asses? Well, I’m glad you asked. Here are my top ten Cinco de Do’s and Don’ts for brand marketing on Cinco de Mayo.
- We need to understand that Hispanics, especially Mexicans in this case, understand messages in terms of who sends them. A tweet from an American brand carries a different sentiment than a tweet from a Hispanic brand.
- Cinco de Mayo is unimportant for Hispanics. Frankly, it’s an excuse to celebrate. Don’t treat it any differently.
- For Mexicans, Cinco de Mayo is not a cultural celebration.
- While Cinco de Mayo is at least remotely relevant for Mexicans, the rest of Hispanics are uninterested.
- Never confuse 5 de Mayo with the independence of Mexico.
- Güacamole is not the sacred dish for Cinco de Mayo. (And don’t call it “güac.” It’s güacamole. You don’t call hamburgers “hambs.”)
- Poking fun at Cinco de Mayo is fine. Culturally, Mexicans mock everything. Even the dead.
- Cinco de Mayo was born in the USA is an exclusively Mexican-American celebration.
- The biggest celebration of Cinco de Mayo is in Los Angeles, California.
- The dish that represents Cinco de Mayo is mole poblano. The official drink is tequila.
So, there you have it – that’s what Cinco de Mayo is all about. Surprised? Relieved? Don’t care? Need to make some last-minute changes to your content calendar? Regardless, celebrate responsibly. See you at work Monday.
Here’s an amusing, similar take from Juanpa Zurita.