Latinx – to use or not to use?

March 22, 2021
4 min read

The terms “Hispanic” and “Latino” are widely used – almost interchangeably – to describe the more than 63 million people of Hispanic/Latino origin in the US. Latinx is a relatively new term that has emerged as a gender-neutral label to Latino/a, one out of many nouns in Spanish that depends on gender. Latinx also aims to represent those who fall outside the gender binary. At Mintel, we mainly use the term Hispanic as it has broader acceptance and relevance among the group it aims to describe.

While Latinx is so new that spell check still marks it as a typo, the term has gained momentum, mainly in corporate, political and entertainment settings. Its growing popularity has ignited some debate about the appropriateness and future feasibility of the term. Searching Latinx in Google returns about 42 million results. Still, its popularity hasn’t reached the alluded group yet – those of Hispanic/Latino origin.

Hispanics/Latinos don’t feel the term “Latinx” describes them

Mintel consumer research conducted in January 2021 finds that those with Hispanic/Latino origin don’t feel a connection to Latinx at the moment, instead preferring to stick with Hispanic or the gendered Latino/a.

  • Fewer than one in 10 feel the term Latinx describes them. Meanwhile, more than three in five feel Hispanic describes them, while slightly more than half feel the gendered Latino/a describes them.
  • Preference for Latinx is even lower. Fewer than one in 20 prefer to be described by Latinx. By comparison, nearly half prefer Hispanic, and two in five prefer Latino/a in one of its gendered versions.

Moreover, Spanish-dominant Hispanics may find the term somewhat awkward as it doesn’t translate to Spanish well. The “x” in Spanish is “equis” (like the Mexican beer, Dos Equis), so Latinx would be “Latinequis.” It is not a term that evolved from within the market.

What marketers need to know

As the use of Latinx in the media continues to grow in popularity to describe the Hispanic/Latino population, it may gain some traction among the group it aims to describe. However, Hispanic/Latino consumers are far from embracing it yet. While the motivation for using Latinx to demonstrate inclusion is commendable, the disconnect between those who use it and those whom the term aims to describe is too wide for us to recommend its use.

Mintel research on Hispanics’ attitudes toward advertising indicates that more than six in 10 Hispanics would include brands that make an effort to appeal to them in their purchase consideration set. However, a similar share also claims to know when brands’ efforts to appeal to them are fake. The use of the term Latinx has the potential to come across as forced, hindering efforts to reach Hispanics in authentic and relevant ways.

In this context – and because it is the most widely accepted and preferred – marketers should use Hispanic or Latino/a when aiming to directly connect with this group as Hispanic/Latinos most identify with these terms. Marketers considering using Latinx in campaigns or other types of communications need to understand how it can be perceived among different audiences within the Hispanic market. While Gen Z Hispanics may see the term as a signal that brands are trying to be inclusive, at the same time, brands run the risk of alienating older Hispanics who may see the term as gimmicky and not representative of who they are.

Lastly, it is important to recognize that labels can be complicated, particularly when referring to people, as they don’t always capture the complexity of the group referenced. Labels are vital for marketers to break populations into groups that are relevant and make sense. While Latinx may eventually resonate with the Hispanic and Latino community, Mintel will lean into the research to guide its terminology and use “Hispanics” in broader communications as it is most relatable and is also gender-neutral.

For more market and consumer data and insights on what Hispanic consumers want and why check out our US Reports on the Mintel Store

Juan Ruiz
Juan Ruiz

Juan Ruiz is the Director of Insights at Mintel. He analyzes the US Hispanic and Latin American markets and develops insightful reports on Hispanic consumers, helping clients to understand the growing Hispanic market in the context of their categories.

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