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10 Best Practices for Marketing to Hispanic Consumers

Localization is key to building cross-cultural connections

When you’re working internationally, there’s an expectation that you will demonstrate an understanding of the linguistic and cultural differences between countries. But within the U.S., linguistic and cultural differences are often overlooked. In particular, the fast-growing U.S. Spanish-speaking market is a valuable, yet often overlooked, market sector.

The U.S. is now the second largest Spanish-speaking country, behind Mexico. A recent Pew Research Center report states that there are more than 62.5 million Spanish-speakers, or Hispanics, in the U.S., which is approximately 18.7% of the total U.S. population. Hispanic consumers also represent $1.5 trillion in purchasing power. That’s a high market share, so it makes sense that an increasing number of companies are marketing to Hispanic consumers.

Capturing this growing target audience is more complicated than simply translating your content into Spanish. Just like English in the U.S. compared to English in the U.K., not all Spanish is the same. In fact, Spanish is an incredibly diverse spoken language, with a range of dialects that encompasses Latin America and Spain. It’s not just about different pronunciations. Many words have various meanings, depending on the dialect.

As you develop a marketing strategy for the Hispanic community, here are some best practices you should keep in mind:

Understand the Difference Between Hispanic and Latino 

There is some debate over the correct application of the Hispanic and Latino terms. For the purposes of this blog, we distinguish the two in the following way: Hispanic refers to language, while Latino refers to location. We define Hispanic as a person with a Spanish-speaking country of origin or ancestry. This includes Spain. 

Latino refers to Spanish-speakers as well, but only people from Latin America — including Brazil. (Portuguese is spoken in Brazil, and thus, Brazil is not considered to be Hispanic.) Hispanic and Latino are often used interchangeably, even though they don’t mean the same thing. It’s important to be aware of not only who you are targeting, but also how you choose to reference them. Not all Spanish-speaking people are Latino, and not all Latinos are Hispanic. 


Hispanic customer excited after opening a purchase

Be Aware of Regional Differences 

According to the Pew Research Center, most U.S. Hispanics prefer to use their country of origin to describe themselves. More than half of the survey respondents said they have no preference for being called either Hispanic or Latino. However, it’s still important to localize your marketing efforts, as these preferences vary from state to state, and they also change as the Hispanic population grows. 

For example, California has the highest Hispanic population percentage, and 30% of them say they prefer to be referred to as Hispanic, while 17% say they prefer Latino. But this preference is much stronger in Texas, where 46% of Hispanics said they prefer to be referenced as Hispanic, vs. 8% who prefer Latino. 

Localization is critical in states with a high population of Hispanics, such as Texas, California, Arizona, New Mexico, New York, and Florida. However, this is made complicated by the many dialects of Spanish and Spanish variants in the U.S. As a result, you need professional localization services to tailor your translations to the appropriate audience — Google Translate can’t help you here. 

Consider Generational and Cultural Gaps

Hispanics peoples often integrate traditions from their countries of origin into their lives in the U.S. But cultural integration can vary depending on segments of the larger Hispanic consumer population. Generationally, they can be broken down into two main groups: 

  • Traditionalists: Older immigrants, and some younger, are considered “traditionalists” who don’t speak fluent English. You can market to these traditionalists via Spanish-speaking TV and radio stations, as well as Spanish websites. Your marketing strategy should emphasize traditional Hispanic cultural values and traditions including food, family, and holidays. Know the various dialects and idioms within a specific region. You’ll need to strike an appropriate tone and research your choice of media to keep your prospective customers engaged.
  • Millennials and Gen Z: Second-generation Hispanics are those who are born in the U.S. into a Hispanic family. Like many second-generation ethnicities, they are typically the younger family members, including millennials and Gen Z, who have adopted many U.S. customs (and English) but still appreciate, respect, and enjoy their culture, language, and heritage.

Additionally, marketers tend to divide Hispanic online consumers into three different cultural categories: Hispanic Dominant, Bicultural, and U.S. Dominant. 

  • Hispanic Dominant (23%): This group speaks predominantly Spanish at home and consumes most media in Spanish. Typically, they’re foreign born and have a mean age of 40. On average, they’ve lived in the U.S. for seven years.
  • Bicultural (31%): Typically speaking both English and Spanish at home, Bicultural Hispanics consume most media in English. They’re a combination of foreign and U.S. born and have a mean age of 34. They’ve lived in the U.S., on average, for 22 years.
  • U.S. Dominant (46%): These consumers generally speak English at home and access most media in English. They’re U.S. born and with a mean age of 37, they’ve lived in the U.S. an average of 36 years.

Offline, the sizing of these groups is reversed, with Hispanic Dominant representing 52% of the segment, Bicultural 19%, and U.S. Dominant 28%. 

Consider Using “Spanglish”

The Spanish language is experiencing something of a resurgence amongst the Hispanic population — and it’s the younger generations at the forefront of the revival. According to Forbes, 62% of Millennial Hispanics are reporting a high interest in the language, suggesting that it forms an important part of their identity. In fact, over the last decade Spanish has grown significantly as the preferred language for communication across the entire Hispanic population:

Preferred Language 2011 2018 Difference
Spanish 16% 25% +9%
Equal Preference 28% 30% +2%
English 56% 45% -11%

As a result, it is more important than ever to showcase your Spanish language skills when marketing to Hispanics. Even if your target segment is primarily U.S. Dominant or Bicultural, blend both Spanish and English into your campaign. You can keep English as your primary language, but integrating Spanish phrases, quotes, and terms will help you to build a far stronger connection with Hispanic consumers.

Use Hispanic Music and Imagery

Create campaigns that are centered on Hispanic imagery and tell vibrant, colorful stories — but avoid stereotypes or singling Hispanics out.

Create Mobile-Friendly Campaigns 

According to Pew Research Center, 35% of teens say that they use at least one of YouTube, TikTok, Instagram, Snapchat, and Facebook ‘almost constantly’ — and Hispanic teens are no exception. But there are some demographic differences to be aware of: Hispanic teens are more likely to use TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, and WhatsApp than their peers. Don’t miss these opportunities to connect with Hispanic consumers. Be sure to optimize all your digital touch points and campaigns for mobile.

Include Hispanic Culture in Online Ads 

88% of digital-using Hispanics pay attention to online ads that include aspects of their culture — regardless of the ad’s language, says Google Hispanic Marketing Forum.

Be Consistent With Hispanic Marketing

Offering a web page in Spanish is effective, but only if your landing page is in Spanish, too. The same is true for phone orders and support: adding Spanish language options to your company voicemail is only helpful if you have Spanish-speaking representatives for customers to speak with. If you’re going to market to consumers in Spanish, be sure to support them throughout the customer journey.

Hispanic couple making a purchase decision

Understand Spanish-Speaking Social Media 

According to CNN, the most active of all ethnic groups on social media sites are Hispanic adults, at 72%. CNN also points out that even though “Hispanic” is the identity most referenced on social media, the term “Latino” was mentioned more on Twitter. There are many reasons for this, one of which is that Latinos are becoming more prominent in TV shows, magazines, and professional sports.

Cultural patterns vary within the U.S. and are also a result of more references to the types of activities, music, and other events that cater to the Latino population.

Be Aware of Cultural Diversity

It all comes down to being aware of cultural diversity, which applies to any country where multiple ethnicities and language dialects exist. Although no one is expected to know each dialect and market, there is great value in thoroughly researching and understanding the various linguistic and cultural differences that exist between groups, as well as the spending patterns within a particular country.

This can be done in many ways, such as hiring local employees or services that are aware of the cultural differences in your target market. It also helps to be up to speed with the latest research on demographics, social media, and buying trends.

If you are making the effort to market to Spanish speakers, it pays to relate with them the way they relate to one another. Know their local culture, language, and customs. And if you don’t have the expertise to do this in-house, partner with a localization provider that has the experience and expertise to help you navigate this new market.

Get in touch with Lionbridge today to learn how we can help you build connections, develop a following, and attract new customers across the Spanish-speaking world.

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