Last Updated: July 12, 2019 10:18AM
When you’re working with companies internationally, there’s an expectation that you will make an effort to understand the language and cultural differences among various countries and cultures. But within the U.S., linguistic and cultural differences are often overlooked—most notably, the fast-growing U.S. Spanish-speaking market. The U.S. is now the second largest Spanish-speaking country, behind Mexico.
A 2014 Pew Research Center report states that there are 55.4 million Spanish-speakers or Hispanics in the U.S., which is approximately 17.4% of the total U.S. population. And, Hispanic consumers represent $1.5 trillion in purchasing power. That’s a high market share to target, so it makes sense that an increasing number of companies are marketing to Hispanic consumers.
To capture this growing target audience, just translate your marketing content into Spanish with professional translation and you’re all set, right?
Just like English in the U.S. vs. English in the U.K., not all Spanish is the same. With Spanish, from the many countries in Latin America to Spain, there are even more dialects. It’s not just about different pronunciations. Understand that many words have various meanings, depending on the dialect. This is true for many languages, including English, where elevator in the U.S. is known as lift in the U.K.
Here are some best practices you should keep in mind and research further before you are developing a strategy for marketing to hispanics.
Understand the difference between Hispanic and Latino
There are many interpretations of how to define Hispanic vs Latino. For the purposes of this blog, I’ll distinguish the two in the following way: Hispanic refers to language and Latino (including Latina and Latino) refer to location Therefore, Hispanic here is defined as one who has a Spanish-speaking origin or ancestry, including Spain.
Latino refers to Spanish-speakers as well, but only people from Latin America—including Brazil. (Portuguese is spoken in Brazil, and thus, 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.
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 either term, 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 referenced 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. There are several dialects of Spanish and Spanish variants in the U.S. Thus, Google Translate can’t compare to professional translation services—it lacks the ability to tailor translations to these dialects.
Consider generational and cultural gaps while tailoring marketing tactics and content
Hispanics, like many cultures, integrate their 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 these traditional Hispanic cultural values and traditions including food, family, and holidays. Know the various dialects and idioms within a specific region, and don’t stop at the online home page, TV ad, or radio message. Keep the customer engaged.
- Millennials: 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, who have adopted many U.S. customs (and English) but still appreciate, respect, and enjoy their culture, language, and heritage.
Culturally, marketers tend to divide Hispanic online consumers into three different 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%): This crowd typically speaks both English and Spanish at home, but they 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%): This bunch generally speaks English at home and consumes 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”
For a U.S. Dominant or Bicultural audience, blend both Spanish and English into your campaign, keeping English as the primary language but integrating Spanish phrases, quotes, terms, etc. to truly connect to Hispanic consumers.
Include Hispanic talents, using Spanish influenced 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
Pew Hispanic Center found that Hispanic mobile phone owners are more likely than Anglo mobile phone owners to access the internet—40% vs. 34%. And according to a July 2014 Google Consumer Survey, Hispanics are 1.5 times more likely to buy mobile apps and digital media than non-Hispanics. 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 (Google Hispanic Marketing Forum, 2015).
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: Pressing “Numero 2” for Spanish on your phone keypad is helpful only if there is a Spanish-speaking representative on the other end. If you’re going to market to consumers in Spanish, be sure to support them throughout the customer journey.
Understand Spanish-speaking social media
This is where cultural patterns shift. 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.
For example, according to a 2016 Neilson report, 10% of overall NFL TV game viewers are Hispanic. This results in more Tweets on Latinos. The word “Latino” was also searched more on Google in the last few years. Cultural patterns vary by region (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 within any country, where multiple ethnicities and language dialects exist. And although no one is expected to know each dialect and market, there is much benefit and value to thoroughly researching and understanding the various linguistic and cultural differences, 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 various differences, as well as knowing the latest research on buying trends, social media trends, etc.
After all, if you are making the effort to market to Spanish speakers, be sure to be able to relate with them the way they relate to one another. Know their local culture, language, and customs. Bottom line: Localize, localize, localize.