It surprises me how often clients believe that marketing strategies to reach the Hispanic consumer should be exclusively in Spanish or distributed on Spanish-language media outlets. They seem to be unaware that more than 60% of growth in the Hispanic market comes from U.S. births, or that 33.2 million Hispanics over the age of five (68%) now speak English proficiently, as verified by Pew Research Center. While many marketers today understand, and are very interested in the opportunity that Hispanics with $1.5 billion in buying power represent, they naively expect a solution that is talla única (one-size-fits-all).
The lack of understanding of language usage and the acculturation process among Hispanics is one of the key reasons many U.S. brands are currently missing big with Latinos. Limiting your Hispanic marketing efforts to only Spanish and communicating exclusively on Spanish-language media eliminates a broader opportunity to grow your brand equity and engage with Latino consumers of all acculturation levels.
As more and more marketing dollars are dedicated to digital, a realm where Hispanic consumers are leading in usage when it comes to social, mobile and the adoption of innovation, this language discrepancy is only exacerbated. Hispanic consumers search out content in English a majority of the time. Even Spanish-dominant Hispanics tend to use English online. According to a 2015 Google survey, only 16% of respondents used Spanish online and 94% of respondents said they felt comfortable consuming English content online for at least one common online activity (sharing, shopping, or researching).
It all comes down to user experience and what consumers are searching. In the past, U.S. Hispanics used Spanish to search for content but it didn’t generate great results; the quality and quantity of relevant content was not there. Bilingual U.S. consumers were “trained” that they would not find what they were looking for in Spanish. Potentially, their searches generated results on Latin American websites, but it wasn’t what they needed in the U.S. As a result, consumers adapted, even though English was not their preferred language. Now the Hispanic audience online is truly bilingual and bicultural, meaning using Spanish or English alone won’t suffice.
If you want to include digital in your strategy to reach Hispanics (and, trust me, you do) — 81% of the population is online and 54% say they use the internet more than TV when making purchase decisions — a more inclusive and insightful approach is necessary. Creating Spanish translations of your English language content and banner ads will not deliver the desired results.
It all comes back to user experience and engagement, which requires cultural relevancy. Rather than using language as the only connector, cultural identity and cues become more important, even if they are nuanced (no need for a sombrero or family setting in every picture). This is why using a variety of content and multiple voices to reach the Hispanic consumer can be so successful.
Utilizing Hispanic influencers from a multitude of backgrounds and acculturation levels can result in individualized content that resonates with different segments of your target. Integrating your brand and messaging into their user generated content allows you to communicate through a recent arrival who loves to cook traditional Cuban dishes, for example, as well as a second generation millennial mom who has decided to raise her children bilingual. Interestingly enough both pieces of content may be in English, but both will connect with a particular segment of the Hispanic audience and create the engagement and connection your brand needs to succeed online.