Want to reach the Latino
market? Are you speaking their language?
Brigitta S. Toruño
With Latinos the fastest growing segment of our population, I am often approached by companies looking for the best way to reach and engage U.S. Latinos. As with any type of marketing campaign, the answer is always the same, Take the Time to Understand Your Audience.
U.S. companies have great experience marketing to English speakers only, and until recently, that marketing was often directed primarily at white, middle-class consumers. While companies have made great strides reaching out to non-white consumers culturally, marketing to Latinos of course adds the dimension of language in as well.
By segmenting and really understanding your target audience, companies can best reach the appropriate group within the Latino market.
Who are you trying to reach?
If you are trying to reach the older generation of U.S. Latinos, those born outside of the U.S., your communications need to be in Spanish. While your message can be in English as well, your best bet is to focus on Spanish. AARP does a really good job of reaching out to the older Spanish-speaking population, publishing their magazine in both English and Spanish.
For the younger generation of U.S. Latinos, those that were schooled in the U.S., it is important to offer communications in English and Spanish. This group most likely was born in the U.S. and speaks English fluently. These Latinos may not know Spanish enough to express themselves, but they do understand it when it is spoken to them. Smart companies will market to this group in English but keep a Latino flair in the messaging. By including some Spanish in the message, companies can reach older generations as well as emphasize both bilingualism and biculturalism. One great example of this is Tide’s recent TV commercial: .
While the above are general guidelines for companies, keep in mind that there are exceptions that I always like to highlight. When communicating in high-stress industries such as medical financial, and legal, it is always advisable to have both languages available for U.S. Latinos.
How are you going to reach them?
So, understanding when to use Spanish and when to use English is our first challenge solved. But what about dialects? In a great many cases, we advise companies to use what we call “Universal Spanish” - this is Spanish which is understood by the citizen of any Spanish-speaking Latin American country. So, a broad marketing campaign used nationwide would often use this type of Spanish. In other cases, when a language is just used regionally, we adjust accordingly. For example, translating materials for a Los Angeles market, we ensure that our work is in Mexican Spanish.
Any time you are marketing in a language which is not your own, it is best to seek the services of a professional translation agency. When trying to engage U.S. Latinos, make sure that the agency has direct experience and expertise in this market AND has cultural business know-how. Many firms can translate words from one language to another, but to understand the cultural values and subtle nuances in the Latino market is key. Once your company can show that you are “speaking their language”, the chances are much higher for business to follow.