Commentary / Ledvi Beza

Three things to consider when marketing to Hispanics

Hispanic marketing has come a long way from the robotic phone operator of years past trying her best in a clear, but obviously Midwestern accent, telling you to “oh-preema-dose.” While some organizations continue to let her hang around, others are doing more to connect with Hispanic audiences. Some brands have even developed strikingly creative ads. Or at least ads that make me, a second-generation Hispanic, giggle (in a good way).

But it seems like we’re still trying very hard to convince companies of the same facts we were a decade ago. “Hispanics are the fastest growing group…$1 trillion in disposable income…Hispanic outreach makes good business sense…” I began studying Hispanic marketing 10 years ago, and I’ve heard this all before. We all have. And I think it’s past time to start sharing something new.

I recently read a blog in the New York Times that assuaged my frustration by letting me know I wasn’t the only one who felt this way. The article covers the things we already know (widely discussed characteristics about the Hispanic market), but also discusses the things we don’t know (like why we’re still having the same conversations). It ultimately concluded that intimidation causes many marketers to shy away from reaching out .

Marketers and organizations know why they should target Hispanics, and they even get excited about, maybe one day, actually doing it. But for many, it isn’t something they’re putting real time, money and effort into because they don’t speak Spanish and/or aren’t familiar with Hispanic-specific media, which isn’t even that key (at all) to reaching Hispanics. And in the end, they miss out on engaging a potentially lucrative segment.

Most Hispanics today consume English-language media, and many are English-dominant. Why then even treat us as a separate market? We’re bicultural. We belong here and there. We’re cultural omnivores, and we want to know that brands and organizations understand that we value LOVE the crazy arroz con mango we come from. (First, Google Translate “arroz con mango,” take a picture of your face as you read it, and send it to me. Then I’ll explain. Second, never use Google Translate as your “Hispanic Marketing Strategy.” We know who you are, and I can assure you we’re either mocking your cultural ignorance or offended by your lazy and unseemly attempt to communicate with us. Now you know.)

Here are a few things to consider if you’re serious about incorporating Hispanic outreach into your marketing strategy and want to get it right:

  1. We’re not all the same. Hispanics from Cuba are different than Hispanics from Central America. Don’t get stuck in the pit of “Hey, let’s just translate our copy into Spanish and we’ll be all set!” As with any audience segment, you MUST understand the specific population you’re trying to reach before you can effectively communicate with them.
  2. Never “just translate” your marketing messages. (See my comment about Google Translate above. If you’re simply changing words to make them look and sound more ethnic, there’s a solid chance you will look and sound ignorant, irrelevant…and maybe even offensive.)
  3. Don’t let fear stand in the way of growing your business. If you’re uncomfortable with or intimidated by devising creative strategies to reach the Hispanic population, then partner with someone who already understands your audience. Consider it an investment that stands to provide a significant and measurable return.

Enough with the ranting, here are two Hispanic ads that made me giggle in a good way:

  • This Volkswagen ad is funny, insightful and efficient.
  • This Taco Bell ad translated the lyrics of a popular Notorious B.I.G. song into Spanish, which is and sounds ridiculous, but it’s fun, and I watched the whole thing without changing the channel.

If you’re a Hispanic consumer like me, what advice would you give to companies attempting to sell you their products or services?

If you’re an organization attempting to reach Hispanic populations, what’s holding you back?