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Spanish has held families and cultures together for centuries and serves as a source of cultural fulfillment for U.S. Hispanics; however, many marketers, and their clients, are asking: “Is Spanish likely to remain the language of preference among U.S. Hispanics? Or will English become more important as consumers acculturate?”

The answer to these questions becomes more apparent when you dig a little deeper and understand that as the community evolves and matures, advertisers’ approach to language must also evolve.

Language is part of one’s identity and is undeniably connected to emotions. Understanding the relationship between language, culture and human experience is a powerful tool for marketers. When targeting U.S. Hispanics, one of the biggest challenges is to recognize the diversity within the group. As with any population, Hispanics can be divided into various segments. Acculturation levels, language preferences and different countries of origin make for unique sub-groups within the segment, as do socioeconomic indicators.

There are clear differences in behavior, attitudes and language preferences among these groups, and recognizing these differences is key to developing a cohesive Hispanic strategy from concept to messaging to media placement. It is unrealistic to expect a single language strategy to work successfully for the entire Hispanic consumer market.

So What Do I Say?

The Spanish language is alive and constantly changing; new words and phrases appear regularly. Many U.S. companies commonly attempt to reach the Spanish-speaking market through the use of translated marketing and advertising materials. Straight translations, which depend on an accurate linguistic text transfer from English to Spanish, tend to miss the emotional and culturally relevant elements. Some results will be there, but not with the strength and recall that a truly culturally attuned marketing effort can attain. In fact, in some instances, direct translations can be misinterpreted or even offensive.

When appropriate, strive to develop concepts in the preferred language of the audience. If the target is Spanish-dominant, develop and execute your creative concepts in Spanish. There are certain nuances and experiences that the native Spanish speaker will find lacking in translated copy. Endeavor to maintain that integrity on behalf of your clients.

When a project entails bilingual communication, the preferred approach is to transcreate (or adapt) the message. Transcreation is the process of determining the suitability of an original creative message to an ethnic group, and if suitable, transferring the creative concept, not just the words, in an appropriate tone and graphic look. Basically, a translation is about words, while transcreations are about ideas. Keep in mind that bilingual Hispanics may compare your Spanish version to the English version to ensure that they are receiving the same message, in both languages.

In conclusion, it is critical to understand the relationship the consumer, or prospective consumer, has with your product or service. Cultural insights are vital to developing results-oriented messaging, as is the identification of socioeconomic indicators. The key to successfully engaging Hispanic consumers lies in segmentation and localization. It is absolutely essential to appeal to all aspects of the consumer, not just his or her ethnicity or language preference.

At that end of the day, it is time for organizations and agencies alike to stop confusing Hispanic Marketing with Spanish-language Marketing and start speaking to the market in a way that suggests you’ve done your homework!


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