How to Engage Hispanic Consumers Authentically and Effectively

Sometime in early 2011 we can expect the release of the findings of the 2010 U.S. Census and it is projected to reflect an impressive rate of growth for the Hispanic segment of the population. Adding a multicultural component to their marketing plan makes a great deal of sense for many companies. As you work to put your strategy in place, consider the following important tips.

1. Address Consumers in a Culturally-relevant Manner

The most successful Hispanic advertising doesn’t simply reflect correct use of the Spanish language and Hispanic talent. It is based on careful insights that not only offer accurate glimpses of Hispanic life, but that also resonate with the target and tell them the advertiser cares enough to understand their values and interests. Things like humor, music and family, when used correctly, are also powerful triggers for this segment.

2. Speak their Language (Even if it Isn’t Spanish)

While it’s true that by now most of corporate America is clear on the fact that it is never a good idea to simply translate an English ad campaign to Spanish (we’ve all read the horror stories of the huge ad gaffes committed by some unfortunate advertisers), there still is some confusion related to the use of the Spanish language itself. Although U.S. Hispanics hail from many different Spanish-speaking countries, there still really is only one Spanish language, and one Spanish dictionary. For decades, the Hispanic ad community has been describing the ability to speak with one voice to the collective Hispanic market as using “Walter Cronkite Spanish.” As with English, while there are many different accents (British, Australian, Texas drawl, New Jersey, etc.) and many different colloquial expressions used in different English-speaking countries, you can communicate in a neutral and correct fashion in Spanish words that all Hispanics clearly understand and appreciate.

We can’t forget either that a large number of bilingual/bicultural Hispanics in the U.S. actually prefer English in some instances. When asked, Hispanics might choose to communicate in either language depending on their level of acculturation, or the task in question (sharing a meal at the table, responding to an SMS message or surfing the net, to name a few). Studying your target’s demographic and psychographic data will help pinpoint which language is best suited to your effort.

3. Consider Online and Mobile

The infamous “digital divide” that so many have pointed to as a reason for not pursing Hispanics via online marketing, has narrowed significantly over the last ten years. Even more exciting is the fact that the Hispanic “mobile divide” is also not long for this world. Granted, the penetration of web-enabled and 3G phones may not be what it is in the general market, but the truth is Hispanics are nevertheless a ripe segment for SMS programs. They are a virtually untapped and highly responsive target for these efforts, particularly bilingual and English-preferred Hispanics, who are heavier users of mobile than their General Market counterparts. Advertisers should strongly consider the potential of a “first-mover advantage” in this medium.

Keeping these three critical factors in mind as you work to develop your Hispanic marketing effort will help ensure your success in reaching this valuable segment of the population.