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A V I A L A N G U AG E W H I T E PA P E R
Build Loyalty with Bilingual Spanish/English Materials
Smart companies recognize that the U.S. marketplace is changing. They are aware that Hispanic audiences are becoming an increasingly influential demographic. As the fastest growing community in the country, the Hispanic market is forcing entire industries to rethink their definition of the U.S. consumer. This is not an easy transition, as “Latino” or “Hispanic” refers to an origin or ethnicity, not a race. As a result, there is no single, uniform “Hispanic market.” The range of acculturation levels, language preferences, and countries of origin has created a complex mix of unique sub-groups, all of which consider themselves Hispanic. When communicating with this diverse audience, companies cannot simply retrofit existing strategies that may have worked with their previous general markets. A host of factors, from historical, to cultural and even financial contribute to putting Hispanic consumers in an entirely different category. Instead, companies must return to the fundamentals of marketing: What are the customs of these audiences? What communication mediums do they prefer? How are their tastes different than other established markets? How best do we grab their attention, and once captured, how do we inspire loyalty? Marketers will also want to know what unifies Hispanics. The key is the Spanish language. Spanish connects these varied countries and cultures regardless of their history or location. It is a shared identity that binds one to the other as each continues in its own way to inform and influence the language. But that means that among the 20+ countries that speak Spanish, each has developed its own slightly distinct version, posing unique challenges for marketers. The result is that effectively engaging in the Hispanic market requires not only a firm grasp of Spanish, but a keen understanding of culture and how it impacts both the language and how it is used. Success demands a strategic, interdisciplinary approach that combines this critical knowledge with marketing best practices.
Moving online: Growing in size and spending power
Hispanics are the fastest growing segment of the online population. According to eMarketer, 52 percent of U.S. Hispanics, or about 23 million people, were online in 2008. More than 3.5 million new Hispanic users came online between June 2007 and June 2008 alone, representing growth of 21 percent versus 6 percent general market growth during the same period. By 2012, more than 29 million Hispanics are expected to be online. And these are not novice users. Half of the U.S Hispanic online population has been using the internet for more than three years. Approximately 27 percent of those 23 million users go online every day. They are familiar with eBay, they love Google and many have their own websites or blogs and are active on social networks. Online Hispanics earn more, are better educated, more acculturated and more likely to own a home. They tend to be young and responsive to targeted online experiences that appeal to their language needs and cultural background. With regard to social networks, even Hispanics of 36 years and older are more active than their non-Hispanic white counterparts. Hispanics surf online more than they watch television, and in most cases, they are going online to research products. Jupiter Research reported that Hispanics are more likely than non-Hispanics to research products online before shopping offline. Jupiter Research also forecasts Hispanic online spending will reach $21 billion by 2011.
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Despite such numbers, companies have thus far neglected to fully tap this burgeoning market and even fewer are leveraging social media to do so. Those that devote the time and resources to engage this audience in ways that it finds meaningful will be rewarded with a sizable, engaged, loyal and increasingly affluent market.
The importance of bilingualism to building loyalty
Reaching the Hispanic market is not simply a matter of translating existing materials into Spanish. As has been noted above, such a strategy tends to ignore the emotional and culturally relevant touchstones necessary to effectively communicate with this demographic. A key distinction to bear in mind when engaging Hispanics is to remember that they live in a bilingual world. Studies show that they prefer to have a choice when it comes to reading English or Spanish on a Web site. A bilingual site not only gives them this choice, it also allows a company to reach all online Hispanics, regardless of their language preference. In addition, such an approach is thought to play a critical role in English language education and supporting family bilingualism. Whereas older family members prefer Spanish, younger users tend to prefer English. A bilingual Web site therefore allows families to experience a site together. Supporting such bilingualism sends a strong signal to the U.S. Hispanic market that a company is investing in them. This promise will be rewarded by loyalty and positive word of mouth, which is especially powerful online. But language is just the beginning. As is the case with any Hispanic marketing campaign, the goal is cultural relevance, and not necessarily grammatically precise translation. A Spanish translation will only be as effective as its ability to capture the critical cultural subtleties that are at the heart of successful communication with this audience. The challenge is further complicated by the issue of acculturation versus assimilation. Hispanics in the U.S. typically embrace the customs and habits of the U.S. without abandoning the traditions and value systems of their own culture. The result is that Latinos are unlikely to ever be fully assimilated, choosing instead a path of acculturation in which they seek to integrate their traditional values with those of the larger U.S. culture.
Translation, transcreation and original copy development
When it comes to producing highly creative content, the best strategy is often to develop the material in Spanish at the beginning as a way to promote the generation of content that is relevant to the target audience. While appropriate in such situations, bear in mind that original content creation can be impractical and costly if not employed judiciously. “Transcreation” may be a more suitable alternative depending on the need. A hybrid of original content creation and translation, transcreation involves taking translated content and localizing it to be culturally relevant for the target audience. Finally, translation is the best and most cost-effective solution when working with generic content such as forms, user guides, data sheets, legal documents, and other materials that do not have a strong creative element. It is also the preferred strategy to have the source language adhere to specific product or service requirements. Each approach has its place and should be included in a company’s communications toolbox. Each marketing campaign hinges on that company’s ability to match the right strategy to the right situation for optimum impact at the lowest cost. An experienced translation partner brings valuable insight to these critical assessments and then helps execute the plan.
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Which Spanish should I use?
We’ve established that a bilingual content strategy is likely to be the most effective with today’s rapidly growing U.S. Hispanic demographic. But given the enormous variety of Spanish-speaking nations that make up that group and their range of dialects, which version of Spanish is preferred? The choice is important and it directly impacts how clearly and effectively you will reach your audience. For example, most Spanish dialects have an informal and a formal form of the second person singular pronoun (“you”). But it varies from dialect to dialect. In some regions, tú is replaced by another pronoun, vos. In Spain, tú is informal and used with friends, but usted is formal, whereas in Cuba tú is used in very formal situations while usted is rarely used at all. Slang, pronunciation, suffixes, and vocabulary are other differentiators. “Avocadoes” and “chili peppers” are called aguacates and chiles in Mexico, but become paldas and ajies in South America. A “kite” is a papalote in Mexico but a barrilete in Argentina. Effectively communicating with such a diverse population of Spanish speakers is a complex enterprise. If you intend to speak to the entirety of this population, choosing a neutral, or pan-regional, Spanish that avoids colloquialisms is the best option. This methodology has helped make Univision the number five network in the U.S., behind ABC, NBC, CBS, and Fox. If, however, the target is a regional Spanish-speaking audience, employing a localized Spanish from that specific area or country could prove a more effective choice. For example, if your company serves only customers in Southern California, using a localized Mexican Spanish may be the best option.
Getting it right — every time
Success for many companies may very well be contingent upon their ability to meet the unique language and cultural demands of communicating with the growing U.S. Hispanic audience. Given this audience’s larger households, increasingly heavy concentration in important markets, rapid wealth creation and high consumerism, companies ignore it at their own peril. Engaging this market is, however, a complex understanding that requires a sound understanding of the audience and expert handling of the translation and transcreation demands. Done correctly, the rewards can be significant, putting companies in touch with a market comprised of some 45 million American consumers, many of whom have been waiting a long time for corporate America to speak their language.
At viaLanguage, our mission is to ensure that you reach your target audience every time and with communications that are meaningful, consistent, and effective. If you have questions about our translators or processes, or would like a free quote, contact us at www.viaLanguage.com or 1-800-737-8481.
Copyright 2009© viaLanguage. All Rights Reserved.