Why Translation Alone Isn’t Enough for Marketing to Hispanic Customers!

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About the Author

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Alexander Negrete

Alex is an innovative leader who develops sales and marketing strategies that deliver results for IWCO clients. As Head of Hispanic Marketing, he helps our clients get the right message to the right customer at the right time – including understanding the intricacies of Hispanic markets. A graduate of the University of Minnesota with a BS degree in Graphic Design and Marketing, his favorite business philosophy is “Si te caes siete veces, levántate ocho.” – If you fall 7 times, get up 8. When he’s not in the office he is in the kitchen experimenting with global recipes or cheering on the Minnesota United Football Club.

In my last post, Direct Mail Strategies to Engage a Hispanic Audience, I introduced the concept that just translating your marketing message from English to Spanish is not enough to engage Hispanic-American consumers. Now, I would like to expand on this and discuss how you must adapt your Hispanic marketing efforts to reach this audience, earn their trust, and turn them into loyal customers.

It’s important to understand that like other demographic groups, Hispanics aren’t monolithic. Hispanic-Americans often have been viewed as a single segment, when in reality they are a diverse group with different experiences, perspectives, and expectations that make up several segments. We come from different nations, speak many Spanish language variations, and draw from traditions from many countries-of-origin to influence our buying decision-making.

Reflecting the recipient’s culture alone represents 40% of a campaign’s success, and authentic cultural expressions increase brand perception by 277% and purchase intent by 175% (2021 ANA Multicultural Conference). Yet many marketers make the mistake of not taking cultural relevance into account when planning their campaigns. Simply mimicking your general market campaign through translation or imagery isn’t going to drive the marketing performance you want.

Compounding the complexity of Hispanic marketing campaigns are multiple countries-of-origin and acculturation, generational status, and language preferences. When creating content for such a diverse audience, cultural norms and practices should be an integral part of the process.

Why Transcreation is Important to Keep in Mind

Transcreation takes the ideas expressed in a marketing campaign and creates new, culturally relevant content appropriate for the targeted audience, instead of strictly translating existing materials. This ensures that the messaging does not offend your audience and makes sense to them. It also ensures the message resonates and connects emotionally with your audience.

A good place to start is with the fact that there is no simple translation for some Spanish words. There are subtle emotions and nuances that can be missed in a literal English-to-Spanish translation. For example, in English we only have one version of “you”—whether it is a business contact or your best friend—but in Spanish, there is a formal way of addressing someone (“usted”), and an informal way (“tu”). The pronoun “you” in English does not have the same impact as the choice of using “tu” vs. “usted” in Spanish, and you wouldn’t want to offend your prospects by addressing them incorrectly.

Acculturation Levels and Generational Status are Essential to Hispanic Marketing

Acculturation is the process of adapting and adjusting to a new environment, and this process takes multiple generations. Acculturation levels measure the degree to which your audience retains traits of their Hispanic culture while acquiring American cultural elements. Hispanic-American consumers across different acculturation levels have different characteristics. Thus, understanding acculturation levels is essential for Hispanic marketing as it impacts imagery, messaging, and usage of words such as “we” vs. “I.”

Cross-cultural generations are hybrids, living a duality that few discern either culturally or linguistically. Generational status helps you understand language preferences and fine-tunes messaging to develop a greater connection and engagement. Understanding these similarities and differences allows you to tailor your data and unique insights into relevant engagements.

Infusing Your Creative with Cultural Insights

At IWCO Direct, our creative process for Hispanic marketing begins with an Audience and Category Analysis. This process helps us discover those nuances below the surface that legitimize and give authenticity to our storytelling. The insights gained are valuable, but keep in mind that insights are not data. They involve digging for the truth. All cultures have different norms and values, and understanding how they fit together involves asking yourself:

  • Who is my target audience? (Consider relevant demographic information―age, gender, location, etc.)
  • What is their acculturation level?
  • What cultural values/beliefs make them different from the general market?
  • What is their consumer mindset? (This can be determined by establishing their country of origin, life stage, and cultural values and norms.)
  • What is their language preference—all Spanish, all English, or a combination of both?

In the end, the goal is to create meaningful, in-culture dialogues with your Hispanic-American prospects by connecting with them as a diverse set of individuals within the general market. Here are some best practices that will help you increase the cultural relevance of your Hispanic marketing campaigns:

  • Be authentic;
  • Be linguistically relevant;
  • Be culturally germane;
  • Understand acculturation levels/roles;
  • Acknowledge generational level;
  • Remain sensitive to stereotypes;
  • Promote and simplify advocacy;
  • Leverage testimonials.

Are you ready to connect with Hispanic-American consumers in ways that will engage them? Reach out to our team of marketing experts to see how our culturally fluid performance improvement can work for you.

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