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Buenas Suerte!

January 2003 By Lois K. Geller


Good Luck With the Hispanic market!


By Lois K. Geller


As I find our agency doing more work in Spanish for markets in South America, I've been "noodling" over the potential of the Hispanic market here in the United States.

So I asked someone from my office to buy a few Spanish-language magazines and newspapers today. She came back with People en Español, Vogue en Español, Vanidades, Architectural Digest en Español and El Diario. There were plenty more on the newsstand, but she ran out of cash.

Apparently, there's no shortage of ways to reach Spanish-speaking prospects and, judging by the people I see here in New York and in Miami, where my Mom lives, we should be reaching them because they have a good deal of money to spend.

I called Liz Bieler, who works at American Express, to ask her advice. She said:

When it comes to direct marketing, the term 'hispanic marketing' doesn't really apply. Direct marketing is about targeting. The term 'Hispanic' is a broad stroke applied to an extremely varied audience held together primarily by a language of many dialects.

The word Hispanic is used fairly loosely. If you dig deeper into the Hispanic population, you will begin to understand its depth and richness. It consists of people from approximately 43 countries, as well as third- and fourth-generation Americans who may not even speak Spanish. They are of different races, different tastes, different political experiences and viewpoints, and different socio-economic circumstances.

To newcomers, Hispanic marketing may seem like a black hole that is best addressed by translation from English [campaigns]. This approach can lead to disaster.

Bieler points out the famous example of Chevy trying to market its new car, the Nova, in Spanish-speaking countries. While Nova in English sounds like it might be something new or a bright star, in Spanish, it reads as "no va," which means "it doesn't go."

"The Spanish language varies broadly by country and even by region," Bieler explains, "as do the people who speak it."

"It is the same with English," she adds. "Compare the way English is spoken in Liverpool to the way it's spoken in Brooklyn or New Orleans. Imagine an Australian, a Glaswegian, a South African and a Kentucky Colonel having a conversation. They'd be speaking the same language, but it sure wouldn't sound like it.

If you're not certain of how to approach the language issue, Daniel R. Davila, also of American Express, recommends the following:
 

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