"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:
1. If the prospect base is broad, or you are unable to identify the geographic origins of the people on your list, then keep the Spanish dialect neutral.
2. If you're targeting a specific sub-set of the Hispanic market, then acknowledge where they come from by using the Spanish spoken in that country.
3. When in doubt, mail in both English and Spanish, because many Hispanics don't read or speak Spanish.
But language is just one facet of this dynamic market. "Throw in the recency of immigration," Bieler continues, "and you have even further complexity within families and communities. Just as there is no one 'voice' to use in communicating with all English speakers at once, there is no simple silver bullet to Hispanic marketing. The best advice I can give to someone who wishes to appeal to the fastest-growing segment in the United States is not to oversimplify.
"Direct marketing requires painstaking knowledge of the customer to appeal to a segment of one."
Bieler's advice sounds like good old direct marketing common sense, doesn't it? We've known all along about segmentation; about creative that speaks in a relevant voice to prospects and customers; about learning how they think and react; about making that all important one-to-one connection; about designing materials in which they see themselves and their concerns.