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:
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.
Listening to Bieler, it occurred to me that selling to Hispanics is the same kind of challenge as selling to any large group. It's cultural literacy.
Patrick Reynolds at the U.S. Postal Service says: "There are more Hispanics in the United States than people living in Canada. The Hispanic market is divided into numerous segments, and each segment migrated to the United States for different reasons—some political and some economic. These are the factors to focus on.
"The Hispanic population will adapt to and adopt a product … make it their own … but first the product needs to provide relevant benefits for them," he says.
We can't treat Juan Gonzales the same way we'd treat Brad Anderson, if we want to become Juan Gonzales' best friend, a company he trusts and wants to do business with.
I remember that we had the same challenges when I worked in Canada. A big chunk of the country's population speaks French. Many marketers approached them with the same creative they sent to English-speaking Canadians, basically translations or adaptations. It worked OK, but when we started developing our creative in French, thinking in French, we started getting much better results.
The same thing can happen here. All we have to do is be like Nike, and "Just do it."
Let me know what you think. And I'd love to hear about how you're doing with marketing in Spanish.
Lois K. Geller is president of Mason & Geller Direct Marketing, a full-service direct response agency in NYC. She is the author of "RESPONSE! The Complete Guide to Profitable Direct Marketing." She can be reached at loisgeller@ masongeller.com.