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In Culture vs In Language


I’ve spent the last twenty years trying to demystify financial services to my Hispanic clients. Whether it was insurance, banking products, investments or mortgages, it has always been more challenging than my counterparts that marketed to the general population. However, the effort always paid off and I managed to grow an annuity of loyal customers who referred me to their family and friends. After a few years with major brands in the financial services world, I saw many approaches that companies took to capture this important market share.  The demographics told the story and none of the firms doubted the incredible market opportunity.  With the U.S. Hispanic population at 53 million today, and 120 million expected by 2050, the question really isn’t whether or not to market to Hispanics.  The question is really, how?

A company’s first inclination may be to translate all their collateral materials, website and advertising to Spanish. Though a noble thought, is it really necessary? The answer is that it depends. Just like a company’s market approach varies by customer profile, so should their Hispanic efforts.  Identifying the value proposition of your product or service and matching it to Hispanic customer profile will determine the necessity of your language needs.  However, you can always connect by staying “In culture”.

Investing the time to learn about their cultural characteristics and the values will drive them to trust your brand. For instance, Hispanic consumers don’t want to be sold to, they want to connect with brands that embrace their culture and commit themselves to earning long-term and trustworthy relationships.

The need to stay connected to the culture is one aspect of the Hispanic market that is common across the age spectrum. Young Hispanics, which make up 20 percent of all U.S. Millennials (18-19 years old), aspire to be ambicultural: equally Latino and equally American. They are more inclined to spend time with their families than their non-Hispanic white counterparts and hold on to their Hispanic culture and traditions according to an article by Juan Tornoe in PR Newswire, October 24, 2013 entitled, “A Peek at Hispanic Millenials”.

A recent article from Latinpost (March 4, 2015) stated younger Hispanics are opting to brush up and learn the language in order to stay connected.  According to a 2014 Pew Research Center survey, just 6 percent of second-generation Mexican Americans stated Spanish was their dominant language.

The net message is that it is more important to connect with the cultural nuances and values held by the many different ethnicities that make up the Hispanic market.  However, do the research to find out if the product or service you offer is one that would appeal to a recent immigrant or a Spanish language dominant consumer.  In either case, partner with a trusted advisor that can help you create a strategy to appeal to this very important segment.

L. Maria Vergara
L. Maria Vergara
L. Maria Vergara is President of NAHREP Consulting Services, a marketing consulting firm specializing in the Hispanic segment and Housing industry.

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