Marketing to Latinos Online: The Culture vs. Language Debate

By Rob Coven | August 11, 2011

There is a discussion going on in the marketing to Latinos community as to how best to reach to the Latino/Hispanic community online.  Some are preaching that culture related messages go further than Spanish language content messages.  They say, “Don’t bother writing your website with Spanish content; just use Latino cultural images and style to create your message”.

latino cultureFrankly I just don’t see it that way at all.  It must be that those preaching this idea are only interested in marketing to the well to do, highly educated, lighter skinned, business savvy type of Hispanic/Latino who speaks English perfectly well and whose family has been in this country a long time.  Ironically, the statistics clearly show that 80% of Latinos speak Spanish at home regardless of economic or social status.  See 3rd chart at:  http://markettolatinos.com/demographic-economic-charts.html

The ‘IAB Hispanic Research Group’ has compiled a compelling report which underscores the value of marketing to Latinos/Hispanics online in Spanish even though many understand English.

You can download their report in full at: U.S. Latinos Online: A Driving Force

There is a pride and comfort factor for Latino culture to be able to read websites in Spanish rather than English; even if the cultural message is right on.  Latinos want to be recognized for who they are, language included.  Like many minority groups, there can be the feeling of being overlooked in the marketplace.  Using Spanish to market to Latinos lets them know you see them, accept them and welcome them to use your products and services.  Given there is a lack of Spanish language websites for them to visit, those that create Spanish language websites are going to have a big advantage in securing new clients and customers.

A good friend of mine who is from Colombia and who is fully bilingual tells me she prefers to visit Spanish language websites even though she is capable of reading English ones.  She likes the feeling of reading her native language. There is a distinct personal relationship a Spanish language website creates for her that one in English can’t.   Do you prefer ‘mom’s home cooking’ or some strangers?   I would rather eat at home!

I look at it as though, I, the marketer, am opening my arms and extending my hand to the Latino community.  By marketing to Latinos in Spanish, they know I recognize, accept and welcome them.   Many may feel unseen or unimportant in the social/economic picture in the U.S. if they are not specifically identified by their native language or the native language of their parents and grandparents.  There is an issue of respect here.   I always speak Spanish to Latinos because I respect both their language and culture. I always encourage clients to create Spanish language websites for at least this very reason.    If you want to be most effective, market to Latinos by identifying their cultural norms and their mother language.  You will be much more successful by doing so.

Rob Coven is president and founder of Market To Latinos an online, Spanish language based, marketing and consulting company. He has been working and living with the Spanish speaking and Latino community since 1984. He writes blogs and shares important articles and research on the Spanish speaking population in the U.S. and abroad. Call Rob at 706-850-7555 or info@MarketToLatinos.com.

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