Go On, Use English (or Spanglish); It's OK

Trying to Reach All 45 Million Hispanics

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Tommy Thompson Tommy Thompson
A few weeks ago, the U.S. Census Bureau released updated data on the size and makeup of the U.S. Hispanic population. The statistics show that this demographic now comprises more than 45 million consumers. The magnitude of the number speaks for itself, but what concerns me is the idea of falling short on the promise that is made to existing and prospective clients.

Obviously, the rationale behind targeting Hispanics is to tap into this treasure trove of 45 million consumers with incredible buying power. Yet, when one looks at the strategies and programs that are planned and executed against the segment, they fall short on their ability to reach all 45 million. It seems to me that this is because of how the market has always been perceived, thought about and, most important, sold.

Since the 2000 census, our industry has done a great job leveraging the numbers to sell the ever-growing size of the Hispanic population and talking about the millions of people that our market represents. We can all quote population, spending power, percentage growth, list mature and emerging markets, acculturation levels, etc. But, what I don't understand is why, even with this data, we only execute halfway. Is it because we are afraid that we will be replaced with "general market" agencies because a segment of our consumer prefers English?

For years, the focus was to sell "Hispanic" as a segment that few, if any, non-Hispanics could understand and for whom Spanish was the only way to communicate. Times have changed to the point where the emphasis shouldn't be only on language, but also on the media vehicles and overall strategies implemented in connecting with the segment. Don't get me wrong, Spanish is an integral piece of the equation for reaching a considerable portion of the Hispanic population. But, at the same time, there is also a considerable segment of Hispanic consumers who use Spanish at home or at work, but not in how they consume their media.

The challenge becomes truly understanding what Hispanic consumer you're going after, their world, the insights that drive them, their behavior and what a typical day in their life looks like. Only then we can accurately define the media intersection points and the appropriate means through which to reach these consumers.

As I am sure most in the Hispanic advertising industry are updating their presentation decks and fact sheets to reflect these new demographic figures, those interested in going after all 45 million Hispanics need not be afraid to have the conversation about efforts to reach consumers through a combination of Spanish, English or even Spanglish. This goes further than simply retracking in English the spot originally created for the Spanish-speaking segment. The communication efforts must be able to capture the nuances and insights that are relevant to each segment. And nuances do exist. After all, the way that a Hispanic consumer relates to a specific product or service, as well as the drivers that motivate them to buy, may be different if they have been in the U.S. for three years, 15 years or were born here.

Fear not, my Hispanic advertising colleagues, just because our marketing efforts may be produced in English does not mean that our services will no longer be needed. On the contrary, the need for professionals who understand how to reach today's Hispanic consumer is more important than ever. Most of the growth among the Hispanic population is coming from Hispanics that are born in the U.S. These consumers have grown up here and spend a vast majority of their time in a "general market world," but still never loose their Hispanic core. As such, the advertising industry must adjust and adopt a different view to reach these consumers with messaging and insights that are relevant to them and through the media vehicles that intersect their everyday lifestyles in Spanish, English and even Spanglish. Only then will we really deliver on the full potential of the 45 million-consumer benchmark that we are so proud to have achieved.
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