Spanish-Language Content Surprisingly Lacking on Internet

Marketers, Wake Up and Learn How to Tap the Buying Power of Growing Hispanic Population

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Pete Blackshaw
Pete Blackshaw
Participation is all the rage these days -- or is it?

I suppose it depends on how you define it. If you talk to the Web 2.0 crowd or all the marketing execs waxing poetic about social media, you'd think everyone, from mainstream to emerging segments, has a big seat at the Long Tail table.

Then again, if you survey the landscape of brand websites, mini-sites and Facebook brand pages, you'll be struck by the surprising absence or marginalization (intentional or not) of Spanish-language content.

I'm not just talking about the global brand websites dedicated to Mexico or Spain, but rather the U.S.-based sites with growing numbers of Spanish-dominant households in their targets. Now, I'm not suggesting U.S. brand websites shouldn't have English as the official default language. But I wonder why, even for brands where Hispanics and Latinos dominate the buyer or emerging buyer set, Spanish-language content is so sparse or even nonexistent.
Wendy's gets it: Spanish-language version of its site is one click away.
Wendy's gets it: Spanish-language version of its site is one click away.

The U.S. Census Bureau says Hispanics already exceed 15% of the U.S. population. One in five U.S. residents will be Hispanic/Latino by 2020. And consider that the vast majority of Hispanic households prefer to speak Spanish at home.

Some big brands such as Coke, Kraft, McDonald's and Pepsi have pockets of compelling Spanish-language content; it's just not easily accessible and often easier to find via an ad or sponsorship banner than by visiting the brand's home page. Type the words "Spanish" or "Español" into the "Welcome to Burger King" website search engine, and it will fire back, "No item was found using that term" -- this from a brand winning plaudits for its next-generation and buzz-building marketing techniques.

We should search and reapply from the online innovators. Fast-growing Zappos (the subject of my last column) isn't shy about screaming Spanish-language content right in the center of its website. Home Depot and Wendy's get you to compelling Spanish content in one click.

We need to take a harder look at organizational dynamics. In the same way that many brands have siloed digital, many well-intentioned Hispanic, African-American or ethnic marketing efforts have found themselves divorced from online marketing efforts or consideration, even from basic usability research.

Pete Blackshaw is exec VP of Nielsen Online Digital Strategic Services and author of 'Satisfied Customers Tell Three Friends, Angry Customers Tell 3,000' (DoubleDay). His biweekly column looks at the relationship between marketing and customer service in the age of consumer control.
We also need to tackle our own schizophrenia. Marketers tend to over-position the power of targeted marketing, customization and the Long Tail, while anchoring success to what we deem the lowest-hanging-fruit opportunities. "Today, expanding to other languages seems like an afterthought -- the ignored stepchild," said Robin Sneider of data-mining firm Collective Intellect.

But if customization is the web's secret sauce, maybe we need to shift our return-on-investment models to winning with "other" segments. Combine this with the fact that Hispanics and Latinos tend to be more brand loyal than non-Hispanic white consumers, and we have every incentive to get it right on the service, interface and listening fronts.

Winning with Hispanics and Latinos will require way more than a field trip to a Cinco de Mayo or Hispanic Heritage month event. If we really want the right insights, we need to advertise and enable feedback in Spanish (and perhaps also other languages over time). We might even use the power of Spanish-language video to better communicate key concepts.

What's most important is that we dignify all consumers with whom we have a loyalty or advocacy-driving opportunity. We're not even close, but the potential is huge -- nay, gigante.
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