Today, the birthrate of Hispanics in the U.S. outpaces the rate of immigration, and U.S.-born children to immigrant parents typically result in bilingual homes. The growth of this population is so exponential that the U.S. Census Bureau has revised its projections for a majority-minority-nation by eight years, from 2050 to 2042. Yet, the way most tend to think of language does not reflect this shift.
Can you run English creative on a Spanish site? Does it impact performance? Would consumers attracted to a site by a Spanish-language advertisement be offended if the destination were in English? For marketers and publishers alike, these questions are common and the concerns are valid, yet they do not accurately capture the issue at heart.
If the content of a marketing campaign is not relevant, language alone will not drive consumers to a site. Likewise, it is equally shortsighted to think this audience can be reached via general market efforts based on the fact that the majority can speak English.
Within the U.S., the majority of Hispanics are bilingual and bicultural. As such, language choice is most often a reflection of preference, not necessity. In fact, studies and syndicated reports have consistently shown that language choice varies by situation.
The same person will often have three different answers when asked in what language he reads, surfs the internet and converses at the dinner table. And, when Terra USA asks its users about their language preference on Terra.com, the answer is more than likely: "Cualquiera (either), I speak both." Language is simply a vehicle. For consumers, where they come from and where we take them is of utmost importance.
While there is no magic formula for reaching a bilingual audience, we do know that a good starting point is the combination of value proposition, creative message, post-click experience, cultural relevancy and, of course, the media plan-not necessarily the language. It is one thing to be within the line of sight or earshot of consumers and quite another to reach them with a culturally relevant approach.
For example, a recent English-language Telco campaign designed to promote long distance services to U.S. Hispanics brought users to a destination page displaying rates to call Europe, not Latin America. On the other hand, the current Toyota Venza campaign is a prime example of a marketer "getting us." The campaign plays on the nuances of the three Spanish variations of "car" and "tire," in turn centering on language while celebrating diversity.
Language is invariably tied to Latino identity, and both are constantly evolving. Forty percent of Hispanic Internet users claim Spanish as their first language but, depending on their exposure to Spanish in the U.S., they will probably become as or more proficient in English.
The appeal of the online landscape is that it is conducive to an ever-changing bilingual experience, allowing people to explore their identities, reinforce ties to their countries of origin and even forge new identities anonymously with user-generated content. For marketers and consumers alike, language is a vehicle traversing a wide open field, and we are driving together towards a majority-minority future.