The Single, Most Powerful Insight When Marketing In Spanglish

  • by , Op-Ed Contributor, December 10, 2015

By now, smart marketers have figured out that one of the best ways to reach the Hispanic market is by breaking down the language barriers between English and Spanish. As the use of the English language continues to rise among Hispanics, it makes sense to leverage both languages.

This can mean different things for brands. Depending on your marketing strategy, it might make sense to use both languages equally (a bilingual approach), focus on one language more than the other, or even target Hispanics using Spanglish, which is a mix of the two.

We’ve explored the latter in several posts, where we’ve talked about how Spanglish can take your Hispanic marketing to the next level and the importance of having a dual language strategy. Here, we’ll take a deeper dive into an important insight we’ve learned from using Spanglish that relates to the way the languages and words are combined.



Combine Languages, but Don't Tangle the Words

Hispanics use Spanglish all the time. They might start one sentence in English, and finish their thoughts in Spanish, or vice versa. It’s so seamless, some don’t even realize that they are doing it. For brands, success here means hitting those same authentic high notes, where consumers feel emotionally connected and compelled to take action.

But there is one powerful insight that brands should keep in mind when using Spanglish: You can combine the languages, but don’t tangle the words.

Hispanics sometimes use words that are a mix of English and Spanish such as lonche (lunch), tiquetes (tickets) or marketa (supermarket). These kinds of words have long been associated with linguistic laziness, and, therefore, can generate strong negative reactions. They are often seen as disrespectful to both language and culture, and even frowned upon when spoken in social settings.

This is especially true when it comes from a brand.

For marketers, words like these can be like land mines in a Facebook news feed, waiting to spray their shareable shrapnel of bad PR. They turn consumers off, and it makes brands come across as inauthentic at best and disrespectful at worst.

Here’s a list of more hybrid words to watch out for:

Wachar (to watch)

Biles (bills)

Troca (truck)

Chilear (to chill)

Mapear (to mop)

Janguear (hang out)

Weldiar (to weld)

Frizar (to freeze)

Rufero (roofers)

Freimeros (framers)

With the exception of specialized terminology in the world of business and information technology, where the adoption of English is more common, try to stay away from these words.

What Brands Should Do

Using Spanglish as part of your marketing strategy can pay off big time. It can help you create long-term relationships with engaged, tech savvy Hispanic audiences that crave culturally relevant content. 

If you’re marketing to Hispanics, make sure you understand the nuances of the language and culture when developing a dual language strategy. When it comes to Spanglish, remember this Spanish saying: juntos, pero no revueltos (together, but not tangled up).

1 comment about "The Single, Most Powerful Insight When Marketing In Spanglish".
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  1. Jackie Bird from Redbean Society, LLC, December 10, 2015 at 2:45 p.m.

    You are right on how we speak as I am guilty of both using some dual language slang words and starting sentences in one language and ending them in the other.

    However, I have a different take when it comes to communication...In a recent panel at the NYC Hispanic TV Summit, a number of TV media executives discussed that bilingual programming with Spanglish as a common thread has not done well in attracting the Hispanic audiences, as referenced by the ratings and track record for Telemundo's Mun2 and Univision's El Rey. The conclusion was that bilingual, bicultural Hispanics make a choice when they tune in to English or Spanish language media and are not receptive to bilingual jargon or Spanglish as it relates to programming content. From that perspective, I question that they would be receptive to it in marketing communications. One thing is to deliver content that recognizes the cultural nuances of bicultural Hispanics; that's called a bicultural strategy. Yet another is to accept Spanglish as a form of language from American brands. It's simply not authentic, so a dual language strategy is not the answer. 

    For advertising messages, my advice is to speak the language of choice for the media platform selected with targeted messages that originate with a bicultural insight; as it relates to social media, speak to them in the language they choose to speak to you. And use either language in its true form with an authentic brand voice.

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