In fact, the word “Hispanic” itself can be controversial. There are some people of Latin American descent who dislike the term entirely and prefer to be called Latino, and then there are others who overwhelmingly prefer to be called Hispanic instead of Latino.
Brands who are looking to use culture to appeal to this audience have to be aware of these distinctions.
There’s a perception that the best way to market to Hispanics (or Latinos) is to do so in Spanish. This can be an incredibly effective marketing tactic, because it shows a level of commitment in reaching the audience. However, there are some nuances that must be addressed — not least because Spanish is not a monolithic language. Every region puts its own spin on it, whether by having its own vocabulary, idioms, or general manner of speaking.
Spanish spoken in the Dominican Republic, for instance, has its roots in dialects from Andalusía and the Canary Islands while also incorporating vocabulary from languages indigenous to the Caribbean and South America. That makes it distinct from, say, Spanish spoken in Argentina.
To give an example of this, say you’re a company looking to sell eyeglasses. In Colombia and Spain, eyeglasses are referred to most commonly as “gafas,” but many other countries (the Dominican Republic, Mexico, Panama, Peru, etc.) refer to them as “lentes.” Still others prefer to use “anteojos.”
So, when you craft your messaging, you have to make a choice: Do you refer to the glasses in a term that is specific to a certain region, or do you refer to them in a general way that doesn’t take into account any regional variation? Do you try to cultivate a relationship with a select group of people, or do you make your message broad to appeal to as many people as possible? Each comes with its own risks.
Not only do advertisers have to take into account language differences, they also have to consider regional differences between Hispanics and Latinos located throughout the country. Where someone decides to make their home can have a significant impact on how they choose to express their culture.
Hispanics of similar origin tend to cluster in the same areas. Currently, eight states — California, New Mexico, Arizona, Texas, Florida, New York, Illinois, and New Jersey — contain almost three-quarters of the entire Hispanic population, according to Pew Research Center. The majority of Hispanics in those first four hail from Mexico, while Puerto Ricans and Dominicans make up the bulk of those living in the Northeast. Miami, meanwhile, is well-known for being a haven for those of Cuban descent.
Knowing this, brands might consider looking at the Hispanic audience from a local level and focus on targeting campaigns to certain communities. For example, if you know that audiences in California or Texas are more likely to be of Mexican descent, you could get away with including Mexican slang or phrasing in an ad, or incorporating imagery that would be familiar to a Mexican audience.
Some brands might find all of this information-gathering daunting. However, this initial investment is essential if you’re trying to reach and communicate with Hispanics successfully. Having a clear understanding of your audience (See my earlier piece for more info) ensures authenticity as well as effective and efficient campaigns, guaranteeing engagement and awareness within the larger, multicultural U.S. Hispanic market.