English or Spanish? Marketers Tiptoe Around the Issue

By Laura Martinez (Portada-Online.com)

When it comes to connecting with the fast-growing bicultural, bilingual Hispanic demographic, language is no longer -or at least, it should no longer be- the most important part of a brand’s marketing strategy. At least that was the agreement among participants of an all-marketers panel that kicked off Portada’s 6th Annual Hispanic Advertising and Media Conference in New York City on Thursday.

The panel, titled Spanish and/or English: That is the question, featured marketers from Tecate, General Mills, Diageo and Yahoo, who shared insights, challenges and opportunities with an audience, eager to know how marketers approach a population that is increasingly U.S. born, thus more bilingual and bicultural.

The discussion was kick started by Félix Palau, Tecate’s vp of marketing, who earlier this year stunned the Hispanic ad community by dropping its U.S. Hispanic creative shop in favor of Mexico City-based Olabuenaga Chemistri. For Palau, the move might have been part of a search for cost efficiencies, but it also showed that good creative, when done creatively, can work in both Mexico and the U.S. But Tecate’s shocker didn’t end there: In addition to dropping its U.S. shop (Ramona) Tecate also did something quite unusual. It said it would begin testing English-language advertising to cater to younger demos.

“We realized that in the long run the strategy of targeting only immigrants will not work, as that target [recent immigrants] is eventually going to shrink in size,” said Palau, who took the opportunity to showcase a :30 spot currently running in English-language TV in a few local markets. The spot, a hilarious take on a man talking about the looks of his girlfriend in a new dress, was warmly welcome with laughter by a nearly full auditorium.

Adding English to Spanish advertising strategies is no longer an oddity, though. A similar move is going over at General Mills, which has tested advertising mixing English and Spanish in the same message, in an effort to target multicultural families. “We believe that the most effective ads are those that fully represent the reality of Hispanics,” said Maria Rodas, multicultural marketing manager at General Mills. “And in many houses, they speak both English and Spanish… sometimes even at the same time,” said Rodas, whose brand has used a mix of both languages in Hispanic-targeted spots for its Progresso soup.

Declaring the death of the General Market
Taking a totally different approach, Marc Strachan, the vp of multicultural marketing of Diageo, shook things up by declaring the death of the “General Market.”

“Forget it!” sentenced Strachan. “Stop talking about ‘general market this’ ‘general market that’. There is no such thing. Please stop using that term,” said Strachan, who says the only way is to take a total market approach and embrace the multicultural market as part of the total market.

But what works and what doesn’t? That is a tricky question, though digital platforms have shown to be a good place to track quickly a campaign -or content- that is effective versus one that tanks immediately. Yahoo, for example, uses analytics to immediately track the content that it puts out there to target Hispanic audiences (regardless of language.) Indeed, Yahoo! sometimes uses English to speak to Latino audiences, but makes sure to tap into their love for food, for example, or favorite celebrities. “We do a lot of testing and we’re able to see very quickly what clicks with our Hispanic audiences,” said Javier Garcia, GM US Hispanic Market at Yahoo, who also took the opportunity to showcase a 3-minute video -in English- targeting Latinos who love to cook.

The morning panel wrapped up with several key take aways, being among the most memorable, Strachan’s death sentence of the so-called “general market.”


Categories: NGL News

1 reply

  1. I beg to differ on the language issue. Recent studies and papers have shown that today’s Hispanics connect more with the English Language than with their native tongue. Even though they might be bilingual, the younger generation prefers to speak and read (and respond) to English more than Spanish.
    As a market research company, we are seeing the same signals. Our percentage of Spanish only respondents and projects has actually decreased in favor of English within the past 2 years or so.
    Clients are seeing an increase in English communications in their call centers, through their sales teams and through other word of mouth channels. We predict a significant increase in the domination of English only to continue to grow

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