Reaching Hispanic Residents: Don't Let Your Message Get Lost in Translation


Reaching Hispanic Residents: Don't Let Your Message Get Lost in Translation

Multifamilypro Magazine - March/April, 2004

With 1 in 5 births in the U.S. being to Hispanic mothers (1 in 2 in California), Hispanics have become one of the most sought after markets for retailers in the U.S. It's important to make sure that you're speaking "the right language" when marketing to this group, and that you understand how to make sure those words reach the Hispanic market in the most effective manner. Here are a few tips for reaching this special market:

Language First - In the U.S., it's a sign of respect to produce marketing materials in Spanish, regardless of the fact that your target group may speak English as well.

Identify the Target Segment - Which Spanish do you use? It changes depending on country of origin. It does make a difference to Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, Dominicans and Cubans, to name just a few. Find out where your market comes from and use the right form of Spanish. Better yet, get a professional to translate into a "generic" Spanish that will sound "right" to Hispanics from a variety of different cultures.

The Grape Effect - When marketing holiday products or services, consider cultural background and tradition. For example, in some Hispanic cultures, eating red grapes - one for each month - will bring good fortune in the coming year. Feature concepts and images that will be familiar to Hispanics: perhaps grapes, or use of your product to prepare Hispanic cuisine, or even using Hispanic models in ads or displays will send a powerful message.

Santa: Second Fiddle - The birth of Christ and the visit of the three kings bearing gifts to the manger plays a much more prominent role in the traditions of Hispanic populations than does Santa. In some countries, Christmas gifts aren't opened until January 6th to coincide with the arrival of the three kings in Bethlehem. Santa, Christmas trees, candy canes, and the like are more "American." It might be a good idea to focus a campaign on the importance of gift giving if you want your message to be consistent with the rich traditions of Latinos/Hispanics.

More than Spring Cleaning - Many Hispanic cultures (in the Caribbean and the Americas) have traditions involving cleaning out the bad spirits from the preceding year. Cubans, Puerto Ricans and Dominicans, among others, are careful walking home from church on Christmas Eve as they risk having buckets of water thrown on them. Today this is a symbolic act but the idea of starting anew could lend a tone of familiarity to your message.

Home Is Where the Heart Is - Many Hispanics in the US have moved away from the traditions of their ancestors. They're fully assimilated. But they share an awareness of their Hispanic identity, which includes memories of family holiday traditions and pride in their heritage. Recognizing this through language, concept, copy and image development will facilitate the success of any marketing or ad campaign targeted to this powerful market segment.

It's a Real Blast on Christmas Eve - Fireworks are frequently set off at midnight on Christmas Eve. The birth of Jesus is far more important in predominately Catholic cultures than Santa. Take a specific fact like this and feature it in your message - it will make a powerful statement.

Pop the Champagne - On Christmas Eve in Colombia, Argentina and Cuba, the emphasis is on celebrating the birth of Christ, as well as on the New Year. Showing that you are aware of this will make your message more relevant.

Brush Off the Tux - The Hispanic middle class is substantial and their spending power is significant. Recognize their culture, their sophistication and their good taste in every message you send out.

—Liz Elting

About TransPerfect
With revenue of over $250 million, TransPerfect is the largest privately held language services provider in the world. From offices in 66 cities on 5 continents, TransPerfect offers a full range of services in over 100 languages to multinationals worldwide. With a global network of over 4,000 linguists and subject-area specialists, TransPerfect is the largest translation company to be fully ISO 9001:2008 and EN 15038:2006 certified. TransPerfect is headquartered in New York and has regional headquarters in London and Hong Kong. For more information, please visit our website at


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