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Underestimating the Spanish Language is One of the Biggest Mistakes Marketers Can Make

By: Gonzalo Del Fa, Chair of the Hispanic Marketing Council and President of GroupM Multicultural

Many marketers mistake Hispanic marketing for Spanish-language marketing. We hear it all the time: “More Latinos speak English so you can just reach them through mass media efforts.” Absolutely wrong. This mistaken approach is costing companies millions of dollars every year in unrealized growth.

Hispanic marketing is about culture and language—and Spanish isn’t going anywhere. Among first generation Hispanics and beyond, we’ve found that both English-dominant and bilingual Hispanics connect to in-culture content dynamically in English and Spanish, choosing to view Spanish-language content because they “want” to, not because they “need” to. People engage with content in the language of their country of origin because it is more meaningful, even among the young. Consider that 80% of Hispanics ages 13 to 49 choose to watch Spanish-language TV on traditional channels, like Telemundo and Univision. Even though most Hispanic teens were born in the U.S., nearly half stream video on demand in Spanish. Younger Hispanics choose content in Spanish because that is how they are expressing their culture—a choice not captured in the latest Census figures.

In-culture English content environments have also emerged alongside the large scale of legacy Spanish-language platforms. Hispanic teens and adults 18 to 49 spend about half of their online time within in-culture content regardless of language—and that cultural fluency is extending into the mass market. Did you know that 53% of all people 13 to 49 are watching TV/movie content in a language they do not speak? Let that sink in… because this changes how we think about the “mass market.”

Recent Census results showed that the non-Hispanic white segment decreased by almost 5 million people in the last decade, proving that the only sustainable growth strategy is to focus on diverse segments. If 42% of the U.S. population is multicultural, and the multicultural majority is already a reality for those 19 and under, then our definition of “mass market” needs to change. Marketing strategies must put culture first—and that means knowing when and how to use Spanish appropriately.

Culture, language and marketing go hand in hand. Cultural literacy and appropriate Hispanic investments are necessary to drive bottom-line growth. Marketers and journalists alike need to acknowledge today’s multicultural reality and the inexorable link between culture and language. Simply put, it’s time to stop underestimating the power of Spanish, which remains a powerful connector of culture, nostalgia, familia y comunidad. And when in doubt, consult a segment marketing specialists or Hispanic PR expert to sift through the clutter of misinformation and get you on the right track!