By Chiqui Cartagena published July 23, 2010

How to Get Your Hispanic Content Strategy on Target

As part of your content strategy, are you targeting the US Hispanic market? If so, you no doubt know that this is an increasingly complex market – yet one that is growing. The so-called “US Hispanic Market” is currently measured by ad spending in Spanish-language media, to the tune of $4 Billion+ in 2009.

Results from the 2010 Census will surely confirm – once again – the dramatic growth of the Latino market. The latest Census figures show that Hispanics accounted for a whopping 50% of the total US population growth from 2000-2008. So marketers looking for growth for their products domestically will no doubt focus their attention on reaching the Hispanic market.

This post details some common mistakes that marketers make when targeting the US Hispanic market and provides suggestions on how to better develop your strategy to address this market’s needs.

The younger generation of Hispanics doesn’t necessarily want materials in Spanish

One of the most common mistakes marketers make when entering the Hispanic market is to assume that Hispanics only speak Spanish and only watch Spanish-language media. And while the number of Spanish-preferred Hispanics is still large, it is not the majority anymore.

Just about any study you read these days about Latinos in the US talks about the rise of the second generation, which marks a fundamental shift in the growing US Hispanic population. The number of US-born Hispanics surpassed the number of foreign-born Hispanics for the first time in 2000, and that trend is projected to continue. Currently 60% of Hispanics in the US are US-born.

What does this mean for your content marketing strategy? More Hispanics are/will be either bilingual or English-dominant. See the charts below for the breakdown of Latinos by Language Fluency and Generations from the Pew Hispanic Center.

Hispanics by Language fluency

Source: National Survey of Latinos, 2002 Pew; Duration data from 2006 ACS

Hispanics by Generation

Source: Hispanics Today: Demographic Change & Market Segments, Tomorrow is Today, Jeffrey Passel, Pew Hispanic Center 2009

Clearly, if your product or service has a target market of Hispanics who are  older than 25, then developing appropriate Spanish language content should be a big part of your strategy. But if you are trying to appeal to the younger demographics, clearly Spanish-only is not the way to go.

You need to address the specific information needs of US Hispanics

While you certainly need to translate some content when targeting this market, you should also consider their differing information needs.

For example, a bank that wants to attract US Hispanic customers may simply translate their website into Spanish and think their job is done. However Hispanics may need more information than just descriptions of products and services (which even in English are hard to understand).

In my experience, Hispanics (like everyone) are looking for companies that also provide “educational” content that fits their needs. For example, let’s say a Hispanic family is interested in a 529 Savings account for college. Instead of simply talking about the features of the plan, offer more information about college education in general. A little more information will go a long way towards gaining them as a customer. It means you care!

Three quick tips to get your strategy on target

Don’t fool yourself (or be fooled by your agency) into thinking that you are already capturing English-dominant US Hispanics through your general market advertising. Chances are you are NOT. Here are three things you can do to start addressing the needs of this audience.

Ask yourself, “Who is my target market, and do I understand their language needs?”
For example, if you are a jeans manufacturer whose sweet spot is consumers aged 18-24,  and your distribution is mainly in the Southern and Western United States, then you need to think about Latino youth who may speak some Spanish but who are more comfortable with English. Check out what Ford has done with their new Ford Fiesta campaign.

Understand your brand’s consumer touch points as language and messaging may vary.
What are the media preferences of your target market? TV/Cable, Internet, Facebook, Twitter, mobile, magazine? Make sure your brand story is properly adapted for the medium. Again, Ford Fiesta does a great job of being “where” their target market is.

Create bilingual marketing material.
Hispanics tend to live in multi-generational families, so bilingual information satisfies both the younger generations and the older ones at once. Just make sure that you don’t make assumptions about what people “know”. Explain everything — like you’re talking to a 5th grader — and make sure it is quality content in both languages.

Does (or should) your content marketing plan include a strategy for US Hispanics? If so, what challenges have you faced or what suggestions can you add?

Author: Chiqui Cartagena

Chiqui Cartagena is the SVP of Multicultural Marketing at Story Worldwide (a sponsor of the Content Marketing Institute). She is also the author of Latino Boom! Everything You Need to Know about the US Hispanic Market (Random House, 2005) Follow Chiqui on Twitter @chiquicartagena.

Other posts by Chiqui Cartagena

  • vancasavant

    This is a fantastic post. One problem I've noticed in developing a bilingual content strategy is sustainability. Often times the strategy doesn't go beyond the translation and cultural adaptation phase, and resources aren't set aside to plan for keeping the content relevant and up-to-date.

  • Jimmy Cantor

    I agree, US-based Hispanic marketing is a moving target, and complicated. With clients, I've had to add Country-of-origin, level of American cultural integration and which generation as segmentations.

    Secondly, if you target a Spanish-dominant audience in the US, you better have the offering be Spanish-dominant too. This, especially in service businesses.

    On the flip side, I've had to make sure never to use my experience in US-Hispanic marketing as a basis to market in various Latin American countries. The game is completely different!

  • Chiqui Cartagena

    vancasant: thanks for you great point….In these times of post-advertising, it is important to realize that content is a huge driver of consumer engagement…you are right that simple translations are not cutting it…the most recent AOL Cyberstudy says Hispanics who read well in Enlgish also check out Spanish content and often find it lacking…at best, just a bad translation….content needs to be udpated and, if you are letting people post questions or comments, make sure to reply…thanks for your comment!


  • Chiqui Cartagena

    Jimmy, thanks for your insgihts…it matches my experience as well…you need to really understand the US Hispanic segment(s) you are targeting and make sure your message is always on target…the story narrative must be consistent and you must be authentic….

    And yes, marketing in Latin America, is completely different…people often think they are the same, but in fact, they are drastically different for many reasons I can't get into here…maybe my next blog? The LatAm experience and the US experience have very little in common….thanks for pointing that out!

  • Becky

    Thank you for sharing the Ford Fiesta example. That site is truly inspiring and so right on target with that consumer base. We are working on an education campaign now targeted to high school kids – first generation college-goers. However, some of the content will be relevant to parents, many of whom may be more comfortable in Spanish. It’s an interesting challenge. Any advice?

    • Chiqui Cartagena

      Becky, that is an interesting challenge and an important one to get right. Let me direct you to the expert in that field, Mariela Dabbah, a good friend of mine who has written several books to help Latino parents get their kids to college. She may be able to give you advice as well.

      Depending on your budget I would recommend you develop material in both languages, so that both intended audiences can read the relevant parts in the language they feel most comfortable in reading. That is more challenging from a design and costly from a production perspective, but allows for sharing of information amongst family members, which is the ultimate goal.