July 22, 2016
By Diego Vasquez
One thing many media people wonder, especially those who work for general-market agencies, is when it makes sense to use Spanish to reach Hispanics. If you’re advertising on Telemundo, for example, the answer is obvious. But when you’re targeting Hispanics via English-language channels, such as a local ABC affiliate in San Antonio, the answer is not as obvious. A recent study by Culturati, a cross-cultural market research firm, and Nielsen looks at what the optimal mix between English and Spanish advertising is. It notes that the number of bilingual Hispanics has doubled since 2006, and that Hispanics are more apt to remember Spanish ads than English. It recommends a mix of both languages, or Spanglish, for best advertising results. Rene Sanchez, vice president of client strategy and insights at Culturati, talks to Media Life about how to use Spanglish organically, why there’s no special formula for figuring out the right mix, and how Spanglish should fit into storytelling.
What was the most interesting or surprising you found from putting this data together?
I would have to say the realization that Spanglish or bilingualism can work across the Hispanic spectrum. From the “Latinistas,” the more culturally Hispanic, to “Ameri-fans,” those more culturally American, what we found is Spanglish can be a powerful way to connect with the Hispanic audience in total and really help increase relevancy and connect with a broader Hispanic audience, if you will.
However, the key is really getting that recipe right, which requires an understanding of context, culture, core values and language. So balancing these elements correctly will really help you avoid as coming across as offensive or patronizing.
What is the most important thing media planners and buyers can take from it?
When we think about how to leverage language, I’d say to them it should really be more about how the story and not the language alone can deliver a relevant message.
Language, and in this case Spanglish, can be a great tool for cultural relevancy. When you think about it, this area of using Spanglish in advertising or in content is really a white space today for marketers. Creatives and content producers and providers really have an opportunity to further explore and maximize this space.
Are there any specific cultures (Mexican, Puerto Rican, etc.) that are more or less likely to speak both languages at home?
That’s a very interesting question. It’s probably something we can explore in the future, but this study didn’t address this particular topic. But what I can say from what we do know is, in the U.S. Hispanics tend to follow a specific path to acculturation.
As Hispanics become more bilingual and bicultural, the way they use language becomes more situational.
Nonetheless, we do know that Spanish will continue to be a big part of that social aspect, from all cultures. It seems to be more relevant for the conversation with friends and family. Where English tends to lead in the business arena. It depends on the comfort and the environment they’re in and their ability to adjust accordingly.
In your estimation, is there a perfect mix of English versus Spanish in advertising to U.S. Latinos? Or does it depend on the case?
I would say it’s more about the story and elevating the culture connection by leveraging language. If you tell the story correctly, that should ultimately guide you and give you the perfect mix of language utility.
We’ve seen in studies that Spanish tends to have a higher level of engagement with the Hispanic audience. So when thinking about messages that are culturally relevant, it’s about the right mix of content and context. But equally important, it’s also about using language in a way that’s going to deliver a message that’s more powerful in connecting with the audience.
As we learned from the study, what we found is bilingual communication must be used with a purpose. Using it for the sake of using it can seem superficial or unnecessary. Also, it means that Spanglish should be used to tell a story the viewer can identify with. Lastly, Spanglish ads must also get the context right before integrating Spanglish into the story. The most effective are those where the context and copy flow organically and with seamless fluidity.
Why would you say food/beverages/baby products are better fits for Spanglish as opposed to, say, financial services?
What we’ve seen is an evolution. Based on research findings, we know Hispanics are increasingly open to brands using Spanglish. In fact, 89 percent of Hispanics actually say it’s appropriate for all brands to use Spanglish.
We do see higher acceptance for industries like food and beverages, and it’s more because those sectors or categories really lend themselves to being more emotional. Categories like cleaning supplies, paper goods and financial tend to be more functional in nature. That’s not to say that financial can’t do it. In our study we feature Wells Fargo, who with the help of their agency was able to strike the right balance with a spot that had high marks among the 15 Spanglish ads we tested.
Do you have any examples of specific brand/campaigns that have gotten it right? On the other end, any campaigns you can remember that swung and missed?
In our study we also mention McDonald’s, Honda and Tide. Outside of those, Target with baby care does an awesome job. You have other brands out there such as Coca-Cola as well.
They are all able to effectively use language and cultural context to craft highly relevant messages.
In the Tide case study, for instance, we can see how they were able to really win with Spanglish and increase dollar share among U.S. Hispanics during the ad’s run. They also increased purchase intent and relevancy. These brands get it, and they’ve done the due diligence and research so they understand how to best craft their message.
On the flip side, if you Google some spots, it’s obvious which brands don’t get it. I would say also it’s mostly due to companies or brands being lazy and also not investing the right amount of time and resources at the onset to understand how to better connect.
It’s not that some of these brands that do a bad job don’t have the money. I think it’s just about having the right people who understand the multicultural market, and also their priorities. The brands that are most successful are the ones that take the time to do the research to understand the consumer and figure out how to best craft that message.
It’s a double-edged sword. It’s a bit of the brands and also the agencies. I would say agencies for the most part get it, but at the end of the day they can present or recommend all of these great things the brand needs to do, but it’s ultimately up to the brand to decide where to put their money and priorities. It’s really just about the industry and getting everybody up to speed, educating and informing our leaders.
How do you think marketing to U.S. Hispanics will continue to evolve over the next 5-10 years when it comes to language use?
Language is a big connector to culture.
Because of this, U.S. Hispanics are really committed to retaining their language as a part of their Hispanic identity. And because of this, we’ll continue to see language duality with Hispanics, and it will grow.
In the past decade, the number has increased significantly, and the number of biculturals will continue to grow over the next five years. So it will become more and more important to continue celebrating cultural duality through proper use of cues such as Spanglish. It’s almost a sense of pride and reassurance that you’re staying true to your roots when you’re speaking Spanish and integrating it into your life.
Does the research pertain only to TV? Or do the same principles hold true across media types (radio, online, outdoor, etc)?
The study was focused on TV, but the short answer is yes, specifically considering radio. However, with digital it could be we have to do a separate study to further understand how it applies to the digital world. With digital there are more layers and the experience is different.
For example, in respects to [the study’s principle of] respecting both cultures, this could be applied to all advertising channels and formats. I think that makes sense across the media spectrum.
Source: Media Life Magazine