Lately, I’ve been having quite a few conversations with clients on the subtleties of understanding preference for and use of Spanish in marketing to US Hispanics. After attending some recent focus groups in which we spoke to both English and Spanish-speaking consumers, I was reminded of some key tenets on language use for this group:

  • Spanish online isn’t worth it unless it’s done right. Hispanic consumers, even those who are Spanish-preferring, will very quickly revert to using English when looking for info online if a Web site’s Spanish language site is confusing or poorly translated. The Web is truly a bilingual experience.
  • In fact, Spanish in any medium needs to be localized, not just translated. It’s a huge turnoff when Spanish-language marketing and materials use improper grammar, the wrong tone, or directly translate English colloquialisms into Spanish.
  • But when done right, Spanish-language marketing speaks volumes. Even acculturated Hispanic consumers will notice when a brand is advertised in Spanish, and they look favorably on companies that do it well, with a tone, message, and language that resonates.

All of this sounds pretty elementary, but I can’t tell you how powerful it was to hear this directly from consumers, in their words. What spoke loud and clear as a researcher in these focus groups is that qualitative research like this is absolutely invaluable when talking about how and under what circumstances Hispanic consumers will use and/or prefer Spanish. As I’ve said for a long time now, this kind of color and nuance is very hard to capture in a quantitative format because use of Spanish versus English depends so much on context and industry, and the ‘why’ behind language choice is many times just as valuable than the choice itself in terms of the kinds of insights that can be extrapolated to other scenarios.

So, if you consider the Hispanic market important to your business, have you taken the time to research consumers’ language preference for and the impact they feel by seeing Spanish in differet scenarios? If not, you might be missing opportunities you hadn’t thought of, spending too much on bad translations, or incorrectly prioritizing where you spend money to reach this ever-growing segment.