6 Steps to Making Your Brand Bilingual

At SASSO, hablamos español. As a full-service agency, and one of the only marketing agencies in Baton Rouge that offers Spanish language advertising, SASSO is well-equipped to tackle your multicultural challenges.

The U.S. Hispanic population is tripling in size. Nearly 1/3 of America will soon be Hispanic. From restaurants to retail, top brands are vying for a piece of the demographic’s trillion-dollar purchasing power. What makes Hispanics so valuable to the future of American business, and how can marketers excel with cross-cultural campaigns?

The secret is out: Hispanics in the U.S. are a force at work, shaping the present and future economy. Turning this group into loyal customers has become the focus of countless companies in recent years – they see a giant treasure chest, and inside is 1.7 trillion dollars.

Hispanics and Latinos are more likely to stick with a brand they like, which means strong customer lifetime value.

On top of their incredible buying power, Hispanic business is highly coveted because of their brand loyalty. Statistically, Hispanics and Latinos are more likely to stick with a brand they like, which means strong customer lifetime value. They are also likely to recommend trusted brands to friends and family. Imagine that your marketing campaigns could have kids who went out and did marketing for you, too. Talk about a return on investment!

The bottom line? Hispanics work hard, bring home the bacon, and love to spend it. The question is – how do you get them to spend it on what you’re selling?

Despite our country’s long history of immigration, too many U.S. businesses are struggling to bring their marketing efforts into the 21st century, i.e. make them cross-cultural.  Crafting a brand that reflects the amazing diversity of the Americas is as important as keeping stride with technology. Those that succeed will have an enormous competitive advantage over those who don’t.

U.S. businesses are struggling to bring their marketing efforts into the 21st century, i.e. make them cross-cultural.

Step 1: Understand What It Means to Be Culturally Sensitive

If the broad goal is to connect with an international audience, what’s the starting point? The foundation is the same as with any marketing plan: we lead with intimately understanding our target consumer.

Cross-cultural marketing, whether it’s to Spanish speakers, the Chinese, or the French, means developing content and messages that are culturally sensitive to the consumers you want to engage.

5 Key Audience Insights for Creating Campaigns that Customers Feel Connected To:  

  1. The needs, wants, and fears of your target customer
  2. Their language of preference
  3. Where they spend their time
  4. How they consume media
  5. What drives them (i.e. traditions and beliefs)

Armed with a deep understanding of your target market, you can create meaningful connections and open the pathway to trust. Like with traditional marketing, this is the chief aim: inspire consumers to believe in your brand because you’ve earned it, and because you’ve shown them why you’re better than your competitors.

Step 2: Know When Your Campaign Should Speak Spanish, and When It Shouldn’t

Thanks to data from the Pew Research Center, we know that not all Hispanics want to receive marketing messages in full blown Spanish. In fact, the number of Hispanics in America that don’t speak Spanish is growing every year.

As we begin to take a closer look and deepen our understanding of the Hispanic audience, we see that each age group needs its own marketing strategy.

Language Preferences for Hispanics’ Media Consumption Based on Age:

  • Millennial Hispanics/Latinos, ages 23 to 38: two out of three speak English at home, and a majority are bilingual. They prefer to consume media in English and respond well to ads in both English and Spanish. They particularly like ads that give them a language choice, or at least use some Spanish or references to Hispanic culture.
  • Generation Xers, ages 40 to 54, and Boomers, ages 55 to 75: Of this population, eight in ten speak Spanish in their homes and respond best to messages that are in Spanish and reflect the values of their community.
  • Generation Z: The least likely generation of Hispanics to speak Spanish. Regardless, they report a strong sense of pride and connection to their ethnicity’s traditions and values.

The conclusion: Spanish will influence some cross-cultural campaigns, depending on your specific target audience. Yet, the importance of culture can’t be overlooked.

Step 3: If Your Spanish Ends at Tequila and Tacos, It’s Time to Recruit Some Bilingual Help

Some of our clients are initially intimidated about cross-cultural marketing due to one obvious hurdle: their team isn’t bilingual. If you, like many well-intentioned Americans, know just enough Spanish to get yourself into “un poco de” trouble in Cancun, we’re happy to inform you that there’s no need for pánico.

If you’re going to market to consumers in Spanish, then you will need to be prepared to support them throughout their customer journey in their native language. The good news is that you are unlikely to be swarmed by throngs of Hispanic customers immediately upon executing your marketing efforts. In other words, your business will have time to grow into this next stage, allowing you to start off by hiring one bilingual person, then another, etc.

If you don’t have the initial manpower, then a freelance translator or answering service may satisfy your initial needs.

Step 4: Don’t Attempt a Literal Translation from English to Spanish

This is the time-honored bilingual marketer’s challenge: transform copy, and yet, don’t change a thing!

In cross-cultural marketing, a literal translation of copy is not the answer. Instead, we follow a process called transcreation, which is essentially creative translation.

Transcreation Process Checklist:

  • Transmit the original copy’s ideas using creative writing techniques
  • Maintain the style, tone, and intent of the original text while you modify words and phrases
  • Acknowledge the cultural differences between Spanish speakers and English speakers
  • Ensure that the content for the end user considers his or her values and beliefs (for example, we might remove something that in English sounds innocent, but in Spanish could be offensive)

Through transcreation we preserve the essence and messaging of the English language content while creating copy, sets, media, and design that the Spanish speaker can connect with. As Nobel Prize winner Günter Grass famously and eloquently stated, "Translation is that which transforms everything so that nothing changes.”

A Cross-Cultural Case Study: MMR Group’s Brochure Goes International


In an example of transcreation, SASSO was recently tasked to translate MMR Group’s English language marketing brochure to Spanish. The electrical and instrumentation contractor needed a website and brochure that could speak to its South American clients, both in terms of the language and relating the core values and offerings of the MMR organization.

SASSO’s team was able to create a visually stunning website and brochure in Spanish that now serve as cornerstone marketing pieces for MMR Group’s international sales efforts. The brochure is by no means an exact translation; instead, it is a transcreation that transmits the ideas and concepts in a way that the end user can easily capture and identify with.

During this process, SASSO also took into account the specific region where the brochure would be used most often, because, as we’ll explain next, Spanish can change drastically from one country to the next.

Step 5: Remember - Not All Spanish Is Created Equal

The companies who excel in cross-cultural marketing to Hispanics and Latinos in America make it a priority to adapt their marketing efforts according to the geographic region being targeted.  This ensures that your offerings meet the audience’s expectations. We marketing translators refer to this as “localization.” Both localization and transcreation are necessary to create content that’s linguistically and culturally sensitive.

This goes deeper than using the right words; everything from color, shapes, and icon choice in design should be considered. This process is particularly critical in cities where the Hispanic population is high.

Being aware of differences in dialect is also critical to cross-cultural marketing. There are several dialects of Spanish and Spanish variants in the U.S. And as important as it is to use certain words to connect with Hispanics and Latinos, there are just as many occasions in which words should be left out.

Case in point: when SASSO was tasked with creating Spanish language radio scripts for its national car insurance client, GoAuto Insurance , the SASSO team knew to avoid terms that are specific to Mexicans, Puerto Ricans, and other nationalities. Instead, it used more general language to cast a broader net, thereby creating content that resonated with Latinos from various Latin American countries.

Step 6: Testing One, Two, Three

You’ve done your research, you know your customer well, your ads are tailored to your target market and a great cultural fit for their destination region. What’s next? Our final piece of advice - check the accuracy of your cross-cultural marketing campaigns before releasing them into the world.

This means presenting your ad, radio spot, blog, etc. to real members of your target audience and getting feedback. This is especially helpful when you’re creating bilingual assets that need to resonate with audiences from more than one region or dialect. Feedback can help you see if you’ve missed the mark or hit your target.

Dynamic Demographic = Mucha Oportunidad

As we can see, marketing with diversity in mind matters to brands now more than ever. Hispanics are no longer an afterthought; they are a dynamic part of a major shift in our nation’s economic landscape. This shift is going to represent tremendous gains for some brands, and painfully missed opportunities for others.

While top brands like Discover, Budweiser, Dominos, and State Farm are steadily catching on and becoming cross-cultural, it’s still early in the game. The Hispanic/Latino demographic is a blue ocean waiting to be tapped and there’s no time like the present to start building a brand that’s bilingual.

Spanish language campaigns can give your brand the edge it needs to appeal to Hispanic markets with an impressive buying power, and SASSO has the skills to connect your business with this audience. Contact us to learn more and start connecting with Louisiana’s diverse Spanish-speaking audiences.

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