How to Reach the 53 Million Spanish Speakers in the US

This article originally appeared in the New York Enterprise Report

The 2012 US Census showed that the number of Spanish speakers continues to rise. Today, there are some 53 million Latinos in the US. Is your organization reaching them effectively?

For the past 10 years, Ad Age has been publishing a Hispanic Fact Pack that covers this rise and the corresponding rise in US Hispanic media yearly spend: Media spend has tripled from $2.8 billion in 2000 to $7.9 billion in 2012. Ad Age goes on to report that major companies like Procter & Gamble Co. (P&G) are funneling millions of dollars every year into reaching Hispanic consumers (P&G spent $246.2 million in 2012, up from $169.8 million in 2003). General Mills, Kraft Foods Group, and Mars Inc. have all joined P&G on the list of the 25 largest Hispanic advertisers (notably, none of these companies were listed a decade ago).

Reaching the Spanish-speaking consumers within the US has become a top priority for the world’s biggest brands and institutions. If your company, firm, or nonprofit does not have the multilingual capacity to speak to and listen to the Spanish speaker, you are likely falling behind your competitors or falling short of your mission. Here are three things you can do to help your organization reach this growing population:

1. Understand Who You’re Really Trying to Reach

The roughly 53 million Spanish speakers inside the U.S. borders are not all the same – far from it, in fact. The argument could be made that this demographic is nearly as diverse as the European immigration waves of past centuries. The PEW Research Center mapped the Latino population, by state, county, and city and drilled down on specific segments of the U.S. Hispanic population – namely, where they live and what percentage they comprise of a given region.

To reach your customers, you have to understand who they really are. For instance, a consumer-facing company in New York might be interested to learn that New York is home to nearly 3.5 million Hispanics, 60 percent of whom are Puerto Rican, Dominican, or Mexican, and that 79 percent of these people speak Spanish at home.

2. To Send the Right Message, Consider Context

Crafting a message that resonates with a targeted constituency is a fundamental rule of any marketing, political, or fundraising campaign. But considering context is harder when dealing with language barriers. As with demographics, a good outreach campaign also accounts for the contextual relevance and understanding.

In a classic example of not understanding context, American Motors, formerly one of the largest car companies in the world, completely missed the mark with its car the Matador in the 1970s in Puerto Rico. “Matador,” which is usually translated as bullfighter in the continental US, also means “killer” in Spanish. With nearly five million Puerto Ricans living in the US now alongside 48 million other Spanish speakers, getting the contextual framework right matters a great deal.

3. Partner With Organizations That Are One Step Ahead

Aligning your brand with organizations that have already established that trust with Spanish speakers will help activate a lasting relationship.

Case in point: According to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp., approximately one-fifth of Latino households in the U.S. don’t have a deposit account. In homes where Spanish is the only language spoken, more than one-third don’t have bank accounts.

Enter the Latino Community Credit Union (LCCU), which has 10 branches throughout North Carolina and serves Spanish speakers other institutions overlook. According to National Journal, “LCCU is one of the fastest-growing and most financially stable credit unions in the country, with a delinquency rate lower than those of its peers.” Partnering with organizations like LCCU that have already established trust with Spanish speakers will help ingratiate you with the Spanish-speaking community.


Ryan Frankel Image
Ryan Frankel is the co-founder and CEO of VerbalizeIt. You can follow him on Twitter @rvfrankel

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