Does Your Retail Brand Habla Español?

Nov 11, 2004

By Terry Soto

At a time when there are close to 40 million Hispanics in the U.S., most of whom are most comfortable speaking and being spoken to in Spanish, some retailers are still wondering if there is a need to communicate their messages in en Español.

Yet others have found success by going bilingual or even trilingual. Some retailers are realizing tremendous returns by successfully employing different approaches to promote their brand and products that are commonly purchased by their Hispanic shoppers. Often, advertising departments make it a practice to provide district managers with ad options for promoting products that are relevant to their Hispanic shoppers.

Different ad versions and circulars are being used, including:

  • Separate and distinct mailers

  • Over-wraps with Hispanic merchandising themes

  • Hispanic sections on the front page

  • Different versions for city and suburban markets with appropriate product emphasis

Additionally, circulars and flyers directed to Hispanic homes are typically bilingual, unless they’re placed in Spanish-language newspapers. In fact, direct-to-home ads are typically bilingual if Spanish-language speakers comprise less than 50% of the population in the relevant area. If Spanish-language speakers comprise more than 50% of the target population, then Spanish only ads are used.

Direct to Home vehicles, like ADVO and Penny Saver, are often used by retailers because they effectively reach ethnic consumers at home, particularly in markets with a high density of Hispanic consumers where ZIP Code or block-level targeting is possible.

Local in-language community newspapers are used regularly for weekly ads, especially when home-targeted vehicles aren’t efficient.

Larger chains and independent supermarkets use television effectively via cost-efficient cable channels available in many markets. But radio is used most often, especially to reach Hispanics and Asian Americans. Many retailers also include outdoor media such as billboards, bus cards, bus sides, and subway boards in their media plans based on Hispanics’ main method of daily commuting in their areas.

Retailers also stress the importance of messages that are inclusive and relevant to Hispanics’ lifestyles and use marketing research regularly to develop relevant messages. They stress the importance of developing separate television and radio spots via specialized agencies to ensure cultural relevancy and comprehension among their customers.

Retailers say that Hispanic faces are also included in their English only advertising to ensure that they are representative of the types of shoppers in their stores. It is also important that featured products are consistent with Hispanics’ core food tendencies. To achieve this, successful retailers create several TV and radio executions of the same brand message, but which highlight different products to appeal to Hispanics. Some retailers even adjust their Spanish-language messages further to change the emphasis between pricing and brand messages for urban stores and suburban stores.

Moderator’s Comment: What do these retailers know that others are failing to recognize? Why do so many retailers
resist a Multilingual ad strategy? What have you seen work or not work?
Terry Soto – Moderator

Note: This article is based on the “best practices” outlined in the study Grow with America – Best Practices in Ethnic Merchandising and Marketing
sponsored by the Coca Cola Retailing Research Council. (Click here to download the study
results – PDF format.)

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