The Importance of Marketing to Hispanics Online in Spanish

By Walter Godinez

By the year 2017, the U.S. Hispanic buying power will equal $1.7 trillion dollars and by the year 2020 the population will represent almost 20 percent of the entire U.S. population.

To put that in context, currently roughly one out of every ten dollars in the United States is in the hands of a Hispanic-led household.

For businesses and brands who want to do Hispanic marketing, understanding how this demographic behaves online is crucial to a successful marketing campaign.

With numbers like these, it is no surprise that brands and companies are starting to really take this demographic seriously when it comes to online marketing.

Understanding the Hispanic Community in the U.S.

Business leaders who do not have the history of dealing with the U.S. Hispanic market often assume that their businesses can just get by with marketing in English to U.S. Hispanics.

As you will see below, this is leaving out a really powerful segment of Hispanics (which we will get into in the Acculturated vs. Non Acculturated section).

Marketing in Spanish to U.S. Hispanics makes good business sense.  It is also a very powerful strategy that can be used to increase brand loyalty among this demographic.

For example, a study from The Pew Hispanic Center shows that over 80% of U.S. Hispanic adults speak Spanish and a whopping 95% believe it is vital for future generations to continue to do so in order to maintain their heritage.

In addition, a National Hispanic Consumer Study found that advertising in Spanish actually boosts U.S. Hispanic effectiveness and customer loyalty.

Before you start allocating your marketing dollars towards targeting this demographic, let’s take a look at the different types of Hispanics in the United States, where marketing to them in Spanish can really have a major impact. 

Then finally we’ll equip you with solid strategies and tactics to reach the different types of Hispanics in the U.S.

Acculturated vs. Non Acculturated

Acculturation can be defined as the time between arrival to a new culture and assimilation into that culture. The U.S. Hispanic population is different than previous immigrant groups in that their period of acculturation has lasted a lot longer and this can be attributed to a variety of factors.

Some of these factors include the fact that due to their heritage and Latin America’s proximity to the United States, it has been easier to stay connected to their roots. The Hispanic community also places a great deal of importance on honoring their roots and the original country where one is from.

In addition, technology has enabled this group to stay connected to their families back home which has slowed down the acculturation process.

The U.S. Hispanic audience can be broken down into five segments:

1 – Fully Assimilated Hispanic (17%)

This segment is characterized by its English language dominance (nearly no Spanish), its very few Hispanic cultural practices and are born in the United States and are generally 3rd or 4th generation Americans.

2 – Almost Fully Assimilated Hispanic (28%)

This segment is characterized by its English dominance but some may speak Spanish and their limited Hispanic cultural practices. They generally tend to be 2nd generation Americans.

3 – Bi-Cultural Hispanic (26%)

This segment is characterized by its population’s ease to fit into both the U.S. culture and Hispanic culture through language (fully or nearly fully bi-lingual), customs (Hispanic culture is near and dear), and were generally immigrants as a child or 1st generation Americans.

4 – Acculturated Hispanic (16%)

This segment is characterized by its Spanish preference (some English), pre-dominant Hispanic cultural practices, and have generally been in the United States for over ten years.

5 – New Hispanic (13%)

This segment is characterized by its Spanish language dominance (nearly no English), primarily Hispanic cultural practices, recent U.S. immigration status (less than ten years ago), and its identification with home country more so than the United States.

Judging from the numbers above, one should note that Hispanics who prefer Spanish language only make up 29% of the total Hispanic population. 

Looking at these statistics, a business owner who is interested in tapping into the Hispanic market may think to themselves, “great I can reach nearly 80% of Hispanics through English and that is good enough.”

Not quite exactly. There are alot of bicultural Hispanics who make up 26% of the population.

Who Are Bi-cultural Hispanics?

The fact that bi-culturals are constantly shifting through both cultures means that they are comfortable in both English and Spanish settings but they also judge those companies extremely favorably that actually make the effort to market to their Hispanic culture in an authentic manner.

Bicultural Hispanics are experts at seeing right through inauthentic marketing efforts like direct translations of marketing materials and giving a homogenous look to the Hispanic market.

Therefore, for 55% of this U.S. Hispanic population it is imperative to be spoken to in Spanish. That’s over half of the Hispanic population!

On a side note, amongst U.S. Hispanics there are two segment groups that are rising in influence. These groups consist of Latinas and Affluent Latinos.

A recent report by Nielsen illustrates that the gap between Hispanic women and men regarding levels of education and career growth is increasing favoring Hispanic women.

Affluent Latinos is identified by Nielsen as households with an income of $50,000-$100,000 per year. This highly influential group controls an estimated $4 out of every $10 in the Hispanic demographic.

Where are Hispanics Originating From?

Historically, the U.S. Hispanic population has been predominantly Mexican (2/3 of the population) and while these numbers are not changing dramatically, the diversity of 1/3 of the Hispanic population has increased.

The top 10 U.S. Hispanic groups include, Mexicans (65%), Puerto Ricans (9.2%), Cubans (3.7%), Salvadorans (3.6%), Dominicans (3.0%), Guatemalans (2.2%), Colombians (1.9%), Hondurans (1.4%), Ecuadorians (1.3%), and Peruvians (1.2%).

Apart from the number of countries represented, these Hispanic groups differ in other ways as well. For example, Mexicans are the youngest demographic with a median age of 25 while Cubans are the oldest with a median age of 40.

Ecuadorians are the most affluent demographic with an annual income of $50,000 and Dominicans have the lowest annual income of $34,000.

How Hispanics Get Their Information Online

Now that we’ve discussed the diversity within the Hispanic population in the U.S., it’s time to touch on how Hispanics consume content and how marketers can best reach them.

Recently Google partnered with Ispos MediaCT to study the consumption habits of Hispanics and the report garnered various key insights that are useful for any marketers take note of.

The first major insight is that U.S. Hispanic consumers are overwhelmingly online and using mobile devices. Approximately 79% of those surveyed said that they use search engines on a daily basis and it is their #1 source for gathering information before purchasing an item.

Out of those that use search engines for purchase consideration, 68% of the respondents search on their mobile devices. Even more interesting, 83% of those who access the internet via mobile use it while in a store to inform a real time purchase.

The second major insight is that Hispanics use online sources at a higher rate than the general population (54% vs 46%) and when it comes to gathering information to finally make a purchase, online ranks much higher than other sources like television and radio (54% to 34%). In addition, Hispanics pay attention to online ads more so than the general population (66% to 46%).

The third and fourth insights really drive home the fact that Spanish language is important for Hispanics in the United States.  Google found that cultural relevance drives engagement and influence and that Hispanics are highly bilingual online.

Seventy percent of respondents from this survey felt that it is important for a website’s content to be culturally relevant when they are gathering purchasing information. This also includes ads as 88% of respondents pay attention to culturally relevant ads and 41% actually feel more favorable towards the company for trying to be culturally relevant.

The top five features of a culturally relevant brand online include:

  1. Speaking to Hispanic cultural sensibilities including food, traditions, holidays, and family themes
  2. Incorporating creative content that reflects the Hispanic culture in authentic manner. This demographic wants to see themselves portrayed in a positive light and reflects the things they care about.
  3. The use of Spanish language for those Hispanics that are bilingual and Spanish language dominant. Even for those that are English fluent like the bi-cultural demographic, they appreciate seeing Spanish language and identify with it.
  4. Incorporating music as U.S. Hispanics value entertainment and music that appeals to them culturally.
  5. Celebrities and tastemakers, as U.S. Hispanics want to hear from people like them.

The idea that language targeted towards Hispanics should solely be in English or solely in Spanish is outdated as research consistently shows that Hispanics can maneuver in both cultures and 55% of them prefer Spanish language to be present.

All in all, it is safe to say that using authentic online content is key to reaching the Hispanic demographic as their shopping experience has become increasingly tied to their mobile/online experience (since most people use their phones to browse the internet).

Hispanic Social Media Habits

Similarly to how Hispanics have different online behavior patterns in comparison to the rest of the U.S. population, there are also differences in how they use social media.

Marketers that understand these differences can effectively increase their social media engagement if the right platforms are targeted.

For example, Instagram is more popular among Latinos than the general population. Approximately one third of online Hispanics use the influential photo sharing application.

34% of Hispanics use Instagram compared to 21% of the white population. Pinterest on the other hand does not tend to be as popular among Hispanics as it is among the general population.

The top social media platforms for the Hispanic demographic include Facebook (73%), Instagram (34%), Twitter (25%), Pinterest (21%), and LinkedIn (18%).

Therefore when marketing to Hispanics online, brands should ensure that Facebook and Instagram are part of their social media strategies.

As previously mentioned, the most effective and engaging themes when reaching out to Hispanics include food, tradition, holidays, and family.

Due to the fact that Hispanics use social media via their phones it is also important to note that the content shared through social channels should incorporate imagery and video as those are the best forms of content when being viewed via mobile.

Below are a few more insights that marketers should consider when creating a Hispanic Social Media Strategy.

  1. There should be a focus on insights and analytics for this highly segmented demographic. For example, a campaign that is targeted towards bilingual, bicultural mothers should also not be targeted towards Spanish dominant males. Tools like Facebook Audience Insights actually allow brands to segment their content into specific subgroups like Spanish dominant mothers and English dominant Hispanics. It is imperative that marketers use these analytic tools offered by platforms like Facebook to ensure that messages reach the proper audiences. Often times if a consumer receives a message or content that is not intended for them, they will simply stop following a brand.
  2. Social Listening should be a major part of any social media strategy. As you may image, there are millions of conversations happening via social channels on a daily basis and it is imperative for brands to be in tune with conversations happening in the Hispanic (English dominant, Spanish dominant, Bilingual) demographic. By keeping track of these conversations, brands are able to organically engage beyond with their intended audiences beyond a social media post.
  3. It goes without saying that culturally relevant content that leverages passions in the community are always welcome. The type of content matters but so does the format. Video is huge on platforms like Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram and Hispanic consumers expect to receive videos from the brands they follow.
  4. Social Influencers and celebrities are popular in the Hispanic audience. For many of these audiences, “celebrities” could be their favorite Vine or Youtube star. They are the news, entertainment, and personalities that U.S. Hispanics follow. The Hispanic community values entertainment and really places importance on television personalities so incorporating them to a social strategy can really go a long way.
  5. Your Community Managers should really speak and look like the audience you are trying to engage with. Community Managers that are familiar with the demographics’ colloquialisms, mannerisms, cultures and traditions will only enhance the authenticity of your brand. For example, Toyota utilizes one spokesperson for the general population but also a Hispanic spokesperson for Spanish language Toyota commercials. She’s even built a cult following because of Toyota’s dedication to providing someone that “looks and talks like them.” It is vital that marketers’ community managers are a reflection of the brand and audience.

In Conclusion

As the U.S. Hispanic population continues to increase in diversity, spending power, and influence, companies should definitely consider using Spanish in their marketing strategy.

Previously, the overarching question when marketing to Hispanics was whether brands should market in English or Spanish.

Due to the fact that there is a good proportion of the Hispanic population that can consume their content in both Spanish and English, if created correctly, culturally relevant content can lead to increased brand loyalty and preference among U.S. Hispanics.

Taking all of the research that we presented into account, we’ll leave with you direct reasons on why it makes sense to give Hispanics the option of consuming their content in Spanish starting with the fact that more Spanish speaking Hispanic consumers are joining the online world at a rapid rate. As a matter of fact this segment makes up close to 20% of the online growth.

Another good reason to use Spanish language content online is that overall, there really is less competition compared to English.

Although there are marketers that have historically done a good job in providing culturally authentic content to Hispanics, the fact of the matter is the list is very short.

There are still a great deal of brands that aren’t proactively targeting the millions of Hispanics that prefer Spanish language. This presents a great opportunity and lower advertising costs on platforms like Google and Facebook.

To sum it up, Hispanics can tell the difference between content that is authentic, unique and original versus content that has simply been translated from English to Spanish, word-for-word. 

Hispanics react better to more culturally relevant content which can pave the way for smart marketers and brands to come in and really make a huge impact.

The team at 360 Content Pro specializes in Hispanic marketing online. Click here to learn more.


About the Author:

Walter Godinez regularly writes about marketing to Hispanics / Latinos and other digital marketing topics.






Sign up for our Newsletter