Clients ask why they should advertise in Spanish if Hispanics consume English media. And I always have the same reaction: “Who are we talking about? There are different types of Hispanics in US. Who do you want to target?”
I have been working in the US Hispanic media for more than 10 years in the US. I spent many of those years in a newsroom that was shared by main stream English and Spanish news teams. While “we” were discussing the latest political moves in Washington DC regarding immigration, “they” were discussing how to cover the news on Spongebob´s sex. While they were bringing in the Da Vinci Code´s author, we were blowing all the Mariachi trumpets in the studio. (5 de mayo, baby!).
Spanish Media: A gateway for newcomers
And it is not only a matter of different interests. I came to the US with a career and some English in my pocket but, still, I felt intimidated. I was not proficient with the language and I did not know how things worked here. Many Hispanics come with less than I did and struggle daily, from asking for directions to going through customer service. From disputing a charge in their bills over the phone to talking to their kid’s teacher.
Spanish Media are a gateway, and their real mission is not only to deliver information in a language the audience feels comfortable with but to help them understand how things are here and why they are how they are. A key reason not to cross out Spanish from the list.
I have more than 12 million other reasons, and I am pretty sure there are many more than 12 million. And with secure or unsecured border they will keep coming in one way or another at higher or lower numbers. There will always be a Hispanic newcomer generation because they are our next-door neighbors.
The bilingual approach
Although any immigrant population tends to become more American over time, thinking that we can get away with English only media for Hispanics is naïve. So when you see the Census predictions about the Hispanic population in 2050, don´t think it will be an easy task to address them, or that everybody will be on board (speaking, reading, enjoying English) by then.
The Pew Hispanic found that 59% of native-born Latinos say they consume news media only in English, 39% say they consume news media in English and Spanish, and just 2% say they consume news media only in Spanish. That is for native born latinos. In the other hand, only 11% of immigrant Hispanics say they consume news media only in English, 59% say they do so in both languages and 31% say they get their news in Spanish. Remember this is for News consumption.
We certainly need to develop a better bilingual approach but we cannot focus only in native-born latinos. Native born latinos have a non-native born close relative.
The Oakgrove School District in San Jose knows very well that they need to communicate with newcomer parents, not only with their US native-born kids, if they want to stop violence in high school, or if they want to prevent dropouts. This is why they have a Community Liaison, a former Teacher and Journalist who knows first generation Hispanics very well, and talks to them in their language and in their “culture”, bridging an important communication gap between the school district and families.
As Jake Beniflah mentioned in his conference at the Commonwealth Club in San Francisco, there is a very big segment of Hispanics that is first generation and mainly -or only- use Spanish and have good purchase power: “The products they buy in the small Mexican stores have nothing to do” with the main stream products in the market. I see this every day at the store next to my house. We are talking about different brands, either imported or made here just for them.
Some American brands have started introducing other flavors to their foods, and different color to their products in a cross-cultural marketing effort to reach this audience. There is a big market oppportunity out there. And it speaks Spanish.
The culture factor in “Gen 3”
And there is the culture factor or culture connection. Not only strong with the first generation Hispanics or newcomers. It goes beyond. My friend´s daughter, Jennifer, born and raised here, prefers social media in Spanish because “why would I be in a community where they don´t share my culture”. Her other friend has a one year old baby and besides calling the hospital for a diaper rash medication, she asks her Mexican granny for a natural remedy “because I need to be able to do something about it”.
If you attend any conference or read any book or blog post on how to reach Hispanics by an expert in the Hispanic community, you will always hear the same: “there is no formula, you cannot focus on English only, you need several approaches”. Trying to lure them to a message in English only is not the answer.
Hispanics have always been a challenging target because it is so dynamic in the quest for social adaptation. We cannot approach them in only one language.