Reaching Hispanic Audiences: When Translation Isn’t Enough

Some organizations think it’s easy to reach audiences who speak other languages; they simply use translation software for their “multicultural efforts.” But literal translations don’t always convey the right message – like when Volkswagen’s “Drivers wanted” became “Chauffeurs wanted” in Spanish. (Business Insider has several far worse examples.) Clearly, this can be detrimental to your brand and its reputation.

As Dealer Marketing Magazine puts it, “although translation technology’s shortcomings in handling nuance and cultural difference may not be immediately apparent to a non-Spanish speaker, to someone who speaks the language fluently, they will be glaringly obvious.”

Marketers must do more than click “translate”; they must be conscious of adapting the message, not just reaching a diverse audience, but connecting to them as well. This involves a process called transcreation.

What Is Transcreation?

Transcreation is the process of adapting a message from one language to another, while maintaining its intent, style, tone and context. Marketers must consider the motives and the desired outcome of the original copy, then set about achieving that for a new audience.

Do you need to transcreate if you’re only targeting people in the U.S.?

Short answer: Yes.

In 2016, Facebook released its “Facebook IQ” study which conducted in-depth interviews with 500 Hispanics in the U.S. from different language usage backgrounds: predominantly English, bilingual and predominantly Spanish. The study revealed some interesting insights, including that more than 80 percent of respondents felt the Spanish language helps them remain connected to their culture and more than 80 percent of predominantly Spanish-speaking American Hispanics use Spanish at least half of the time when they consume content online.

The study also showed that 79 percent of Spanish-dominant and 60 percent of English-dominant Hispanics believe that brands should communicate to consumers in both English and Spanish.

“Marketers must consider the motives and the desired outcome of the original copy, then set about achieving that for a new audience.”

How do you accurately transcreate and reach Hispanic audiences?

  • Hire diversely. Start with hiring diverse employees (or an ad agency with a diverse team) and encourage them to incorporate their perspectives in creative. Transcreation will come naturally as the diversity in the team shows through the work they produce.
  • Don’t stop at the headline. Imagery, branding, voice-over talent and taglines can all be changed to ensure that your audiences feel the same way when they see the ad, regardless of their linguistic and cultural background. Even if your audience is bilingual, they appreciate an ad that actually knows them.
  • Target strategically. Research where and how Hispanics like to receive information. As for digital content consumption, Hispanic Americans spend more time on social media channels than any other channel and use WhatsApp as the leading text app and communication tool.

Benefits to your brand

In 2015, Hispanic buying power reached $1.3 trillion, and by 2020, Spanish speakers living in the United States are expected to reach as many as 41 million, according to the U.S. Census Bureau.

That means your brand has the ability to connect with one of the largest growing populations in the world – but you must do it effectively. Agencies, marketers and chief marketing officers must be willing to expect excellence from transcreation and ad assets by meeting Hispanics where they are.

Read more about reaching Hispanic audiences.

Tags: Branding & Advertising, Media Planning & Buying

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