The U.S. is now the second largest Hispanic market in the world, after Mexico, comprising at least 50 million people. By 2013, the purchasing power of U.S. Hispanics could reach $1.4 trillion. Clearly, this is not a market to be ignored.
Addressing it effectively requires much more than simply translating a Web site or other messages into Spanish. Instead, it is vital to understand the nuances of Latino culture and develop the right messages to resonate with Hispanics.
In their book Connecting with the New Latino Consumer, Felipe Korzenny and Betty Ann Korzenny explain how Latinos differ culturally. It’s a highly complex subject, with many subtleties that reach well beyond stereotypes.
“Culture,” they explain, “includes beliefs about the world, attitudes, values and ways of interpreting and perceiving the world. Many subjective aspects of culture can make a critical difference in the effectiveness of communications.”
Communicating with Hispanics is becoming relevant for businesses throughout the country.
Although Mexicans make up over 67% of Hispanics in the U.S., Latinos from other countries share with them a unique cultural and linguistic heritage, according to the Korzennys. This homogenous background makes it possible to market to all Hispanics.
Why not use the same positioning with everyone, Hispanic or not? “Marketing is the science of making others fall in love with your products and services,” the authors say. “It has changed from the art of persuasion to the art of establishing relationships.” And, the best way to establish relationships is to understand your prospects.
Who are these immigrants? While Latino elites are a relatively small group, they are key customers for high-end kitchens and baths. This subgroup of Latinos tend to live in La Jolla, Coronado, San Francisco, Aspen, Dallas, Houston, Miami, Atlanta and New York and travel back and forth to their countries of origin frequently.
More typically, Latino kitchen and bath customers are risk takers who came to the U.S. seeking a better life, and were willing to go through a lot to achieve their goals. These Hispanics are generally very entrepreneurial and they value success. Their homes emotionally represent the countless hours of hard work and sacrifice required to purchase them.
Two or more families may initially buy a home together and live there until they can afford to buy a second home, a custom that reflects the emphasis in Latino culture on the importance of the group and the family rather than the individual. So marketing messages that stress individualism like “express yourself,” or “have it your way,” may not speak to Hispanics. Instead, buying what their friends buy and fitting in are important. So messages like “the most popular range” or the “best-selling refrigerator” or “the preferred cabinet style” may work better.
Hispanics hold different attitudes toward children, as well. The Korzennys explain that, “the Anglo-Saxon Germanic perspective is to help them grow up and become independent as soon as possible. For Hispanics, children are perceived as a continuation of oneself and important to keep around for as long as possible.”
Because of the importance of family, kitchens should be positioned as enhancing life for the whole family, not just an individual, and contributing to the joy of family celebrations, which are central in Latino life. For that reason, it’s helpful to use photos that show multi-generational groups in kitchens.
The authors note that many Hispanic women strongly prefer fresh food over frozen or refrigerated products because they believe food that comes directly from nature is better for them and their family. So emphasizing how refrigeration keeps food fresh would be more important than talking about freezer space. Tying the message into the benefits of fresh, healthy food for children would also be important.
Children are expected to take care of parents in their old age. So marketing messages about “living independently for as long as possible” with aging-in-place products may not make sense to these clients. Instead, presenting products as multi-generational appeals to the values of family taking care of family.
Because Hispanics have a reverence for tradition and older relatives, messages like “not your grandmother’s kitchen…” would not connect well. Instead, referencing tradition and history in a kitchen works better.
Given the high importance of social occasions, having a good time is associated with feeling good about how one looks, the authors say. So positioning a steam shower for the benefits of a better, more attractive complexion might be more important than health or wellness benefits. Positioning a vanity, medicine cabinet and bathroom lighting as making it easier to apply makeup and style hair would likely be well received.
How Hispanics buy differs, too. First, the decision-making unit is the family, not the individual. Everyone from the grandmother to the children will have a say in what is selected for a kitchen or bath.
The Korzennys have found that “salespeople need to claim authority and credibility first.”
With their different approach to managing time, Latinos are less likely to be on time for an appointment. The Korzennys explain that, “In Latin culture it can be considered impolite to abruptly end a conversation, and it’s better to be late for an appointment than cut someone off.”
Their styles of doing business also differ. “The Latin American is trying to build a relationship while the American is trying to close the deal. Interactions with Hispanics tend to take longer.”
So, what language should your marketing materials be in? It’s not a simple, one-size-fits-all answer. The authors point out that 22% of U.S. Hispanic households speak English exclusively. At the same time, Spanish remains emotionally important to bilingual Hispanics.
The authors stress that, “The language of the family includes vocabulary about food, cooking, family love, home and garden, and this vocabulary is very likely to have been acquired in Spanish.” Therefore, Spanish will be more effective in connecting emotionally. And, while the overwhelming majority of Hispanics believe it is important to learn English, they also say they appreciate it when businesses use Spanish.
In addition, given that buying decisions are made by a family, whose members may have various levels of English proficiency, bilingual materials can be a good option.
Don’t simply have your materials translated by an outside service. Check with Hispanics to be sure the translations make sense. Anyone who travels has experienced odd-ball translations on menus….Part of bird, anyone? Stewed bowels? I’ve been offered both in Greece!