As marketers, it’s our job to be in touch with the unique sensibilities of the many audiences that make up our customer base. After all, it’s extremely difficult to sell someone a product if you don’t know where to reach them or how they like to be addressed. Moreover, when we are able to communicate effectively with members of a given demographic, we’re far more effective at cultivating loyal customer relationships and achieving our marketing goals. This is of utmost importance when that audience group is growing in size.

But while marketers generally know all this to be true, many of them are still missing the mark when it comes to one of the fastest-growing demographic groups in America: Hispanics. 

Today, Hispanics account for 27% of all U.S. millennials, and by 2020, their share of the market will be worth $1.7 trillion annually—a figure that is greater than the entire economic output of Canada. Yet despite the fundamental importance of Hispanics  to any large-scale consumer brand, advertisers continue to demonstrate a lack of understanding of these customers.

Like all demographic groups, the Hispanic audience contains multitudes. Hispanics are rich and poor, urban and rural, new immigrants and multi-generational Americans. Too often, brands make the mistake of communicating with this diverse group as if it were a single customer, one who has just arrived in the United States and has a limited understanding of the English language. In reality, 46% of online Hispanics primarily consume English media.

For this reason, it is perhaps best to consider the Hispanic audience as belonging to three distinct language groups: Spanish-dominant consumers for whom Spanish is their first and primary language; bilingual customers who are comfortable speaking and consuming media in both languages; and English-dominant Hispanics who know no other home than the U.S., and who may not even be fluent in Spanish.

Given this breakdown, it’s a grave mistake to communicate with this group exclusively in Spanish-language media. As it stands, there is an 80% overlap between the 500 most popular websites among Hispanics and the top 500 sites among the U.S. population at large. Being on Spanish-language sites doesn’t mean you’re hitting your target audience, and it might mean you’re missing it altogether -- especially if you’re hoping to reach younger consumers who are more likely to have been born in the U.S.

Ultimately, studies have shown that the best way to connect with Hispanic consumers is to do so with an appreciation of the fact that they exist as members of multiple cultures. Ads that are published in both English and Spanish have proven most effective in garnering attention and driving performance, a testament to their ability to show the consumer that the brand at the other end understands who they are and what their life experience might have been like.

With the Hispanic marketplace expected to continue growing over the next decade, the time is now for brands to begin developing sophisticated, culturally sensitive plans for reaching them. And before you can even begin to get on the same page as this increasingly crucial portion of the population, you’ll first have to ensure that you’re speaking the right language.

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