Connecting to the Spanglish speaking market

Last year while on route to Puerto Rico, my flight itinerary stopped in Miami for a layover. Sitting in the airport terminal, I overheard pieces of a conversation by two young Latinas. They spoke toggling back and forth between English and Spanish with ease. It was a great example of “Spanglish” being spoken fluidly between two completely bilingual and bicultural individuals. A conversation in Spanglish often ebbs and flows with little grammatical rules and few predictable guidelines as to when one tongue should be spoken versus the other. This creates a unique challenge for marketing professionals seeking to connect with Hispanic audiences. Although Spanglish is used frequently among many young Latinos, is it really possible for brand messages to communicate in this dialect?

Spanglish is not spoken without some controversy, of course. There are some linguistic aficionados that insist a language should be spoken in only its pure form. Latinos that grew up in bilingual families may recall a stern parent or grandparent that proclaimed either one language or the other is spoken, not both mixed together. However, in our contemporary U.S. society where a Latin American individual feels just as comfortable socializing at a business luncheon as a family quinceñera, a hybridization of language is inevitable. The challenge still remains though; how can this value driven cultural phenomenon be used in advertising, marketing, and branding?

I recently had the privilege of connecting with Daniel Pacheco, a business developer at the Monterrey, Mexico based marketing agency Gelattina. He brought a website to my attention that attempts to address how U.S. Hispanics use language. The website is for the Fiesta, the popular automobile manufactured by the Ford corporation. It is strategically crafted for bicultural, Spanglish-speaking Latinos between the ages 18-24. Even the branding campaign the website supports is aptly written in Spanglish, “Ready pa’ tu mundo” (Ready for your world). The brand and website boast a fully integrated social media campaign with YouTube videos, a Facebook page, and Twitter feed, capitalizing on young Latinos’ continual dominance in these entities.

What caught my attention the most, however, was an element located at the top center of the website’s main page called “el slider”. El slider controls the language of the entire page, giving the viewer the ability to adjust the amount of text in English or Spanish. The viewer can customize the page to his or her language preference – to the right provides more Spanish, to the left more English. The Ford Fiesta website attempts to provide value to a new generation of Latinos that fall along a similar spectrum of acculturation and bilingualism.

The Ford Fiesta website and campaign is one example of how marketers need to think outside the box to connect with Latino communities. Is it a perfect solution to capture this evolving bilingual market? Perhaps. I appreciate the initiative behind the campaign and the attempt to address the cultural insights relevant to young Latinos. Today’s Hispanic populations in the U.S. continue to change and define their presence by the use of language and what they value culturally. They are a unique phenomenon that will require new and innovative solutions on the part of marketers.

Today, I challenge marketers to:

  • Push the envelope with new ideas to connect with evolving Hispanic communities.
  • Incorporate innovative thinking to “fail fast and fail often” to address the continual changes in Latino communities.
  • Find new solutions to appropriately address how Latinos use language. Is it possible to use “Spanglish” in advertising, marketing, and branding?

Who is up to the challenge?

4 Comments

  1. I appreciate your post. Having grown up in E. Los Angeles and attended college in El Paso, Texas – “spanglish” was a way of life. It was part culture – part social identity. Tapping into it will take some nuiance since you need to really “get it” before you can use it.

    • Jonathan Mikulich (Author)

      Thank you, Miguel. I agree, “Spanglish is a rather esoteric dialect. Do you of any marketers or examples of branding/marketing that “gets it”?

  2. Jonathan, thank you so much!

    Your article is great, and definitely Latino communities are a great challenge, we are trying our best to understand them. As I told you, I’m a fan of Latino Branding Power, and I will be constantly checking for updates.

    Congratulations for this, it is a great tool for us and for marketers to read these amazing info regarding the Latino communities.

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