Those of us who work in the language services industry, and especially in Spanish <> English translation and interpretation, realize the need for what we do and the demand for it in a rapidly growing US Latino population. Joe Kutchera, author of the 2010 book Latino Link: Building Brands Online with Hispanic Communities and Content, focuses on ways businesses can reach Spanish-speaking consumers, both domestic and international, via online marketing and social media.
Kutchera’s book is broken down into 11 chapters in two halves, covering how the internet can be used to target those visiting Spanish-language websites, and how one can develop audience-appropriate and localized content in order to reach Spanish speakers. Each chapter focuses on a specific topic to aid in building a brand online, while drawing on experiences and advice from top-notch executives and featuring a relevant case study to draw all the information together.
In the Introduction, Kutchera refers to the growing Latino population and displays statistics on Latino internet usage from 2009 to that projected for 2014. Kutchera also discusses four main points which he covers in the book: creating culturally relevant content for a target audience; reasons why Latinos choose to visit sites in their native countries versus US sites; reasons why Latin Americans choose to frequent sites from the United States; and how businesses can localize their sites in order to reach a specific market.
The author argues that when deciding on the best way to market to the Latino population, one should think about this target market’s interests and beliefs before choosing a specific path. For example, should a marketing campaign focus on the soccer fever that runs deeply throughout Latin America or the latest telenovela? Kutchera suggests that business owners find a company that can assist in marketing products or services by taking into account the type of content the target market wants most. Some factors to consider before making such a decision would be the type of content Spanish speakers consume, the target market’s age range and the digital media that appeals most to this group. After researching the demographic one wishes to reach, one must consider the language in which this audience consumes information. Are they more likely to read a Spanish-language newspaper from their country of origin, or an English-language newspaper from the United States? Is the generation mostly Spanish-dominant or fully bilingual? One of Kutchera’s interviewees revealed that she prefers to read news in Spanish because she feels a stronger emotional connection with her identity and other immigrants when reading about certain topics.
This brings up the point about how users obtain information. In Chapter 2, Kutchera points out the need for business owners to put themselves in their target audience’s shoes. What terms would consumers put into a search engine? And what sites tend to appear first in such searches? Are these sites from the United States, Spain or Mexico? He addresses the need to appear higher in rankings in order to be seen by Spanish-speaking consumers, as well as the fact that users do not tend to be concerned with where the information originates, but rather, whether or not they are able to access it easily.
Chapter 5 is dedicated to instruction on utilizing social media to promote one’s brand. What social networks, blogs, YouTube videos and websites does the target market frequent? How and from where do they access such information? Kutchera suggests finding out what Latino consumers discuss, as well as how they express themselves online. Do they have a way to react to a service or product and will they be heard? The author refers to Felipe Korzenny’s notion that when marketers and service providers make messaging and self-expression possible online, they are likely to attract more interest from Latinos. In a blog post from October 2010, Korzenny mentions that “self-expression is one of the strong motivators of Hispanics generally. Thus, the Internet has become a most important liberating technology that allows repressed social needs to be expressed. Hispanics, in particular, are fond of sharing their experiences.” Kutchera suggests giving consumers the option to review products and services or give feedback on the site. He also recommends finding the best way to reach out to Latino consumers via social networking sites. This type of dialogue ensures the distribution of content visibility online.
Kutchera highlights the importance of recognizing consumers’ dialects and styles by following up on feedback left by users. This will further help to make the decision on what “flavor” of Spanish to use on one’s site and in social media connected to a brand. The author cites three types of Spanish specifically: universal, Latin American or country-specific. By employing universal, or “neutral” Spanish, one avoids using colloquialisms or terms that tend to be specific to a country or linguistic region. This type of Spanish seems to be the best (or most widely used) choice when targeting a larger, more widespread Latino market. On the other hand, the target market may perceive universal Spanish as sounding strange or unnatural. Latin American Spanish, for example, is best utilized when it can be read and understood clearly in all Latin American countries. Many businesses choose this type of Spanish because the majority of US Latinos originate from Latin America.
Country-specific Spanish can be useful when trying to target a Spanish-speaking market in a particular country, and for this Kutchera refers to Teddy Bengtsson of Idea Factory Languages. Bengtsson suggests that business owners who choose to use country-specific Spanish run a test launch of the site in order to be sure the site does not contain any negative tones or unsuitable linguistic content. Other points to consider in choosing the right “flavor” of Spanish are one’s budget and the level of formality that will be portrayed on the site.
One point Kutchera makes throughout the book is the fact that creating content in Spanish that is localized for US Latinos may also attract consumers in other countries as well. He refers to several corporations that have embraced international consumerism and how they customize their sites for such visitors, especially if they do not currently wish to ship products overseas. Business owners should be aware that content on the internet can be accessed from all over the world. If a business decides to advertise only to US Latinos, it can employ geo-targeting, also known as IP targeting, in order to distribute ads within the United States only. However, as the internet is so easily accessible, one can easily acquire customers from overseas who travel to the United States to shop.
Kutchera added in an interview that “Reaching the Spanish-preferring or bilingual Hispanic audience on the world wide web also means connecting to Latin America. Many Mexicans, for example, find sites intended for the US Hispanic market via search, and now, social media. Demand for our wide variety of unique products doesn’t stop at the border.”
Embracing Spanish speakers in advertising brings up another way to use “flavor” in promoting a brand. Kutchera focuses on the niche market of US Latina mothers in Chapter 9 and pulls together ideas on what kind of Spanish to use, as well as the use of consumer feedback and comments to sell one’s product or service to such a group. He adds that many companies now target Latina mothers because they tend to be strong figures within their families and empowered consumers overall. Therefore, targeting these women by providing information and content most appropriate and findable for them is a plus and shows an understanding between the company and female consumers. Chapter 11 specifically addresses digital media types and those most popular among US Latinos. Making a decision about distribution of content is key to getting one’s brand out there. Kutchera points out the popularity of YouTube videos and banners that show up all over the web. “Not only should your messages be culturally relevant, but so should the environments in which they are placed” (p. 161), he adds, before revealing at least eight techniques for targeting a specific audience.
Throughout his book, Kutchera mentions that if a company chooses to use country-specific Spanish, it should buy domain names with country-specific endings such as .mx (Mexico) or .es (Spain). One can choose which countries to target specifically by doing research on search engine optimization with Spanish terms, as there currently tends to be less Spanish-language than English-language content available.
In the Appendix are two surveys Kutchera sent out to professionals in media sales, media planning, localization, product/brand management and academia prior to writing the book, as well as the responses from these individuals. When I asked him whether or not he found any of the feedback surprising, Kutchera responded, “The online survey that I did in Mexico highlighted two surprising things for me, as an American. One, Latin Americans don’t always have enough online information in-language even in countries where Spanish is the main language. So, users switch to searching in English to find the information that they need. Why? The investment in online advertising in the United States dwarfs that of other nations. It represents a massive carrot to publishers to produce content in a variety of niches. Two, the study confirmed the prevalence of middle-to- upper-class Mexicans shopping in the United States, estimated at being worth $20 to $40 billion dollars annually in the United States.”
On a final note, I asked Kutchera for his top tips for companies that are just beginning to market to US Latinos. Here is what he suggests: First, find good people to help accomplish your marketing goals. That might include hiring someone internally or working with a Hispanic ad agency that has strong digital capabilities. Second, if you want to launch a major e-commerce or content site, partner with a strong translation and technology company. Third, whatever you do, stick with the decision you’ve made. Some companies such as The Home Depot have launched major Spanish-language websites only to take them down months later. Hispanic consumers notice that. Thus, build and maintain continuous relationships with your consumers on your own digital properties and social networks. Lastly, if you plan on building an online content site (not e-commerce) localize your site by developing culturally relevant content. One good example of that is Procter and Gamble’s Solo de Chikas, a sub-brand of its BeingGirl.com initiative for its Always and Tampax brands.
As a language service provider owner, it was enlightening for me to read information about promoting brands in a book that any one of my own clients might find useful in conveying content online to Spanish-speaking consumers. Latino Link is a timely resource that many business owners and marketing agencies will want to have on hand. I would recommend this book to anyone who is thinking about marketing to Spanish speakers. The author chose to connect the disciplines of localization, digital marketing and content development, and the case studies he provides are invaluable. In an age where digital is the way to go and in a country in which Latino buying power is on the rise, Kutchera is right on target. M
Korzenny, Felipe. “Why US Hispanics Use Social Networking Sites.” Marketing Trends in a New Multicultural Society. 27 October 2010. http://felipekorzenny.blogspot.com/
Kutchera, Joe. Personal interview via e-mail. 21 March 2011.