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Marketing to Hispanics: Why It's Not Just About Speaking Spanish With a larger average household size and high spending power, Hispanics are loyal to the brands they love, which creates a perfect opportunity for brand marketers.

By Matthew Harris Edited by Dan Bova

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Thomas Barwick | Getty Images

In a recent study Yahoo conducted with Ipsos on Hispanic millennials focused on the third generation, over half of the respondents said it's about time that advertisers recognized that Hispanics shop, too. It's a new year, and another reminder that the Hispanic consumer is exponentially growing in buying power. Now more than ever, it's imperative for marketers to understand what it takes to reach this important customer segment and build a proper marketing strategy that's thoughtful, effective and appeals to their specific interests and preferences.

I've dedicated my career to understanding the Hispanic market, and I have seen it evolve, ebb and flow over time as the economy has grown. According to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, this market is on track to reach $1.7 trillion by 2020. But, if there's one key theme I've seen resonate as a marketer, it's the significant role of the Spanish language: its various uses, along with the recognition that cultural identity is bigger than knowing the language. One key understanding: Half of all second-generation Hispanics are bilingual, while only 23 percent of third generation are. There are a few themes that resonate when developing a marketing strategy for Hispanics, with language considerations woven throughout.

Below, I've offered up a few key strategies and tactics that marketers can adopt to be successful with this market, framed around their preferences for digital content, how they associate with their culture, and what types of advertising resonates with them most.

Use online video, and distribute it on mobile.

When it comes to entertainment, Hispanics love variety, and even more when it comes in the form of online video. On average, they visit nearly nine different sites, apps and services to view this content over a 30-day period. This presents a huge opportunity for marketers to implement a multi-pronged digital content strategy, where language can strategically be used across multiple touchpoints. Also, content that speaks to their heritage is popular with Hispanics, whether or not they're fluent in Spanish.

A study Yahoo conducted last summer indicated that Hispanics are quickly replacing traditional television, spending a majority of their time watching online content. Moreover, they've become a mobile-first generation: Over the last few years, their time spent on mobile video increased by 53 percent, and is even higher for those who are Spanish-dominant, with 94 percent who watch video at least once a week. It allows them to watch whenever, wherever they are. And that's huge for marketers.

Know your audience: Tap into Hispanics' cultural connections.

The majority of Hispanics feel connected to their heritage. Culture is a way of life that's felt in the way they act, what they eat, listen to, watch and how they speak with each other. There are, however, nuances between different generations. Over half of Hispanics are of millennial age or even younger, and these gaps in age have an impact on a variety of cultural factors, including language attribution, cultural identity, battling stereotypes and more.

We often hear the second-generation saying, "No soy de aqui, ni soy de alla," which means "I'm not from here or from there" -- they feel caught in between two cultures. Content needs to be tailored to their specific interests. This might mean use more ads in English, but with a stronger cultural or emotional connection -- memes that play on cultural experiences or videos that poke fun can be very effective, and we see this more and more from people sharing on social media. Whomever the audience, show relatable scenarios and tug at the heartstrings.

Conversely, our study indicated the third generation feels "at home" in both cultures, having grown up primarily English-dominant, and yet still heavily connected to their heritage. They're also more likely to feel a higher pressure for success, having learned the importance of a college education, achieving goals and living lives their parents may not have had. And when evaluating language fluency and the fact that less than a quarter of third-generation Hispanics are bilingual, marketers should assume that content that's primarily in English, and that reinforces the attainability of the "American Dream," will be well received with this generation.

There are also some unique instances in which the use of Spanish scales across generations. Hispanics spanning three or four generations might live under the same roof; this can mean daily interactions between grandparents, parents and their children, the latter of which might serve as interpreters for their older family members. In the digital sphere, we see social media also as a gateway for cultural connection here, as many Hispanics use different platforms to communicate with friends and family members. The opportunity here? Reinforce the heart and humor of older generations.

For advertisers, be relatable: It's about more than translating commercials.

Here's some music to your ears: Hispanics are very receptive to advertising; in fact, over half of millennial Hispanics actually welcome advertising targeted to them as a Hispanic. So what's the catch? Marketers need to offer a true reflection of what it means to be Hispanic -- that speaks to both Hispanic traditions and American culture. Avoid "Hispandering" -- content should be highly curated and focused on cultural identity beyond just language. The use of stereotypes can be comical, but should be done properly, else they will backfire. Our third-generation study showed "Latin-style dancing" was the least important advertising element indicated by respondents.

With a larger average household size and high spending power, Hispanics are loyal to the brands they love, which creates a perfect opportunity for brand marketers. Unfortunately, too many brands expect to reach this market by pouring additional budget into their total market media buys. This is clearly not the smartest move, as this audience needs to be addressed differently. Instead, marketers should recognize barriers, and be careful and thoughtful in their strategy for this specific audience.

To recap, marketing to Hispanics requires thoughtful implementation of the following:

  • Use video whenever, however possible, and serve it on mobile. Whether you're creating a short parody piece, a 30-second ad clip or a long-form feature, use video to capture attentions on every type of mobile device you can.

  • Know your audience! Are they Spanish-dominant? What do they read? Are they second-generation? Third? If you don't know who you're talking to, you won't know how to talk to them. Because we see consumers and their interests from more points of view than any other company, we offer unique insights from 165 billion daily data events to target the right audiences.

  • Be real, and be credible. Hispanics are closely tied to their heritage, but that's not all that defines them; understand where their differences lie. If possible, engage outside resources to understand these nuances; whether it's a multicultural agency, or our insights and advertising teams at Yahoo, tap the expertise of others with a proven track record of success.

Matthew Harris

Director of Sales at Yahoo

Matthew Harris serves as director of sales, U.S. Hispanic, at Yahoo, where he is responsible for sales management, client relations, market analysis, new business development, negotiations and more. He has worked in Hispanic media for over 15 years.

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