Marketing to Hispanics? Find the Right Translator

Make marketing messages understandable and culturally relevant.

January 24, 2011

When reaching out to the young and fast-growing Hispanic market, credit unions sometimes fall short in a crucial, yet surprisingly difficult, area: translating their intended marketing message from English to Spanish, says Warren Morrow, CEO of Coopera Consulting, Des Moines, Iowa.

He recalls one credit union that used a play on words to tell Hispanic consumers about its low fees.

“It had a tagline throughout its branch, ‘feedom,’ trying to play off of freedom from fees,” Morrow recalls. “It was difficult to translate or find the culturally relevant version in Spanish. We’d have to go a little different route to express in Spanish what the English version attempted to express.”

Warren Morrow
video Coopera Consulting CEO Warren Morrow discusses common translation mishaps. Watch now.

This type of translation mishap can confuse Spanish-speaking members and prevent the intended message from getting through. A good translator would prevent this type of mistake from happening, Morrow says.

He cites three things credit unions can do to find a high-quality translator:

  1. Look at the translator’s credentials and ask for references;
  2. Look at the person’s previous work and have your bilingual staff verify that it’s on-target;
  3. Express to the translator that it’s the message you want translated, not necessarily the literal English translation of what you’ve created.

“That’s where this becomes a more consultative, strategic process,” Morrow says. “The translator should be adept enough to spread the intended message.”

Coopera does “back translations” which show parallel versions of the Spanish and English translations. That way, non-Spanish speakers know what’s being relayed to Spanish-speaking members.

According to the Pew Research Center, Washington, D.C., Hispanics will make up approximately one-third of the U.S. population by 2050. Currently, almost one of five people under age 18 is Hispanic.

The median age of Hispanics is 27, while the average age of credit union members is 47, according to the U.S. Census Bureau and the Credit Union National Association.

Hispanics have a purchasing power that’s expected to reach $1 trillion next year, according to the Selig Center for Economic Growth, Athens, Ga.—and yet 40% to 55% of U.S. Hispanics don’t have a relationship with a traditional financial institution.

Reaching out to a new market takes commitment and dedication to demonstrate you truly want to serve its needs, Morrow says. “It’s not enough to simply translate marketing materials into Spanish or hire bilingual personnel.

“Success requires deliberate, comprehensive steps resulting in a true partnership with the Hispanic community—where your credit union is a trusted financial service provider, an employer of choice, and a caring neighbor.”