The vast majority of the 60 million Hispanics in the U.S. are bilingual and U.S. citizens, Corro says. “There’s a myth that you must be a recent arrival if you speak Spanish.”
Another myth: All words and concepts translate easily between languages. The term “credit union” itself doesn’t translate literally into Spanish, he says.
Throughout the Spanish-speaking world, entities like credit unions may be called “cajas” or “cooperativas.”
While language differences may seem like an obstacle, companies can turn them into a strength. Soto points to Target’s “Without Translation” campaign, which highlights words representing Hispanic culture, such as “la sobremesa,” that would give Google Translate headaches.
Broadly speaking, “la sobremesa” refers to the tradition of spending time at the table long after lunch or dinner is done. “It’s a custom that’s common among Hispanics, especially those of Mexican descent,” Soto says. “They stay for hours just talking. You cannot literally translate this.”
Brands that incorporate such cultural awareness will find consumers responsive, he says.
Even when ideas and concepts do translate, watch for regional language variations. The Spanish you hear in Arizona is far different from what you hear in Florida, Soto says.
Many Hispanics in Arizona are of Mexican descent, specifically from Sonora. In Florida, you’ll find people from Puerto Rico, Central America, and Mexico.
“The words they’re using and the slang they’re using are very different,” he says.
In the Phoenix and Tucson markets, “most of our communication is in English because 90% of the Hispanic population speaks English,” Soto says. “But you can find cities where that’s not the case. If you don’t consider those nuances when creating a campaign, it won’t be effective.”
Both Corro and Soto suggest partnering with respected cultural or service organizations to boost trust and awareness.
Partnerships can allow credit unions to make inroads with Hispanic consumers. “If that trust is not there, they’ll see you as yet another bank going after their business.”
Vantage West seeks organizations that share the credit union’s values, Soto says. “Marketing from within works well within the Hispanic population. You need to do more than just run an ad in a Spanish language newspaper or have a billboard here and there.”
The credit union supports the Mexican Baseball Fiesta, which brings teams from the Mexican Pacific states to the Tucson and Mesa area to play during the last week of September and first week of October.
“It’s almost like their spring training,” he says. “You’ll see 15,000 to 16,000 people come to the stadiums to see how baseball is played in Mexico. That’s been a great opportunity to reach out to our members and potential members.”
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