Luis Soto, VantageWest Credit Union

Multicultural marketing: 7 do’s and don’ts

Know your market’s national origins and regional language variations.

March 11, 2020

Victor Corro, CEO of Coopera, and Luis Soto, marketing manager for $2 billion asset Vantage West Credit Union, Tucson, Ariz., offer seven do’s and don’ts for multicultural marketing:

1. Don’t use Google Translate to translate your website. Although the effort comes from a good place, Corro says, the result is “terrible.”

A native speaker reading such text can detect the clumsiness and mechanical tone.

“It sounds like Cookie Monster talk,” Corro says. “As a consumer, it comes across like you’re an afterthought.”

2. Do hire an experienced native Spanish speaker, preferably one from your target audience, to translate content, if you determine that’s what you need.

Know the national origins of your market as well due to regional language variations, Soto says.     

3. Don’t assume everything needs to be translated into Spanish. It depends on what you’re promoting and the language preferences of your target segments.

Soto says most of Vantage West’s “Banks Own You, You Own Us” campaign is delivered in English because that’s what most of the market—40% Hispanic with high millennial representation—prefers.

‘Use real people—members and staff—to promote your brand.’
Luis Soto

4. Don’t confuse what it means to have bilingual vs. bicultural staff members.

“A staff who is only bilingual but not bicultural may not be able to relate to the aspirations, needs, and wants of those who are truly bicultural,” Corro says. “Hiring decisions are very important.”

5. Do highlight the credit union difference with a new, untapped market.

If all you’re doing is touting free checking and car loans, you risk sounding like any other financial institution.

Being a credit union member “is not just a transactional relationship, it’s more of an advocacy and support relationship,” Corro says.

6. Don’t use stock photography. As an extreme example, Soto points to Rebecca Ariane Givens, dubbed as the “the world’s most overexposed stock photography model.”

She appears in thousands of ads from skin care to fitness to health and dining—a hazard of using stock photography.

Some organizations use stock photos with people of multiple ethnicities to appear racially and ethnically balanced. This may come across as pandering, Soto says, and “that’s the worst of all in my opinion.”

7. Do use real people—your members and staff—to promote your brand.

Vantage West asks front-line, customer contact employees to listen for member stories that would help tell Vantage West’s larger brand story, Soto says.