English, Spanish, or Spanglish: How Should You Speak to Your Customers?

Culturati vice president shares key findings from a recent study about how to use language effectively when speaking to bilingual U.S. Hispanics.

As more and more companies and marketers look to connect with the booming U.S. Hispanic audience (with good reason), determining the best way to use language in customer communications has been a key challenge. Spanish, English, or Spanglish—what’s the best choice?

Spanish

Many organizations mistakenly believe that speaking to Hispanics means speaking Spanish only. But that’s definitely not the case across the board. Today’s U.S. Hispanics, especially in large and coveted younger demographics, are more bilingual and bicultural than ever.

English

That leads many organizations to focus on English only. But this approach can feel less culturally specific and potentially leave out an important chunk of your audience. If your communication does not feel personal and connected, it will be less effective.

Spanglish

Using Spanglish, a combination of English and Spanish, has proven to be effective in many instances, but only when used correctly. This in itself is a challenge, raising the question…

How Do You Use Spanglish Effectively in Marketing?

A recent study by Culturati and Nielsen sought to determine what makes for effective Spanglish advertising. In this interview with eMarketer, Rene Sanchez, Culturati’s vice president of client strategy and insights, shared three principles for effective bilingual messaging. While these principles are focused specifically on TV advertising, we think the insights can be applied to all marketing communications:

1. Have a purpose

Don’t use Spanglish just because you’re trying to reach Hispanics. Make sure it’s integrated in an organic way to the story you’re trying to tell to the specific audience you’re trying to reach.

2. Show respect for language and culture

Simply sprinkling in Spanish words here and there is not only ineffective, it’s disrespectful. Remember, language is a big part of culture and people have an emotional connection to it. Always be respectful of that.

3. Use natural bilingual speakers

If you have people who are not authentic and don’t understand the language and culture, it will show. If you want to speak to bilingual Hispanics, use real bilingual Hispanics to do so.

Above All Else, Make Your Message Relevant

It’s important to remember that first and foremost, you must have a message that speaks to the audience you want to reach. You can use Spanglish all day long, but if you’re not saying something meaningful to Hispanics it will fall on deaf ears.

“No matter what language is used, the content, context and cultural nuances must be there first. Brands should leverage the language to elevate cultural connections with consumers,” Sanchez said.

Whether it’s in a marketing email or call center communications, make sure you are speaking the language of your U.S. Hispanic customers (both linguistically and culturally). When you do that, the message will be more personal and they will form a stronger connection with your brand.