OP-ED: In ethnic marketing, speak the language and the culture

The term "ethnic marketing" has traditionally meant using one strategy to target a company's marketing, ad, and PR campaigns to a "multicultural" audience comprising three major groups within the US: African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. This "Benetton" approach toward simultaneously marketing to diverse segments of the population has typically been done in one language - English. Today, this approach doesn't work. Companies still using that tactic risk missing a huge opportunity to tap into these rapidly growing groups.

The term "ethnic marketing" has traditionally meant using one strategy to target a company's marketing, ad, and PR campaigns to a "multicultural" audience comprising three major groups within the US: African Americans, Asians, and Hispanics. This "Benetton" approach toward simultaneously marketing to diverse segments of the population has typically been done in one language - English. Today, this approach doesn't work. Companies still using that tactic risk missing a huge opportunity to tap into these rapidly growing groups.

In the May issue of American Demographics magazine, the article entitled "A Multicultural Mecca" states that nearly 30% of the US population is now considered multicultural. According to the University of Georgia's Selig Center, minority purchasing power has doubled over the past decade, and will reach $1.4 trillion by 2005. There are now 38.7 million Hispanics in the US controlling about $580 billion in buying power, according to the 2000 census. This figure is projected to grow 9.1% per year between 2003 and 2020. But how does a company get its share of that? By communicating with them "in-language and in-culture." By translating and localizing messages in multiple languages, styles, and approaches, advertisers and marketers have discovered that there is a much better chance of tapping into particular markets. This has launched a trend for language translation and localization services. Research has repeatedly proven that consumers are up to four times more likely to make purchases when addressed in their native language, and web users now stay on a website twice as long if it's written in their own language. It's called the "world wide web" for a reason. Approximately 163 million internet users are non-English speakers, according to Global Reach, a global internet research firm. Web translation has become the fastest-growing segment of marketing communications today because the internet provides the opportunity for businesses and consumers alike to expand their borders of knowledge and increase global interaction. For more than 95% of the world's population, English is not the native language. As such, the need for localized communication is imperative. But it is more than simply translating messages; messages need to be localized. What does this mean? A localized product or message is one that is fully adapted to the cultural requirements and expectations of a given user community. Localized programs make use of realistic examples and metaphors that are appropriate to that community. This is not simply a translation of the text. The goal of localization is to present a product in a way that a user can easily understand and relate to, based upon his or her own culture and language. In the US alone, there are some 28 million Spanish-speaking Americans. By 2010, Spanish speakers will total 42 million, comprising the largest single ethnic minority group in the US, according to the US Census Bureau. And corporate America is realizing that if it wants to tap into this market, it has to recognize this market's needs and take translation and localization very seriously. Following are a few examples of how corporate America said, "Se habla Español." This year, Nissan introduced Nissan en Español, an interactive Spanish language site, offering Spanish-speaking consumers a dealer locator feature, along with vehicle and buying and leasing information. Bank of America and Yahoo! en Español launched a financial services site that lets US Hispanic consumers access Spanish-language information on checking and savings accounts, CDs, mortgages, and online banking. Sprint now offers its PCS Vision customers downloadable Spanish-language voice ringers and choice content from its English language categories. Domino's Pizza launched a Spanish-language version of its website to accommodate the growing population of Hispanic consumers. Ross Stores, the off-price retailer, recently launched a Spanish language VNR about Latina shoppers to reach Hispanic viewers of Spanish language television. This was the second Hispanic VNR they have produced. According to Simmons Market Research, 10.3% of Hispanics shop at Ross Stores. General Motors North America featured its president, Gary Cowger, in a 30-second spot for a nationwide commercial that was done totally in Spanish. The spot, in which Cowger was seen "touting" products and services to Hispanic consumers, ran on Univision and Telemundo. These are only a few industry examples of how communication solutions as we know them are changing. Simply ask any marketer about their top priorities in the coming decade, and you will probably find that "in-language and in-culture" campaigns rank near the top of that list.
  • Gina Amaro is director of multinational markets for PR Newswire.

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