By Juan Tornoe
Not all Latinos speak Spanish. This is a market truth many fail to recognize. On top of that even if a Hispanic is bilingual, you should not immediately assume you will be able to reach him or her in Spanish. Many of us either because we are more comfortable with it or want/need to practice it, will go to the English language copy.
That said, I strongly, emphatically, and urgently encourage you to always aim to provide bilingual labeling for your products. There are two strong reasons for doing so. First, there are enough Spanish dominant Latinos out there that want your product – anyone’s product for that matter – to justify stamping product description, any required product fact, an your promotional calls to action “en Español.” Simply picture yourself walking into a store in Seoul, South Korea – assuming you are not fluent in Korean –desperately craving for a whatchamacallit. You stroll down the aisles until you finally find them… There are 8 different brands, with bold letters and bright colors hollering for your attention. One problem though, you can’t read Korean, so all these attention grabbing efforts are Chinese to you! Finally, you notice that one brand just happens to include English – although in a smaller font and clearly including less information than that in Korean - on its label. Ah! You grab it and dash to the cash register, wons (Korean mulah!) in hand. Did you care if this was the number brand in town or if their advertising campaign was the most creative and/or the one with the vastest reach, if the packaging material was the most slick or if its design was far superior to the rest? Did it matter if the ingredients (or contents) satisfy your every need and requirement? Of course NOT! What mattered was that you were able to find what you were looking for and made sure, through reading the label in your language, that it was good enough and it satisfied your immediate want. This happens every day across the entire good ‘ol U.S. of A. to Spanish dominant Latinos going down millions of aisles looking for the products they need. Are you connecting to them?
The second reason for adding Spanish to your product’s labels has to do with the psyche of bilingual and English dominant Hispanics. Going back to the Seoul example from above, let’s say that you are fully bilingual in English and Korean; under exactly the same set of circumstances mentioned, you would be able to select a given brand you previously knew about and now have right there in front of you, or if you were not familiar with any of the brands available for that product line, you would be able to review the package and labeling to make a decision on which specific one you would end up buying. How do you suppose you’d feel while scanning through all the different whatchamacallit options when suddenly you realize that one of those is making the effort to reach out to YOU in your mother tongue? I assure you, if you’ve never experienced something similar, that you get a warm and fuzzy feeling inside. There is a somewhat subconscious emotional connection between you and the brand that’s talking to you in the language that you are most familiar with, that cares enough to go the extra mile, to invest a little more to make their product available to you and those who find themselves in a similar position. That emotion most often leads into action and right there and then, if your product has what it takes, you have a golden opportunity to convert these individuals into loyal customers. Isn’t that’s what’s all about.
One final word of advice: Do invest in having a professional translate your labeling information; an expert that not only understand the language, but understand both marketing and cultural issues in order to assure that the correct messaging is being delivered.
Originally published on Abasto Magazine