Product Labeling for the Hispanic Market
Aculturación Inversa - Nuevos Mercados para sus Productos

Regionalized vs. "Walter Cronkite" Spanish

February 2010
By Juan Tornoe

So you have come to the conclusion that you must reach out to Spanish dominant Latinos utilizing ads in their language. Now the question is what kind of Spanish should you use? Well, Spanish Spanish right?

Well, it is not always as simple as that.

When reaching out to Spanish speakers you first need to define the specific segment of the market you will be talking to. It can go from reaching all Spanish-dominant Latinos in the U.S. to those in a specific city or even part of a city, and everything in between. For example, around 45% of the Nation’s Dominicans live in New York City, and about 50% of Cuban-Americans live, no wonder, in Miami-Dade County. If you are marketing your products and services in Los Angeles, you need to take into consideration that there resides the biggest concentrations of Central Americans in the United States; Salvadorans being the second-largest immigrant community in the city.

Even though more than 65% of all Hispanics are from Mexican descent, you cannot immediately assume that reaching out to all Latinos using Mexican dialect will be an immediate home run.

You must take into consideration that different words in regionalized Spanish have the same English meaning, and that a specific Spanish word may have different meanings in Spanish – and English - depending on the community you are talking to.

Some examples:
A car is a car all across America; in México a car is called a “coche”, in Guatemala a “carro”. The interesting thing is that in Guatemala, a “coche” is a pig, not a car!
Depending on the country of origin of Hispanics beans can be referred in Spanish as “frijoles”, “habichuelas”, “porotos”, or “frejoles”.
The Spanish term “guagua”, for Cubans is a bus while for Chileans is a small child.
“Ahorita” means “right now” for Guatemalans, while for Costa Ricans has the exact opposite meaning, “later”.

Indeed, even though the majority of Hispanics in America are from Mexican descent, the percentage distribution varies a lot depending on the location you are aiming to reach them at. IF you are one of the companies that cater to the entire nation and have budget allocated to do Spanish advertising it is quite safe to say that utilizing Journalist Spanish, that is Spanish without any regional wording, accent or undertone: Walter Cronkite Spanish, would work just fine for you. Now, if you really have deep pockets and want to connect in a much deeper emotional way with all your audiences, create message variations for your campaign adapting to the demographic/ethnic makeup of the different regions you will target; this is what separates the men from the boys when marketing nationally.

For the rest of us who market day in and day out to clients in a specific city or region, my strong suggestion is that you do your home work and figure out the composition of your Spanish speaking clients and prospects as far as country of origin/heritage comes, and adapt your message accordingly, using as much as possible regional words, accents and even slang to get your message across in the most powerful and relevant way.

Spanish dialects vary, just as American English has differences with British, Australian and even Canadian English, eh? Please do keep this in mind for your next Spanish language advertising campaign.

Originally published on Abasto magazine.

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