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360i Report: Language Preference among Digital Hispanics

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Executive Summary
This report is part two in a series focused on Hispanic digital marketing. Following part one, which looked at Hispanic Digital Influencers, this report discusses language preferences among Hispanics online and identifies innovative ways marketers can better tailor their efforts to be more “discoverable” by online searchers.

Key Takeaways:
Pay attention to cultural and sub-cultural nuances. US Hispanics are a multifaceted and fragmented group with varying levels of acculturation, ages, psychographics, language proficiency and demos. As such, it’s important to determine exactly what target within the Hispanic audience your brand is looking to connect with and develop a campaign that speaks directly to them.
Optimize for search. Hispanics are searching for products, brands and information online in large numbers. To capture this demand, it’s recommended that marketers optimize their websites for keywords in Spanish and potentially even words that are commonly misspelled in English by Spanish speakers.
The Basics: Culture & Language Preference Among Hispanics
The 2011 edition of Advertising Age’s Hispanic Fact Pack confirmed what many in the Hispanic marketing space already knew: language preference is fragmented among Hispanics, as is their preference for media consumption.

Traditional media sources — especially radio, magazines and newspapers — see higher levels of consumption in Spanish than digital media, but Spanish speakers are very active online. This gap is likely due to a deficiency in the availability of Spanish-language digital media, which may lead consumers who prefer Spanish to engage with English media first. Offering reliable Spanish-language resources may be a good way to reach some underserved Hispanic communities. The issue becomes more complex as we begin to recommend not only the language brands should use to market to Hispanic consumers, but also the tone, cultural touch points and dialect, as it is important to incorporate elements of each.

Acculturated Hispanics tend to prefer Spanish advertising, labeling and signage for informative reasons, but also because they feel respected (57%) by companies that demonstrate appreciation of their heritage and culture through Spanish advertising. They exhibit greater loyalty to these brands (53%). More surprisingly, Hispanic adults who are English dominant and consume media in advertising, also tend to perceive companies that market and advertise in Spanish positively, not for their utilitarian benefits, but for deeper emotional implications such as “respect of my heritage” (29%) and “appreciation for my culture” (26%).

Tone, culture and voice remain important. For consumers comfortable in their dialects of origin, highly studied or practiced Spanish word choices may be interpreted as cold or haughty. There are implications tied to language within individual subsets of Hispanics, and those implications often drive unique emotional responses.

Identifying Consistencies within the Heterogeneous U.S. Hispanic Market
More sophisticated multicultural marketers have by now moved past hiring translation services to recreate parallel strategy and tactics in Spanish. They know that direct translation can polarize some members of a community as it results in an inauthentic voice.

For less acculturated Hispanics, brand-to-consumer communications in Spanish may be both a necessity and a comfort that demonstrates the welcoming nature of the brand. Across variables such as language preference, acculturation, country of origin or socioeconomic status, culturally relevant advertising tends to be effective.

Dynamic Logic’s MarketNorms database studied the effectiveness of online ads within Hispanic websites, and found that US Hispanics are more receptive to online ads when compared to the US General Market. In fact, US Hispanics’ response to advertising outperformed overall market norms in every category researched.
Language Pref 1
More specifically, the study shows that ads tailored to a Hispanic audience were more positively received than general ads.

Millward Brown’s Hispanic Link Database was used to analyze specific characteristics of top-rated Hispanic ads and the ones that stood out contained the following attributes:
Use of genuine humor
Music with cultural affinity
Appealing celebrities / role models
Family / children scenarios
Latin American scenery
Elements of escapism
A brand’s use of language and cultural cues such as those mentioned above should be dictated by the specific audience’s preference (i.e. moms, second generation teens and urban dwellers) in tandem with the brand’s core values. Understanding how each consumer group’s unique cultural schema might dictate language preference is crucial in deciding how to use language. Online listening or consumer insights specialty groups can help consider all facets of the target consumer’s behavior and conversation. This type of research will offer perspective on the differences between the target Hispanic audience and the general market, as well as other Hispanic audiences within the United States.

The two case studies below demonstrate the nature of the value of understanding the relationship between a brand, its audience and shared culture.
Case Study: Comida Kraft (360i client)

Comida Kraft, the Latina CRM program at Kraft Foods, developed a partnership with 12 influential Latina mom bloggers to promote its “Comparte Tu Sabor Latino” social media campaign. In keeping with the brand’s affinity and online identity, the bloggers selected for the program write and speak primarily in Spanish. They were asked to promote the Comida Kraft Facebook Page and create home cooking videos to be featured on the Comida Kraft YouTube Channel.

Recognizing the need for consistency across its platforms, Comida Kraft worked with bloggers who represented the language, tone and family-oriented brand persona embodied throughout its website, Facebook page and Twitter handle. It was important that the bloggers who would be telling the Comida Kraft story online shared a similar voice and cultural experience with the brand’s established digital identity, because Comida Kraft fans are familiar with that experience and remain loyal to the brand in part because of it.

The Comida Kraft Facebook Page is among the most engaged communities for Hispanic brand pages. In large part this is due to the brand’s ability to interact in Spanish and with cultural relevance to a group of the nearly 90,000 Facebook fans. The “Comparte Tu Sabor Latino” blogger campaign would need to make those same loyalists feel welcome and understood.

Over the course of a month, 12 Latina mom bloggers posted 24 videos driving more than 27,000 recipe video views through YouTube. The interest from the Hispanic digital community was significant; but more importantly, the campaign served as a reminder to existing Comida Kraft fans that the brand understands who they are and how they enjoy using social media.

Key Learning: Once a brand has determined its target audience and its own Hispanic Market identity, it is important to continue to make resources available to its audience in the same language and with the same cultural tone, so as to build a strong shared experience between brand and consumer.

Case Study: MUN2 — Bilingual and Bicultural
MUN2 — a cable network popular among younger Latinos — defines its target audience as “C2s” or “culture connectors,” comprised of an influential core group of Hispanic individuals, ages 18 to 34 who are bilingual, bicultural and consider themselves American.

This past summer MUN2 did what no other network had ever dared to do: it launched RPM Miami, a TV series that was completely bilingual. Characters in the show alternate between English and Spanish language use, while subtitles for the alternate language appear at the bottom of the screen. Aside from its bilingual approach to dialogue, the storyline and show details were easily relatable to young Latinos: the struggle of a twenty-something war veteran to help his broken family, Miami’s street car-racing underworld and guest appearances by reggaetón super star musicians. The network also employed a multiplatform strategy with its online property at center. This hub featured past episodes and previews of upcoming episodes, in addition to a mobile component that shared updates with registered users.

The result? RPM Miami became the third most-watched cable TV show on Sundays, commanding a viewership of 2.5 million people (Nielsen) and driving 81,000 unique visitors to www.mun2.tv (May 1-July 4, 2011).

Key Lesson: If your audience exhibits shifting interests in language and cultural identity, don’t be afraid to mimic that when engaging online or off.

Implications for SEO and SEM
One generally under-examined rationale for Spanish language and Hispanic-relevant content is its value in a brand’s discoverability. Since US Hispanics may seek out more information about a brand or its products by searching in both English and Spanish, it is important to consider SEO and SEM strategies specific to this audience. In fact, Google reports that every day, 8 percent of its total search queries are conducted in Spanish, with even more conducted in non-standard English, findings that are also supported by recent ethnographies.

Brand websites can be optimized for search by adding Spanish language mission critical keywords, tags and meta tags within the site’s code. This ensures a brand’s website will be “findable” when a search is conducted by someone searching in Spanish.

Additionally, due to the lack of robust content online in Spanish, consumers who are less comfortable in English may end up conducting searches using English words. Due to lack of fluency in English, consumers may misspell certain search keywords. Therefore, in addition to optimizing for and bidding against Spanish language keywords in order to capture Hispanic demand, we advise exploring common misspellings as well.

Search engines are very exact in the way they operate; after a query they offer the best possible results based on the term searched for — but they won’t necessarily take geography into account. For example, it’s very common that a search conducted in Spanish will yield results that include international sites generally not relevant to a US-based searcher’s query.

Below is a search exercise that portrays how SEM and SEO can impact any business’ online potential. The keyword used in this example was “joyeria fina” (fine jewelry).
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While this search was conducted in the United States, none of the top three search results included a geographically relevant website. Sites for jewelry stores in Spain ranked at #1 and #2, while a website in Mexico placed third. The search engine recognized the word “joyeria” within those sites and ranked them in very high positions after the query was made. While this example represents a clear miss for U.S.-based jewelry stores hoping to attract Hispanic consumers in their markets, it also underscores the opportunity to capitalize with the search space, which is largely devoid of competition in the Hispanic market.

U.S. based e-commerce sites are also failing to impact the Hispanic online market. We performed a second exercise to analyze search from a local setting and found that when searching for Latino supermarkets from New York, the search engine results instead pointed to Latino supermarkets in Florida.

While some will argue that smaller businesses don’t always have the means to invest in an SEM program, paid search allows marketers to create campaigns as big or as small as their budgets allow. Larger Hispanic food distributors can monetize from these types of queries as well since this exercise demonstrated that popular Hispanic food brands were absent both in organic and paid search results. Latin groceries in New York and Hispanic food distributors can geo-target their campaigns so that their websites appear only in the area they wish to target (i.e. New York, South Florida or Texas) and attain budget efficiency while filling a void for those in search of Hispanic products. Being able to geo-target a search campaign can help marketers position their brands online with a very strategic, niche-based approach.

Case Study: H&R Block (360i client)
H&R Block wanted to create an online presence among a growing Hispanic customer base that preferred to research and find information about taxes in Spanish. As tax season approached, H&R Block was aware that search was driving a significant volume of new customers. A lack of optimization on the site meant that H&R Block did not appear in the results when consumers searched for tax-relevant terms in Spanish.

A plan was devised to optimize H&R Block’s Spanish website. First, the content and structure of the H&R Block Español site was reviewed thoroughly. Next, the most commonly searched phrases related to taxes and H&R Block’s product offerings were researched. These insights were fundamental to devising an SEO solution that would successfully drive H&R Block Español to the top of the search pages.

A focused list of the top relevant Spanish language terms was crafted so that subsequent SEO efforts would be concentrated on these high volume keywords. Customized title tags and meta data based on the keyword list were then added to the H&R Block Español site in order to improve relevancy for searches on these terms. Finally, the content on every page of the H&R Block Español site was reviewed and ways to add or modify the site’s content to boost rankings and improve relevancy on mission critical terms were recommended.

Results after SEO:
H&R Block Español gained more than 170 new first place rankings for high volume terms across both the English and Spanish language versions of Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

H&R Block’s first place rankings rose by 200% within Spanish-language search engines.

Increased rank on term “servicio de preparacion de impuestos” (tax preparation services) to #1 position across Google, Yahoo! and MSN.

Raised rank for term “impuestos” (taxes) from #123 to #2 position in U.S. on Google.

Understanding language preference, and the cultural nuances that influence the way US Hispanics engage with digital media, is critical for brands looking to reach this audience in a genuine way that resonates with their online behaviors and motivations. Branded communities, influencer outreach and search programs — paid and earned — all stand to benefit from a strategic approach that takes into consideration the fragmented language preferences of the US Hispanic population. Contact your 360i strategic advisor for more information.