Tamales and Traditions: The Culture Gap in Hispanic Marketing

According to the U.S. Census Bureau and Pew Hispanic Center, the Hispanic population will make up 30% of the nation by July 1, 2050. This is exciting news for businesses, IF they decide to tap into the Hispanic culture and influence. 

Most companies have seen this rising trend and are preparing to appeal to the Hispanic population. But now, the real question- how? How do you captivate an audience who’s culture is so different from America’s? How do you know that your message is being communicated effectively? Here’s some basic “do’s” and “don’ts” when advertising to Hispanics. 


Customize your message.      Certain messages in English may sound the same grammatically in Spanish but have entirely different connotations. The California Milk Processors decided to translate their motto, “Got Milk?” into Spanish but ended up with what sounded like, “Are You Lactating?” in a Hispanic’s mind. By double checking grammar, correct word association, or even consulting an expert,  you can avoid embarrassing moments and create more effective marketing. 

Know the culture.     How can you market to someone when you don’t know how they think or what they value? If you can’t get in the same frame of mind as a Hispanic, you will struggle finding ways to truly appeal to them. For instance, Hispanics highly value relationships and will want to spend a significant amount of time talking to you before striking a deal, instead of getting straight to business. A meeting with Hispanics may take longer than you’re used to, which could also have to do with their relaxed perspective on time. Don’t stress if they’re a little late to a meeting, or if they extend small talk 10 minutes longer than you were planning on. They aren’t being rude; their lives just aren’t dictated by the clock as much. See, knowing culture really is important!


Overlook important holidays and traditions.     These are a gold mine for the marketers who are willing to study into them. Hispanics, like everyone else, feel valued and appreciated when their holidays and traditions are recognized. Your efforts to understand them will not go unnoticed! Pizza Patrón (Pizza Boss) hit the nail on the head when they offered specials on vegetarian pizza during Lent, or Cuaresma. Their Pizza de Cuaresma appealed to the majority of their Hispanic audience, Catholics who wouldn’t eat meat during Lent. Their company is full of brilliant moves like this. The more you know about which events are special to Hispanics, why they are, and how Hispanics celebrate them, the closer you are to reaching your Hispanic audience.

Assume all Hispanics are the same.     They aren’t. An emphasis on soccer seems like a solid idea for Hispanic marketing, but is that true across the board? If you tried this approach for a Puerto Rican market, you’d be mistaken. Baseball or basketball would actually be a safer call.And each country celebrates Independence Day on different dates, so emphasizing just one doesn’t reach everyone!…which actually gives you even more options. Don’t ignore them! 

Marketing to Hispanics is not something you can do off the cuff, but research and careful observation can work wonders! Spending time with Hispanics and asking them personally about their culture, values, and traditions is especially eye-opening. They will appreciate your interest in their lives and respect for their heritage.

So do your research and tap into the Hispanic market. The results will be fantástico!

For further reading, here are some resources about brands that have succeeded in Hispanic marketing, statistics about the growth of the Hispanic population, and other tips about marketing to Hispanics.


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