The Three C’s of Hispanic Marketing for Financial Institutions (Part I)

By 2020, one in five Americans are expected to be of Hispanic origin.

This staggering statistic demands your business’s attention. Many companies would agree that ignoring the Hispanic market is a mistake. But most are unsure of how to reach them. And others still wonder if their particular business truly needs to market to Hispanics right now, or if they can push it off a little longer.

When it comes to banks, the answer is “go for it.” Hispanics need a bank today, not five years down the road. Unfortunately, most banks are doing a poor job marketing to them. As a result, the Hispanic market is a wealth of potential for financial institutions. Hispanics will pick a bank because they have to. So how can you convince them to pick yours?

By following the three C’s of Hispanic marketing: Communication, Community, and Culture.


Hispanic marketing is not: translating all your English ads into Spanish. Communicating with Hispanics encompasses so much more than translation. This is partially because many Hispanics are bilingual now and could read the original English ad, and partially because even for those who aren’t bilingual, straight translation just isn’t enough.

Why? Because of vocabulary limits, connotations and cultural barriers. Ignoring these factors will render your Hispanic messaging useless. In fact, they’re so important that we’ll discuss them individually.


When a message is translated word for word from English to Spanish, the resulting message may not be identical to the original. The English message will create one idea in an English speaker’s mind, while the Spanish message may create a completely different idea in a Spanish speaker’s mind. This is because, just like in English, Spanish words and phrases have connotations. While the literal translation may look right on paper, it can mean something very different.

For instance, the English words aroma and odor both mean smell, but one has a pleasant connotation and the other a negative. Additionally, the phrases blew all her money and used all her money have the same literal meaning,—spending money—but one has a much stronger connotation. Spanish words work the same way, so they must be considered carefully before being used. Marketers cannot just choose the obvious, literal translation and assume the Spanish word carries the same connotation as its English counterpart.

Vocabulary Limits

Some words simply have no literal translation. Obviously, this can cause quite the problem. Here are some practical examples:

  • Your ad has a strict word count, and the English version fits, but the Spanish version uses three words to express the concept of one English word.
  • The English version is alliterated. Good luck finding alliterated equivalents to each word in Spanish! Consequentially, the ad will lose some of its cleverness and memorableness.
  • An ad uses an English figure of speech, such as “pulling my leg.” The straight translation will not make any sense in Spanish, because that particular phrase does not carry the same meaning in Spanish. Spanish speakers will be left wondering what the point of the ad was and why anyone would want to pull someone else’s leg. They certainly won’t be thinking about the merits of your bank.

Marketers who plan to simply copy an English ad in Spanish words will find their plan to be much more complicated than it sounds. Converting languages requires a great deal of thought, research, and rewriting.

Likewise, some Spanish words have no counterpart in English, once again proving the shortcomings of developing an English ad and simply switching it to Spanish. This strategy bypasses an untapped wealth of potential for reaching the Hispanic market—their own language. The Pew Research Hispanic Trends Project of 2012 revealed that95% of Hispanic adults believe it is important that future generations still speak Spanish. Their language is important to them.

Marketers need to appreciate and harness the power of the Spanish language. Hispanic marketing would change forever, if marketers would use words and phrases that resonate with Spanish speakers and let the language stand independntly rather than mimic another one.

Stay tuned for the second C……


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