Dollars en Espanol

By Randall Rickman

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dollars

The Nielsen organization wrapped 2012 with a statistical profile dedicated to the Hispanic/Latino market.  While the numbers may be useful in specific applications, the summary message (There are lots of Hispanics!) isn’t particularly groundbreaking.  As Mark Twain sagely said, “There are lies, damned lies, and statistics.”  The secret for marketers is application, application, application.  Cultural segmentation can be a positive OR a negative.  The latter is true when a demographic is excluded, or perceives exclusion.  Further, cramming a richly diverse population into a labeling niche comes dangerously close to disrespect and even discrimination.  The operative term isn’t “community;” it’s “communities.”

One takeaway from Nielsen might be: Put Spanish language on all product labels and service literature. Really?  What about Brazilians, a huge and significant market segment in all categories, who don’t speak Spanish?  And how about the 85% of  U.S. residents whose first language is English?  And second generation American Hispanics who have grown up with English on TV, the Web, and in school?

Rather than EXcluding consumers whose first language may be Spanish (or Portuguese, or Creole) by limiting labels and lit to that first language, how about INcluding them in the mainstream mix with helpful, inviting graphics.  Also— since about 60% of English words share Latin roots with Spanish and Portuguese, English labeling just isn’t that risky.  Of course, safety instructions and fine print should be trilingual in North America (with French onboard).

 An example of cultural INclusion is the Irish experience around the world. Tens of millions of people with Irish blood exist in the U.S., the U.K., Canada, Australia and elsewhere—even South America (the late Che Guevara was Irish!); yet no one talks about the Irish Community market.  Why not?  Because the Irish have become part of every host culture.  In China last month, St. Patrick’s Day was celebrated with green dragons in the streets.  With INclusion, everybody wins.

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