Spanglish in advertising: how to better reach Hispanics.

Last updated on:

Aug 8, 2022 | Strategy

With over 60 million Hispanics representing the second largest ethnic demographic in the United States, brands are keen to connect with this influential consumer segment. One strategy is integrating Spanglish into advertising efforts. When used judiciously, Spanglish can help brands resonate authentically with bicultural, bilingual Hispanic consumers. However, there are also common pitfalls to avoid when implementing Spanglish in campaigns.

What is Spanglish?

Spanglish refers to a blending of English and Spanish, often with words, phrases or sentences switching between the two languages. It encompasses code-switching, loan words, and linguistic crossover. Spanglish reflects the intermingling of Anglo and Latin cultures in communities where both languages are commonly spoken. Native bilingual speakers naturally engage in Spanglish without thinking.

Why Can Spanglish Be Effective in Ads?

When strategically executed, Spanglish offers advertisers several advantages:

    It Resonates with Bilingual Hispanic Culture
    Seamlessly blending Spanish and English mirrors how many Hispanic Americans actually communicate. This linguistic authenticity helps brands relate to the lived experience of the target consumers. Potential Mistake to Avoid: Assuming all Hispanic consumers naturally use Spanglish. Usage patterns vary based on geography, age, and cultural background.
    It Conveys a Sense of Inclusiveness
    By acknowledging Hispanic consumers in a way familiar and relevant to them, Spanglish signals a brand’s interest in connecting with this demographic. Even limited use of Spanish demonstrates respect for Hispanic culture. Potential Mistake: Adding sporadic Spanish words as a token gesture without broader adaptation for cultural values.
    It Allows Flexibility Across Cultures

    Spanglish fluidly brings together two cultural worlds. For brands with both English and Spanish offerings, Spanglish can capture audiences across contexts.

    Potential Mistake: Failing to recognize differences in dialect, slang and idioms between various Spanish-speaking cultures.

    It Facilitates Clear Communication

    Spanglish efficiently conveys concepts directly in the most fitting language. Some terms like “celebración” have no concise English translation, while English may better communicate tech and modern concepts.

    Potential Mistake: Direct word-for-word translation between languages that sounds unnatural.

    It Has Memorable Rhythm and Sounds
    The cadence and melodic blending of languages makes Spanglish lines engaging, fun and sticky. Phrases like “Hola Y’all” capture attention through the novel fusion. Potential Mistake: Forcing Spanglish cleverness that results in awkward or nonsensical phrasing.
    It Reflects an Identity
    Second and third generation Hispanic Americans growing up immersed in both cultural worlds can embrace Spanglish as an emblem of their blended bicultural identity. Potential Mistake: Making assumptions about Hispanic identity. Focus on the brand’s value proposition, not stereotypes.
    It Has Youth Appeal
    Younger demographics are especially comfortable code-switching between English and Spanish in everyday life. Spanglish used creatively aligns brands with a hip, contemporary sensibility. Potential Mistake: Trying too hard to sound cool or “down with the culture” in forced, inauthentic ways.
    It Can Be Humorous
    Playing with the juxtaposition between languages opens opportunities for funny, whimsical phrasing and witty double entendres. Light-hearted Spanglish presents a brand personality. Potential Mistake: Humor that inadvertently ridicules or belittles Hispanic culture and people.
    It Feels Like Insider Language
    When Spanglish rings familiar to those embedded in the culture, it makes them feel “in the know”. Brands that can pull off natural Spanglish without sounding like outsiders gain credibility. Potential Mistake: Using Spanglish incorrectly through lack of understanding of nuances, leading to miscommunications.
    It Captures Intra-Cultural Nuances
    The right Spanglish precisely articulates concepts, emotions and experiences unique to navigating biculturalism. English or Spanish alone may not convey the full meaning. Potential Mistake: Clumsy direct translations that skew the intended message and cultural insights.

    The right Spanglish precisely articulates concepts, emotions and experiences unique to navigating biculturalism. English or Spanish alone may not convey the full meaning.

    Potential Mistake: Clumsy direct translations that skew the intended message and cultural insights.

    Key Considerations for Success

    1. When strategically leveraged, Spanglish can be a powerful tool for brands to connect with Hispanic consumers while conveying inclusivity and cultural competency. However, the following keys will ensure more effective execution:
    2. Work with native bilingual creative talent in developing Spanglish campaigns. Their instincts will prevent clumsy construction.
    3. Understand regional and demographic variations in Spanglish usage and slang. What sounds natural to Puerto Rican audiences may not resonate the same for Mexican Americans.
    4. Adapt, don’t just translate. Idioms and syntax need to be tweaked to sound authentic and meaningful.
    5. Use Spanglish as a spice to enhance ads, not as the whole dish. A light sprinkling integrated thoughtfully has more impact than flooding copy.
    6. Consider cultural values and nuances as much as the language itself. Does the messaging align with Hispanic cultural themes?
    7. Avoid tropes and stereotypes. Portray Hispanics as multifaceted contemporary Americans who fluidly navigate both cultural influences.

    When used with care, creativity and cultural understanding, Spanglish can enable brands to connect on a deeper level with Hispanic consumers. An authentic integration of their lived bicultural reality into campaigns fosters engagement and loyalty.

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