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Hispanic marketing means more than translating messages

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The explosive growth of the Hispanic market in the last decade is well documented—and hard to ignore. More than one out of two people added to the U.S. population between 2000-2010 was Hispanic.

Not surprisingly, healthcare organizations are seeking ways to effectively communicate the importance of good health, wellness and disease management to this population.

Yet, with few exceptions, the primary approach to reaching Hispanics seems to be translating existing healthcare marketing campaigns to Spanish. Admittedly, translating what you already have and perhaps swapping out images to feature happy Hispanic families is the fastest and least expensive way to begin a marketing effort.

However, it’s not the way to build long-lasting brand connections with Hispanics.

Just like Marketing 101 teaches, you must know your audience and tap into what drives them, what worries them, etc., and then create messages that are specifically geared for them and that will resonate with them. Think about it. Would you ever consider targeting a millennial with a message created for a senior just because they both speak English and have the same ethnicity?

Beyond language, healthcare marketers must understand cultural factors that may influence Hispanics’ decision-making to ensure their core messages are effectively and correctly received. In other words, a message developed with a non-Hispanic audience in mind will not necessary resonate with a Hispanic just because it is in Spanish.

That’s why marketing messages to U.S. Hispanics must be “transcreated” and not merely translated. Transcreation begins with an organization’s brand in mind but adapts messages to be culturally relevant . . . rather than focusing on the actual words being used in English. Transcreations take into account the role culture plays in the decision-making process.

So let’s look at some of the cultural factors healthcare marketers should keep in mind when reaching out to the growing numbers of U.S. Hispanics:   

1. Recognize where Hispanics traditionally have received healthcare. In some countries, visiting local clinics are the norm for getting healthcare. So many Hispanics in the U.S. equate the hospital and emergency rooms as the initial stop for routine health issues. 

2. Understand how Hispanics relate to each other. Hispanics tend to be more family-oriented and are sensitive to the outward showing of respect. Trust is critical to developing strong relationships in this market. To demonstrate how important it is, a study by Moffitt Cancer Center in Tampa showed that language and cultural barriers create distrust among Hispanic patients—and made them twice as likely to avoid important cancer screenings as their White counterparts. 

3. Appreciate perception of time and space as well as spirituality. Studies show many Hispanics believe that the future is not in their control. Many believe more in fate than in science which can explain why Hispanics often live in the present and have such low participation rates in disease management programs. Takeway? Preventative healthcare messages can’t focus just on science-based rationale.

At the end of the day, transcreations are essential for influencing and engaging U.S. Hispanics. Marketing messages created with White non-Hispanics in mind simply won’t resonate with Hispanics regardless of the language they speak.

Wilson Camelo, president of Camelo Communications, specializes in culturally relevant marketing communication to Hispanic markets. He partners with Adams & Knight on cultural marketing.

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