Engaging Latinos – The Role Your Digital Strategy Should Play

  |  November 22, 2010   |  Comments

What the digital divide between U.S.-born and foreign-born Latinos means for marketers.

When planning their Hispanic digital strategy, many companies tend to use a three-phased approach:

  1. Create a basic Spanish version of the website.
  2. Full blast Spanish site in terms of content and functionality.
  3. Develop specific Hispanic digital platforms.

The problem is that, as with many phased plans, if you don't see immediate results, chances are phase three will never come to happen. And that's truer of Hispanic online than any other marketing program.

Language cannot be the driver of your digital strategy nor can it be content by itself. Brands must understand Latino's realities and provide experiences that go beyond a "Spanish version."

Hispanics Don't Trust the Spanish Version

Contrary to popular belief, simply creating a Spanish version of your site or social media platform won't win favor with your Hispanic customers. Perceived as a lesser version of the "real" generates the following reactions:

  • Latinos compare both language versions to see if content is identical (i.e., price, restrictions, etc.).
  • They browse and select products in Spanish but tend to buy them at the "real" place (either at the store or English site)
  • They assume (many times based on real evidence) that the content is more limited.
  • They feel that in-language content doesn't necessarily mean they are appreciated.

Technology Is Redefining Acculturation

For Latinos, as well as other minorities, now it's easier to keep a strong connection with their primary culture ("...the body of ideas, emotions and activities that make up the life of the consumer" as per Grant McCracken's definition).

Birthday greetings via Skype. Shop for ethnic foods. Send money home. Download music from their country of origins. Check the "local" news. Technology allows Hispanics to maintain a strong connection with their "original" culture: country of origin, friends, family, and others.

Acculturation, the process of absorbing a second culture, is no longer a linear process. That differs completely compared to the early 1900s or even the 1970s.

Further more, self-expression and sharing are the key reasons for Latinos to connect online. Internet is a stress-free medium that allows social needs to be expressed - even for assimilated Latinos that are finding that their grandmas' culture is no longer embarrassing but cool.

Opportunities: The Role Your Brand Can Play

There's a digital divide between U.S. born and foreign-born Latinos according to Pew Hispanic Center. The nativity differences are especially pronounced when it comes to Internet use (85 percent of native-born Latinos go online versus 51 percent of foreign-born). Though the gap is closing, exploring the challenges regarding acculturation can help identify the roles your brand can play.

Less acculturated: They face a language barrier, but the cultural barrier is even greater. Brands can help them navigate the system, network with other Latinos similar to them, keep an ongoing connection with "home." Assume nothing, listen to your customer, and find communities and bloggers that can help your brand gain acceptance and credibility.

Think of "Inglés sin barreras" (lexicon) that developed mundosinbarreras.com (world without frontiers): an educational website with content that helps understand the realities of the United States in terms of education, finance, health, immigration, etc. Lexicon understood that language is not the only barrier that creates stress among Latinos: they need to adapt to a whole set of rules and codes (all of them a new language).


Biculturals: They live in both worlds; the Internet allows them to connect with their two cultures (American and Latino) but furthermore connect to the world: Biculturals feel very global. For them, Latino is more of a style (i.e., music) and less of an identity issue. Brands should make them feel empowered and leverage their roles as creators and influencers. Work with key influencers like bicultural bloggers, help Biculturals connect with their culture, offer spaces for expression.

For example, Netflix could do a much better job targeting Latinos. Having a Latino specific section with Latin American movies, Spanish language films or with Spanish subtitles, Latin American critics' reviews, sponsor short films produced by young Latino directors, etc. This shouldn't be that complicated and Netflix could increase its revenue by packaging its offering in a different way and also attracting mainstream consumers.

Assimilated: Brands can help this segment in their retro-acculturation journey by providing "social spaces" where they can connect and express their (almost forgotten) Latinoness.

"Pepsi yo sumo" (I add up/ I count) is a great example of social empowerment, motivating every Latino "to show the world not only how many we are, but how we're changing the landscape of this country." Through social media networks, Pepsi is stimulating Latinos to share their accomplishments, experiences, dreams, and ambitions. The bonus: their stories could be portrayed in a documentary that will be directed by Eva Longoria.


That Latinos may have arrived late to the digital game, but that doesn't mean that brands should use a "Phase 1 approach." Latinos are catching up and playing a more crucial role as "trend connectors;" those that are "connected" are very connected. Forget language; start playing a relevant and useful role.


Gustavo Razzetti

Gustavo Razzetti is EVP, Managing Director of Lapiz, the Latino shop of Leo Burnett. He has 20+ years of experience in integrated marketing communications in U.S. and Latin American markets.

A change agent, with the expertise of transforming agencies into digital at the core shops, Razzetti has become one of the leading voices when it comes to understanding the new market dynamics of US Latinos.

Former Chief Strategy & Engagement Officer at Grupo Gallegos, president of GlobalHue NY and CEO of Euro RSCG Latino. Razzetti's career is marked by extensive experience working with top consumer brands such as Comcast, Walgreens, Verizon, Nestlé, Chivas Regal, General Motors, Coca-Cola, and BBVA, and 200 others. He also served as CEO of Euro RSCG both in Puerto Rico and in Argentina. Prior to that, Gustavo was CEO and founding partner of WhyNet - the no. 1 interactive agency in Argentina.

Strategist by conviction, digital pioneer by choice, leader by evolution; Razzetti has received recognitions that include Effie awards, Gran Prix AMBA, Euro RSCG's CBI Award, and Strategic Planning Director of the Year, McCann Erickson. Many of the campaigns he strategically led won Cannes, Clio, New York Festival, London, and FIAP awards, among others.

On a personal note, Gustavo loves scuba diving, bicycling, gourmet cooking, and fine wines.

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