By Luca Vescovi, Associate Creative Director at Amélie Company
A Growing Audience of Spanish Speakers
The Spanish-speaking population of the US is increasing. Advertisers, brands, and organizations trying to reach larger audiences must pay attention to this demographic. According to the Census, nearly 13% of Americans speak Spanish at home.
A New Bilingual Generation
When we think about the Spanish-speaking audience, we must consider two subgroups. Native Spanish speakers use Spanish as their first and possibly only language. And then you have a bilingual demographic. Many who immigrated to the United States in the last 20 years have since had children. This generation may speak Spanish at home, English outside the house, and even switch between languages when communicating with friends and family within the community.
This demo stretches across Gen Z and Millennials. Younger Spanish speakers often cross multiple cultural lines, experiencing more traditional american culture while also celebrating their own. They are more likely to participate in pop culture, have more familiar purchasing habits, and consume content much like their English-only speaking counterparts.
The Importance of Reaching a Larger Audience
This part is pretty simple, so we won’t belabor the point. Translating and transcreating your ads allows you to reach two audiences.
It can be time-consuming and challenging. But like a fulcrum, the output far outweighs the input. A few hours of translating extends your reach exponentially. Making this effort also signifies an interest. After decades of brands and organizations ignoring Spanish speakers, an effort to translate can mean a lot. This is especially true if your end motivation isn’t profit. So, if you’re a cause-based organization or working on a PSA, translation signals a commitment to the benefit of others regardless of language.
Transcreation Copywriting: Translating Meaning not Words
When translating campaigns, it’s important to remember how reliant English is on idioms and how much of copywriting uses puns, wordplay, portmanteaus, and other linguistic tricks that rarely translate one to one.
Take, for example, our Good For You campaign: this campaign offered free mental health tips. The tips started with seemingly sarcastic or cheeky idioms as misdirection. Then, the mental health tip took a more literal approach to offer advice based on those cultural phrases or expressions. A headline might tell the reader, “Give It a Rest,” before suggesting getting to bed earlier. However, if “give it a rest” doesn’t exist as a phrase with a different meaning in Spanish, the entire copywriting style of the campaign – and its underlying strategy – falls apart.
So, rather than trying to translate literally, we handed over the copy and direction to bilingual copywriting experts, to transcreate. They could find similar idioms, understand the intended meaning, use existing Spanish phrases, or rewrite the copy entirely to make sense. So, a tip about getting a good night of rest in English and in Spanish could end up with entirely different copy but share the same general sentiment.
Transcreation and Cultural Nuance
If translation is the process of converting literal meaning across linguistic boundaries, transcreation is the process of conveying context across cultural boundaries.
When we create campaigns we know will be transcreated, we try to follow a process.
Step 1- Consult with a trusted cultural expert partner: When going through that consultation, we try to understand questions like, does the problem we’re trying to solve exist in Spanish-speaking communities? If it exists, does our Spanish-speaking audience share the same concerns? Do they take different approaches to solving? Are there other cultural influences that need to be taken into account?
Step 2- Bring loose ideas or strategy in front of a Spanish-speaking focus group: We spoke to our experts. Now let’s ask regular consumers who don’t work in the field as they bring different perspectives to the table.
Step 3 – Create the content in English and hand it over to our translation and transcreation partners: We have enough to start. At this point, you’ll want to create some sample ads or collateral and pass it along to your bilingual partners to create the sample equivalent content in Spanish.
Step 4 – Time permitting, put the work back in front of a Spanish-speaking focus group: This step is a luxury, but time or resources permit, we try to get the work back in front of the focus group so they can recreate to real assets.
Step 5 – Take learnings and apply them campaign wide: Between what you learned from your focus group and what your bilingual partners have taught you, you should have enough to create content that doesn’t just translate literally but speaks to the topic in a culturally relevant way.
An Honest Feedback Loop
This is true of all marketing, but you want an honest feedback loop. Remember that even if you hire experts and use a focus group, you’re talking about a very small sample size. Not to mention, culture develops at a rapid pace these days – new terms and trends can explode overnight. Once your campaign is live, make sure you’re monitoring it and understanding how people are reacting. Your cultural consultants will be a good source of information during this process. Don’t be afraid to make adjustments on the fly.
- The Spanish Speaking audience is growing and should not be ignored.
- There may be cultural differences across generations, so don’t treat this audience as a single, homogenous group.
- Translating is rarely a clean one-to-one business, so lean on bilingual experts.
- Transcreation is the process of incorporating cultural nuance to make a campaign relevant to your audience.
- A feedback loop can improve your campaign in real-time and potentially save you from embarrassment.