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Brands Should Talk to Hispanics, Not Just About Them

As President Donald Trump’s decision to rescind the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program continues to grab headlines, corporate executives have leapt into the fray. Mark Zuckerberg of Facebook called the decision “wrong” and “particularly cruel;” Eric Schmidt, executive chairman of tech giant Alphabet, tweeted that he stands with the so-called Dreamers. YouTube’s Susan Wojcicki said she was “saddened by the decision,” and YouTube’s corporate social media accounts have even posted statements opposing the executive action.

It’s noteworthy that corporate leaders are taking a vocal stance regarding a policy issue, but it’s more important that the Dreamers, and all U.S. Hispanics, not be viewed by brands as a homogenous third party. Brands should talk to these people, not merely about them. Their experience and interests are often overlooked.

A recent Google survey of senior marketers found that a majority didn’t have a strategy to reach U.S. Hispanics, and they reported lukewarm enthusiasm about the topic by their agencies. This is especially surprising since the audience is very large, diverse and young, making them a great group of consumers for most brands. U.S. Hispanics are on track to reach $1.7 trillion in buying power by 2020. Yet from recent immigrants like the Dreamers to fourth- or fifth-generation Hispanic-Americans, Spanish speakers often feel left out of brand conversations online.

This is not difficult to fix. Facebook, for instance, allows advertisers to target users based on Hispanic ethnic affinity, which includes bilingual, Spanish dominant and English dominant options. The total Facebook audience reachable using this approach is large: nearly 27 million monthly active users and over 22 million daily active users. This ethnic affinity- and language-based targeting can be added to specific demographic and psychographic profiles, and the paid promotion should promote creative content that’s on-brand and a fit for the audience.

How might this look in practice? At Yellow Line Digital, we worked closely with national advocacy groups to target Spanish-speaking likely voters in California before the 2016 election. We used geographic and interests-based targeting in addition to Facebook’s Hispanic ethnic affinity overlay to put a Spanish-language video in front of targeted audiences. The results stunned us, especially since we had English- and Spanish-language versions of the same core video and could do a head-to-head test. The Spanish-language video earned an 8.1 percent completion rate vs. the English-language video’s 5.9 percent completion rate.

Even more surprisingly, an incredible 73 percent of Spanish-language video viewers turned the sound on (Facebook videos autoplay without sound). We generally see 20 percent to 30 percent of Facebook video viewers choose to watch videos with sound.

Today, we’re rolling these insights and others into a public health campaign to reach South Bay San Diego residents with diabetes self-assessments and risk factor awareness. Doing this right isn’t merely a matter of creating Spanish-language content (though that will be an important aspect); while a large majority of U.S. Hispanics speak Spanish at home, over 33 million are proficient English speakers. What matters most is cultural fluency and respect for the audience’s experience.

It’s also important that brands operate where this audience is: Video and mobile are both more dominant among Hispanics than other U.S. demographics. In our case, engaging community members through in-depth interviews and surveys will be a key first step toward developing the diabetes prevention campaign’s anchor video.

Reaching U.S. Hispanics — talking to them — isn’t especially difficult, but the audience must be approached as intentionally and strategically as any other. The opportunity is huge and growing. Brands should embrace it.


Matt Salisbury is a partner at Yellow Line Digital, a strategic communications firm that works with advocacy groups, nonprofits and brands.

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