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Bilingual Signage Needs More than Cinco de Mayo References

If you’re rolling out a signage solution and keeping it English-only, you’re missing out on a fast-growing market – Bilingual Signage.

According to the National Center for Education Statistics, in 2009 about 21% — about 11 million — of school-age children (ages 5-17) spoke a language other than English at home. Spanish-speakers alone accounted for the largest numeric increase, with the U.S. Census Bureau reporting a whopping 211% increase in the number of Spanish-speakers in 2007 as compared to 1980.

Marketers are taking notice, and it’s no wonder. According to a recent industry report, Hispanics shop less often but spend more per trip, and their brand-loyalty is strong among a few key consumer product categories.

If you’re rolling out a digital signage campaign and keeping it English-only, you’re missing out on a fast-growing market – a market that may well become your primary market in the very near future. However, catering to this sophisticated and discerning market, is going to require more than just throwing in a few references to George Lopez and Cinco de Mayo. To really make your digital signage content stand out, consider these tips:

  • Mexican isn’t synonymous with Hispanic. When you create your content, remember that the term “Hispanic” refers to a big universe of cultures, from Mexico to Argentina and the nearly 20 countries in between. Don’t showcase traditional Mexican dances in your advertising during Hispanic Heritage Month and think that that gives you Hispanic cred.
  • Culture is more than language. Consider your audience. It’s not enough to simply add subtitles or even translate text. Hispanic audiences want many of the same things non-Hispanic audiences do: authenticity, engagement, interactivity, excitement. Cultural context, however, can mean tailoring your messages to take into account the diversity of experiences, backgrounds and, yes, languages, that influence how Hispanics view and interact with their environment.
  • You may not need or want bilingual content. Despite what many marketers may (erroneously) assume, many Hispanics are either English-only or English-dominant. Young Hispanics in particular primarily identify themselves as English-only, so if you’re marketing to them, consider if you really need bilingual content.
  • Great content must always prevail. Make sure the messages will actually resonate with your target audience, whether they speak Spanish or not. Regardless of the industry you’re in, the product you’re pitching, or the information you’re trying to convey, the content must be useful, informative, and entertaining in order for it to be effective. And that holds true for all audiences, regardless of the languages they speak.

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