Given the current demographics of the United States, insurance companies can deliberately opt to disregard the Hispanic consumerand justify their choice to do soor develop and implement strategies to reap the benefits of this burgeoning market.

According to data from the Census Bureau for the year 2000, 32.8 million Hispanics (12% of the total U.S. population) reside in the United States. This does not include the 3.6 million who reside in Puerto Rico.

The mosaic of this population embraces residents of Mexican (66.1%), Central and South American (14.5%), Puerto Rican (9%) and Cuban (4%) descent, as well as descendants from other Spanish-speaking countries (6.4%).

By the year 2050, given current immigration patterns and the fertility rate of the Hispanics, the Hispanic population is expected to surpass 25% of the total U.S. population. Moreover, depending on the source examined, the current spending power of this market ranges from $380 billion to $630 billiona buying power that is growing faster than that of the general market.

Even though insurance companies might turn to advertising agencies to target this fast-growing market, it is imperative to recognize that any marketing strategy must take into account the language used in the marketing pieces and the conduits and interventions used for promoting the product.

Language Matters

Bearing in mind that the United States is now the third-largest Spanish-speaking country in the world (behind Mexico and Columbia) and that 70% of Hispanics in the United States speak Spanish at home, the language of choice for targeting this market is Spanish.

Based on the fact that cultural imprinting is experienced in the native language during the infancy of the individual, cultural anthropologists agree that promoting products and services in Spanish instills a sense of prideeven within the small subpopulation of Hispanics (less than 12%) that only speaks English.

As a caveat, every effort should be made to develop marketing campaigns in Spanish specifically for the Hispanic subgroup, since translations or adaptations of strategies designed for the general English-speaking market do not work as well.

However, if translation cannot be avoided, use a team of professionals that represent the four corners of the Spanish-speaking world and that specialize in translating insurance contract and advertising language. This assures that the English copy is interpreted and translated accurately and that the language generated is standard Pan American Spanish, free of regionalisms, and appropriate for all audiences.

One should not rely on his college Spanish courses, on someone from the office who claims to know Spanish, or on a freelance translator to decipher, interpret and translate important marketing pieces.

Conduits and Interventions for Promoting the Products

The conduits and interventions for promoting insurance products include radio and television, print media, the Internet, and face-to-face interventions. In addition to local Spanish-language radio and television stations, the all-Spanish television networks Univisi?n and Telemundo can be used effectively to reach more than 92% of Hispanic households in the United States.

Although not as effective in reaching large segments of the market, print media is frequently used. This includes strictly Spanish periodicals (for example, the newspapers El Nuevo Herald in Miami, La Opini?n in Southern California and the magazine Buena Vida in Puerto Rico), and English publications translated into Spanish (for example Seleciones del Readers Digest, People en Espa?ol and Mens Health en Espa?ol).

Strictly English publications (for example, Hispanic Business and Hispanic Magazine) that are generally read by Hispanics with greater disposable incomes make excellent conduits for promoting high-end insurance and investment products, such as variable annuity contracts.

The value of advertising on the Internet is measured in terms of the numbers of Hispanics who use this modality. In 1998, a study conducted by Lou Harris and Baruch College reports that of the total number of people in the United States who went online (effectively 58 million people), non-Hispanic whites and Hispanics represented 30% and 26%, respectively. This explains why numerous companies are undertaking titanic efforts to develop and design Spanish-language Web sites.

A major problem with many marketing piecesincluding radio, television, print media commercials, and Web sitesis that they appear to be adaptations or direct translations of pieces developed for the general English-speaking market, rather than pieces developed and designed specifically for the Hispanic market. This is evidenced by the rigid and awkward Spanish copy in the pieces and by the fact that many do not address the social and cultural needs of the Hispanic consumer.

Perhaps the most effective way of reaching the Hispanic consumer is with the face-to-face intervention. This approach is very practical when a Spanish-speaking agent can meet directly with the prospective client to discuss the values of the insurance product or when there is access to an attentive large audience, such as a group of employees enrolling for insurance benefits.

The agent should speak Spanish and be well informed about the features of the product that favor the Hispanic consumer. If the agent is not fluent in Spanish, or can just get by, the company’s credibility and image may suffer.

Face-to-face interventions might include presentations delivered in Spanish by a senior company manager fluent in the language. If the company does not have such a manager, arrangements should be made to recruit the proper agency to prepare the presentation for delivery on his or her behalf by a mediator who is fluent in Spanish.

To Achieve Success

Insurance companies are targeting the Hispanic market because of its significant size and spending power. Companies that have achieved success in marketing to the Hispanic consumer have recognized that the marketing intervention should be in Spanish and that it should speak to important social and cultural attributes of the targeted subgroup.

To facilitate this process, many companies recruit external resources to analyze the impact of their marketing pieces in terms of the accuracy and appropriateness of the language used, the social and cultural aspects addressed, and the suitability of the corresponding graphics and illustrations.

Jaime Carlo Casellas, Ph.D., is president and CEO of CC Scientific, Ltd., a Rancho Mirage, Calif. firm that provides translation and Hispanic market consultation services to the insurance industry. His E-mail is casellas@ccscientific.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, January 14, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.


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