En Español April: Enculturate or Die

En Español

Sure, the headline may sound a bit dramatic. But if you amend it slightly to “Enculturate or Die… on the Vine,” it starts to give you some perspective. Despite all of the evidence in favor of diversification, Corporate America still struggles with diversifying its talent pools and marketing budgets, leaving millions of customers waiting to be harvested, and billions of sales … on the vine. For those marketers who find themselves putting off “diversification” for the long-term, there is a short-term solution — enculturation.

Enculturation is not about the state of diversity in your company. It is about the diversity of our marketplace. The aim of enculturation is to right-size your commitment to marketing, and to better service customers who are likely already buying in your vertical — or could be if you asked for and welcomed them to your business. As politically incorrect as this may sound, enculturation is about changing the fluency of your sales funnel — not the complexion of your company.

Why the urgency? It is no secret that we are living through some tectonic shifts in terms of how and where people buy our products and services. Add to this that our demographics continue to evolve generationally and multiculturally. Mobile technology — meshed with demographics — represents a perfect storm of opportunity. According to Nielsen, multicultural consumers already account for 42 percent of the millennial cohort. Perhaps more significantly, they account for 47 percent of the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP). 

The most direct way to illustrate the concept of “enculturation” is to draw a parallel to immigrants and their subsequent generations. Consumers acculturate by learning and adapting to the cultural norms, buying patterns, brand preferences, and the language of the majority culture in which we all live. Corporations enculturate by reciprocating in kind.

Meet acculturating Spanish-speakers in the middle by activating cultural insights that welcome these consumers. Start conversations that result in more fluency and comprehension. This will shape their attitudes and beliefs — and ultimately drive behavior. Engage them with nuance in the transactional touchpoints that matter most.

I often tell clients that they do not have to be perfect in their approach to the Hispanic market — they just need to make the perfect effort. Enculturation is not about doing everything in-language. But it is about doing enough in-culture to unlock engagement, word-of-mouth, and measurable ROI. It’s about being multiculturally brave, not blind. Here’s how:

  1. Focus on your path to profit. In direct-to-consumer (D-to-C) terms, this means focus on transactional touchpoints. Television and digital advertising allow you to reach bilingual and Spanish-speaking customers without alienating general market customers. So why not advertise in Spanish and put in place the means to convert leads on the phone, online, and in-store? Think of this as diversifying your pipeline without having to diversify your company.
  2. Be intentional. Make enculturation a strategic commitment. Do not start marketing to Hispanic customers without a commitment to succeed. In my experience, seven of 10 successful DRTV campaigns also succeed in Spanish. The difference between the winners and the losers is not the level of investment; it is the level of commitment. Right-size the investment to be consistent with your expectations, and you are likely to find your path to profit.
  3. Be authentic. Good advertising appeals to logic and impulse. Great advertising also appeals to emotion. For your messaging to be honest from a cultural point of view, it needs to appeal to the head and the heart. This does not mean that you need to translate and mirror everything you do from English to Spanish. But it does mean that you need to commit to doing enough to generate response and convert. It means building trust by taking a trans-creational approach to your advertising and the rest of the sales funnel. Being authentic is the best measure of your strategic intention in the multicultural market.

You do not need to change the DNA of your corporate culture to succeed in the Hispanic market. But you do need to recognize that culture matters. Act on it through your marketing and advertising and re-engineer how you pay it off through your vendors. This minimizes the impact on your corporate culture, but also gets you in the right game going forward. ROI will drive the rest.

At the 2017 ANA Multicultural Marketing and Diversity conference, Mark Pritchard, CMO of Procter & Gamble, said, “If you are not a multicultural marketer in the United States, you do not have a chance.” In other words, enculturate or die!