Cultural Differences in Language Could Make or Break Your Marketing Copy

As you read in a earlier post,  translating taglines or slogans directly into a specific language does not only alter the meaning  or gets ‘lost in translation” but also their result may be truly disastrous, hilarious or downright offensive.

Yet these mistranslations from English to Spanish are pretty rampant and many, many blogs quite repetitively I might add have written and listed each and every sample of these blunders. However, none of them were able to discuss is what they would have done instead or how they would have corrected the blunder.  To me in many cases they are careless assumptions and most likely machine translations provided by Google Translate.

Yes most of these ad agencies do not have a diverse staff that would provide that type of information, here is the added value of a translator well versed and well-rounded in these cultural nuances would be of help. Sometimes even being bilingual and bicultural and being able to grasp the the nuances of the language and the cultural relevance needed to bring the message across, it becomes an incredibly difficult task. It involves creativity, ingenuity and a sharp wit to make a tagline stick into people’s mind and make it relatable to them.

Also, although knowing all too well that the client has the last word and sometimes disagree on your version, we can at least suggest correct wordiness to avoid these disasters.

So it seems.  

Funny enough the motor industry has had a few of them and not only in their ads but in their car brand name. I guess if you are Latino you would think twice about driving this car; or these not because it is not good but you do get the picture. This is a cultural difference that did break their copy!

After all, it is about cultural relevancy and awareness that makes Latinos respond to brands.


GlobalWebIndex identified 4 factors that Hispanics value and that should be in the minds of marketers when selling to the group.  All of these ties into the relevancy aspect and how they respond to brands.

Remember that when they feel they are represented, they can become the biggest ambassadors to your brand. Not only they are loyal; they will tell everyone about it through social media.

  • Authenticity and transparency in a product or service is important to Hispanics. A product that does not define, state the real purpose or intention is not something Hispanic value in brands. In other words, it has to solve a problem or get them to where they want to go.


  • They value products that are socially responsible. I have written on this point before as well a while back. They seek companies that give back to communities or that create possibilities and create a positive social impact. This is highly important to them.
  • It goes without mention that culture is important to them and although they are English speaking this is important to them. 35% of Hispanics say they prefer ads that reflect their culture. And 28% also say they prefer brands that feature Hispanic celebrities on English-language TV.
  • They are willing to spend more for quality (no surprise, we all do) but become but become more brand loyal when it is something that they value and says what they advertised (this goes back to point 1). Lastly although English is they primary language for social media interactions (78%), 56% state that Spanish is largely spoken at home, again the use of bilingual advertising is essential.

Since most of these factors are cultural in nature, the copy of course should be too.  These are just a few that when writing ad copy be integrated into it.  ¡Calidad, servicio, comunidad, familia y mucho más!

When searching the web (and they do  a lot of)  they still prefer their content in Spanish, particularly web content and read English only sites if they have no other choice.  Should there be a tab” En Español” they are more likely to click on that tab than continue with the English version.  You may see some examples here from ESPN en espanol. AdWords in Spanish is a good source too, they tend to search for the term in Spanish and ten revert to English information.

Furthermore, for Spanish consumers a Spanish domain would help them remember you more that would an English domain name. These domains  have  to be researched of course we may not want to end up in the same situations as these major brands that name their product cars after derogatory terms.

All of these hints may seem commonsense and simple yet they could not be farther from the truth. Why then they happen so often?  The reason? Cost.  The lack of diversity in ad companies and the company’s idea to have a more cost effective marketing is the reasoning behind it. However, I could understand saving money, we all do, but if you are directing your ad to foreign markets then I find it silly not to have people within the ad group to advice of how copy should be written or addressed and what factors of that culture you should emphasize.   Although marketers are taking note of this idea, it still does not resonate with many and still tend to use the one size fits all approach.

For this reason, even with the commonality of language there are cultural differences in language that can make some references offensive or even misunderstood.

The only similarities that bind these groups together are language and family and even their concept of family is broader than many for Hispanics, family is the nuclear and extended family together possibly in the same household.

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