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Latin America as the Next Great American Market: The Language Industry Standard in Global Marketing

Date published: March 30, 2021
Last updated: March 30, 2021

If you want to pick up your geography lessons again, here we go: the Americas is made up of two regions -- North America and South America. Although we see so much global digital and content marketing targeting North America, we sometimes forget the other great market, Latin America. Latin America is slowly rising to become the next great American market, solidly increasing in both population and GDP over the last decade. This is a market not to be ignored.

So how do you utilize global marketing strategies for Latin America? What strategies work and which ones massively fail? We’ll take a look at the strategies needed for this increasingly growing market, such as content marketing, branding, and product launches that make it big in Latin America. 

Then, we’ll see what not to do: just translating your content from English to a Latin American language. The standards for the language industry are high, so marketing to this audience may prove difficult, but not impossible. We’ll show you what the standard is for the language industry in this article, as well as how it’s used for marketing to this audience. 

The Hows and Whys of Global Marketing in Latin America

In a 2020 study, Harvard Business Review found surprising facts about Latin America. For example, $1 out of $10 is attributed to the Latin American market. It is the fourth-largest mobile market in the world. A powerful combination of video content and social media will be used by consumers in this region.

Blogs and content have also been used to power up the Latin American market. According to Alejandro Valencia of Getty Images, “Mexico, Brazil, and Colombia are really big markets for print and magazines; whereas, content marketing is strong in Latin America. Brazil is the biggest market in Latin America. Then Mexico. Argentina is the third one regarding the size of the market and the size of the types of prints Latin Americans read today. I think Colombia is emerging, but I think it’s mainly about Brazil, Mexico, and Argentina doing the big job and structure.” 

Content is still king in Latin America. Companies that have succeeded are using combinations of video, blogging, and social media to market their products and services to different countries in Latin America. You can vary how you reach out to the Latin American audience, which means using e-books, videos, infographics, blog posts, memes, gifs, interactive quizzes, contents, games--you name it, it works, as long as it’s done well. We’ll show examples of how other companies are doing it right later on.

Ideally, a global marketing strategy that targets international consumers like the Latin American market is one that takes into account the marketing channels popular in the different countries. This includes video content, SEO-optimized written content, social media, PR, and others. 

Global Marketing Strategy Done Right

The number one thing that’s working for Latin America is video content. Most Hispanic users, 289.2 million, in fact, watched digital video content in 2019, according to another study. There are predictions it may climb to 317.9 million by 2023. 

Airbnb has certainly been looking at Mexico and Latin America, which is now its fastest-growing market, according to Bloomberg. They host more listings in Mexico than there are hotel rooms, outranking their competitions by far. 

Surely, their video content contributed to their marketing strategy. In January 2015, Airbnb launched a social media campaign with the hashtag #OneLessStranger. With this hospitable, social campaign, Airbnb asked the global community to perform random acts of hospitality to strangers, and then upload it via video with this hashtag. About 3 million people engaged with this campaign, making their mark in the international community.

But they’re also trying out a different global marketing strategy that’s unique to them: allowing the local government to collect and remit a 3% occupancy tax. Having argued with New York and San Francisco city governments in the past regarding these regulations, Mexico is the first country they’re trying this out in.

In another example, Red Bull is the leading energy brand in the Latin American energy drink market, with Coca-Cola as number two. This is due to a subsequent global marketing strategy that prioritizes content innovation. The Austrian company built a Red Bull plant in the Amazonas, in South America. Special Red Bull events also take place all over Latin America. 

Global Marketing Gone Really Wrong

Yet, global marketing strategies in Latin America do not always work well. At best, they derive from errors in consumer research. At worst, they’re culturally or socially inappropriate, leading to zero revenue.

Marketing Messages

When Parker Pen UK expanded globally to Mexico, one of their marketing messages said, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you.” They incorrectly translated this message. They thought that the Spanish “embarazar” meant “embarrass.” Rather, it was another verb meaning “to impregnate.” So, they translated “it won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” to “it won’t leak in your pocket and impregnate you.” 

A rather embarrassing lesson in marketing messages, Parker Pen UK learned the hard way to not directly translate English to Spanish. This led to poor sales and poor reception, as you can imagine.

Product Launch and Branding

American Motors launched their midsize automobile “Matador” in Puerto Rico to zero sales. Why? Because “Matador” translates to “Killer” in Spanish-speaking Puerto Rico. Taking into account the very famous hazardous roads in Puerto Rico, the name reiterated danger in a harmful way. The very product name was wrong to begin with, and without even going into the marketing messages, the very product launch was a failure.

Ford Motor Company, in an almost identical case with the product name, did something similar. Ford tried to launch its car “the Pinto” in Brazil. In Brazilian Portuguese slang, “pinto” translates to “small male genitals.” With this socially inappropriate branding due to cultural norms, Ford had to rename and rebrand to the “Corcel” which translates to “horse.” Needless to say, the embarrassing product launch led to zero sales as well. (story continues below)

The Language Industry Standard In Global Marketing

Companies can avoid these errors by hiring translators. The language industry’s standards for global marketing are quality and accuracy. As you have seen above, many of these problems could have been solved by translation alone. 

“With any translation company, performance and perfection go hand-in-hand,” says Tomedes CEO Ofer Tirosh. “Translation services should always strive to perfect the language needs of every region. At Tomedes, we use the Four P’s: perfection, passion, performance, and professionalism, to ensure that transliteration blunders do not happen”  

Transcreation solves the problem of transliteration. Also, expertise in language solves the misleading brand or product name. However, the golden standard of accuracy and quality translation would have been the perfect solution for these brands. 

A good global marketing strategy starts with data. Research your target market and their language before you decide on branding and marketing messages. Spanish and Portuguese slang will be different in usage. Mexican Spanish and Puerto Rican Spanish will have different connotations and cultural baggage. 

Next, think long and hard about your branding strategy, and how that might work for your target market. After that, localize your messages to fit with your diverse offerings for that region. It seems simple, but even the smallest mistakes, especially in an unfamiliar language, could cost you.

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