Having grown up in Mexico, I felt really stupid the first time I had to fill my car’s gas tank in the U.S. all by myself. Gas stations in Mexico typically offer full service. You don’t even have to get out of your car. You just drive up, roll down the window and tell an attendant how much money’s worth of gas you want. Then you pay and add a little tip.
Culture at the Root of Financial Services Marketing
Something that is fairly simple was intimidating to me because I had never been exposed to the concept of self-service gas stations.
So imagine how some people feel when they are confronted with a scenario involving concepts that are a bit more complicated, like financial services – an area in which they have very little experience.
Financial planning can fuel your family’s future. Hispanics know that, yet they, like many people, are reluctant to seek professional financial advice. Relying on someone else to manage their life savings seems risky; it’s definitely not part of their tradition, even among Hispanics who were born in the U.S. What if that guy in the nice suit is a scammer? What if that woman who says she can guide us to better financial decisions is simply looking for a hefty commission? What if they don’t know what they’re talking about and my hard-earned savings dwindle away, and my family ends up with nothing?
Financial services companies can begin to break through this barrier of distrust by conveying their experience and expertise, of course, but also by ensuring that cultural values are at the root of their messages. In other words, they have to speak Hispanics’ language and culture.
In Language and In Culture: There’s a Difference
Yes, it helps for financial services companies to translate their literature and websites. But the language-proficiency spectrum is as wide as that of financial literacy. Some Hispanics only recently arrived in the U.S. and barely speak English, many others are U.S.-born Americans and don’t speak a word of Spanish. International businessmen may use English-language financial terms on a regular basis. College students may not have opened their first bank accounts. A small-business owner who speaks English in her shop by day, may get hung up in deciphering nuances in meaning of financial terms when speaking with her spouse at night.
For instance, someone who is English-dominant might interpret the term “económico” as “economical.” But in a broader sense, it also may mean “financial” in Spanish. So, financial wellbeing is better translated as “bienestar económico.” That’s because, traditionally, “financier” relates more to banking, securities, and the Treasury, rather than to everyday family life. Words may have multiple meanings (e.g., value, which can mean monetary worth, price, importance, valuation). “Cancelar” can mean “to cancel” or “to pay off,” depending on the region. Tackling complicated topics such as financial services requires more than just a Google translator; you need an experienced and knowledgeable – even certified – translator to ensure you get it right.
Still, language is but one aspect of culture. So, rather than simply translating – no matter how good that translation is – financial services companies that want to market to Hispanics must ensure that their brand messages are relevant to their target’s cultural core… that they fuel a desire to prepare for Hispanic families’ financial future.
Bottom line, it comes down to whether you are marketing a specific fuel or the places where people want to go.