The Spanglish Advantage in Advertising

For many Spanglish speakers, it's not just slang or a fad; it's a way of navigating between two worlds

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Inclusivity is a pillar of marketing. And as the Latinx population in the U.S. continues to grow and evolve, brands need to understand the significance of culture and language for this key consumer group. This is essential in advertising campaigns as consumers, particularly Gen Z, often choose brands that authentically reflect their identities and align with their values.

That is why it has been great to see Spanish and Spanglish—a combination of English and Spanish words—making their way more prominently into mainstream advertising, particularly as the Latinx community reclaims their heritage and culture through language. A recent survey by Axios found that many Latinx people are comfortable using Spanglish most of the time.

What does this mean for brands? It’s an opportunity for marketers to connect their brands with Latinx consumers authentically.

The Spanish and Spanglish advantage

Incorporating Spanish or Spanglish in ads is a powerful acknowledgment of our lived experiences. Some notable brands have already leaned into this practice.

McDonald’s has a long track record of incorporating Spanish and English in print and video ads. I remember watching one of their Spanglish ads almost 10 years ago; it was one of the first times I saw people who looked like me speaking Spanglish on American television the way I did at home.

Target launched its “Sin Traducción” campaign in 2015 as a way to relate to the Latina shopper’s everyday needs, highlighting Spanish words that don’t translate directly into English. For many who speak Spanglish, it’s not just slang or a fad; it’s a way of navigating between two worlds.

Recently, SNL used Spanish and English in promos featuring Ana de Armas that aired on Telemundo and are an example of reaching Latinx consumers who live in multigenerational households. In these households, younger generations are often the “digital sherpas” for Spanish-dominant family members. Bilingual advertising is a smart and effective way to reach multigenerational households.

Reclaiming heritage and culture

AT&T’s recent “Connect With Your Roots” spot is a great example of the power of language and leveraging it to connect authentically with the Latinx community. In it, a young teenager practices his Spanish to surprise his grandmother by watching Spanish television and taking Spanish audio classes. In the end, we see the grandmother helping the teen with his pronunciation and conversing with him in Spanish and English.

The spot is relatable; growing up I watched telenovelas and other Spanish television with my family, and that is how I practiced and refined my Spanish. To this day, my sister and I engage in code-switching when having a conversation with our mother, swapping between Spanish and English and also using Spanglish because it is how we grew up and is second nature.

The ambicultural reality

Why should brands consider incorporating more Spanish or Spanglish into their ads? Because it conveys authenticity and shows that a brand sees and values Latinx experiences.

The Latinx community wants to embrace and connect more deeply with their roots, language and heritage, especially Gen Z—the fastest-growing and most racially diverse generation. It’s important to note that their “ambicultural” reality, the ability to shift almost seamlessly between Latinx and American cultures, plays a big part in shaping their identity.

Striking the right balance

Brands should be careful not to reduce the Latinx experience to tokenism. For marketers, the key is approaching the Latinx audience by being inclusive and aiming for authenticity over superficiality.

Engaging with bilingual consumers requires a nuanced approach as they often speak two (or more) languages as part of their daily lives. To reach them, brands need to understand and acknowledge the versatility and fluidity of their language choices. It could mean running a campaign entirely in Spanish, or using Spanglish when it feels natural and genuine for the brand and the consumer.

How you say something can be just as important as what you’re saying. As the Latinx community continues to grow and evolve, brands and marketers must work to better understand the roles culture, heritage and language play in their lives. By doing so, brands can build deeper connections and tap into this community, while building brand affinity and loyalty. As marketers, we should lead in driving inclusivity and innovation while being the changemakers in this space.