The cultural mosaic of the United States has never been more intricate. Varied cultural groups — many in their second and third generation — continuously blending together, maintaining and discarding various aspects of their own heritage while adopting, adapting and integrating different aspects of the new one that surrounds them.

U.S. Hispanics are no exception. Take something as (seemingly) fundamental as language, for example: according to a 2012 Nielsen report, only 56% of U.S. Hispanic adults speak only or mostly Spanish, while a full 40% speak only or mostly English. Four out of every ten Hispanics in the United States now speak more English than they do Spanish!

However, this doesn’t mean that Hispanics are losing their culture in the wake of Anglo-American assimilation. Quite the contrary: the Latino culture is a vibrant, emotional, meaningful culture that continues to grow and thrive. But it does shed light on one of the most important lessons for today’s marketers and brand managers: when marketing to U.S. Hispanics, culturally-relevant content is primary, and language is secondary.

Director Robert Rodriguez (Once Upon A Time In Mexico, Spy Kids, Sin City) understands this shift and its implications, announcing in February his plans to launch El Rey, a television network which will contain original Latino programming — entirely in English.

“I have five kids of my own,” he said, adding that while they’re bilingual, they converse mostly in English. “They want to feel integrated into the mass community, but [still] have something they can point to that really reflects their identity.”

Rodriguez isn’t the only one picking up on this linguistic shift. Cosmopolitan for Latinas is taking aim at bicultural readers, recognizing that even though Hispanics want content that resonates with them on a cultural level, they read, speak and work primarily in English. Blogs like Mamas Latinas and TV channels like NBC Latino are following suit.

Recently launched network MundoFox, on the other hand, is doing the reverse: seeking to emulate American programming “in every way except the language in which it is delivered … That means television that feels, looks, sounds like American shows, but just happens to be created in Spanish.” So instead of creating traditionally Hispanic programming in English, MundoFox wants to create traditionally American programming in Spanish.

Although MundoFox might target a different subset of Hispanic consumers than El Rey, and the two approaches may seem to contradict, both apply the exact same principle: when marketing to U.S. Hispanics, culturally-relevant content is primary, and language is secondary. It’s no longer a given that marketing must take place in Spanish. Consider the content first.

The same goes for any company, product or brand looking to tap into the Hispanic market. The content of your messaging should be strong enough to transcend the language in which it is presented. Make sure you understand who you’re talking to and what resonates with them before jumping to any conclusions about their preferences. The answer — and the language — may surprise you.

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