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Marketing to Hispanics: Lost in Translation

  In the past 10 years, the importance of reaching Latinos has become increasingly apparent to astute marketers. However, for some industries, including healthcare, Hispanics still constitute a neglected and relatively unfamiliar niche group. We need to recognize and appreciate that over the last few decades, Hispanics have increased in number to become a real force in the population.   Latinos are now the largest ethnic minority in the United States, numbering over 44 million; their population is increasing faster than the general market. Currently, Hispanics are the only source of domestic population growth in the US. Spending power is projected to reach $1 trillion by the year 2010, according to the research firm HispanTelligence. Yet, marketing budgets allocated to the Hispanic segment are, in proportion, miniscule when compared to the general market. Therefore, dollars spent on Hispanics can result in larger relative returns—marketers have a much better chance of capturing a larger percentage of the audience with less spending.

Communicating the Clinic’s Message to Hispanics

  Companies have always realized the value of specifically tailoring their messages to distinct market segments. It is no different when communicating with the Hispanic population. But for years very little effort was spent on effectively marketing to Latinos. It was common practice to simply translate English ads directly into Spanish without considering cultural differences. With the growing sophistication of this market, messages have had to evolve and become far more complex to evoke the benefits of the brand.   To effectively engage a Hispanic audience, one needs to avoid missteps over cultural nuances. Hispanic audiences can sense the insincerity of any ad that was originally created for English speakers and then superficially converted to Spanish. It demonstrates minimum effort by the advertiser to truly understand and connect with their audience. Trust needs to be established before any audience will tune into your message. If the immediate goal is simply a return on investment, your audience will most likely sense this insincerity. Marketers must captivate their audience through a genuine connection, building customer loyalty.   Before you can market to any specific group of people, you need to know what makes them tick. Prioritization of family considerations over individual needs, for example, is a strong, almost universal value in the Hispanic community.1   Community involvement is also very important. Demonstrating your understanding of their cultural attitudes will help you build strong relationships within this group.

Marketing Wound Care Services to Hispanics

  After one gains understanding of the basics of general marketing to Hispanics, it is important to focus on marketing wound care services to this growing population.   Hispanic Americans have a disproportionately high prevalence of diabetes. According to the National Diabetes Information Clearinghouse; Hispanics are 1.9 times more likely to have diabetes than non-Hispanics. Patients with diabetes are at high-risk for developing chronic diabetic foot ulcers. These chronic wounds can lead to amputation and in some cases, death.   Educating Latino patients about the services available at the wound clinic is vital. But doing it in a way that reaches out to them without turning them off is paramount. Through patient education, Hispanic Americans can become more knowledgeable about diabetes from several different angles, including the cause and treatment of chronic diabetic ulcers.   Before developing a communication plan, it is necessary to understand the common view of healthcare in the Hispanic community. Traditional remedies often have high credibility among Latinos, and are especially common among first-generation Hispanics. A key method of demonstrating understanding of traditional remedies or ‘folk healing’ is to avoid discrediting them in your communications. Not all Hispanic-Americans use ‘folk healing’ methods; when used, it is often alongside institutionalized medicine.2   Because Hispanics may rely on traditional healing methods before seeking medical treatment, including tactics for early patient education in the communication plan is beneficial.

Getting Your Message Out

  Every communication that comes from the wound center should focus on the benefits of receiving proper, effective, and clinically proven wound care treatment.   Any marketing program should be an orchestrated effort among the different media. Each medium should support and build on the others. To be effective, a single medium is not enough. When running an ad in a newspaper, other support vehicles such as a billboard and direct mail with the same key message, content, and look, is more powerful than a newspaper ad on its own.   Keep in mind that in Hispanic families, it is highly common for extended family members to accompany patients on visits. In your communications, feature at least two family members with the patient. Be prepared to accommodate one to two family members per patient during clinic visits.


  The following advertising and marketing vehicles can be effective in creating awareness of your services. Depending on the specifics of your market, some will work better than others. Radio   Local Spanish radio offers an inexpensive vehicle for reaching Hispanics. It is important to keep in mind dialects and cross-cultural nuances when developing your commercial. Newspaper   Appearances in Spanish newspapers help to build credibility. Advertorials and supplemental articles submitted by members of your staff can serve as publicity for your center, while also educating patients. Local Television   Local cable companies offer relatively inexpensive cable buys targeting Hispanic viewers. This may include some English speaking programming with a large Hispanic viewer ship. Direct mail   Postcards, personalized letters, and patient information mailers are an excellent way to reach the Hispanic market. When the mailer has beneficial health information for the patient, it is even more valuable, and therefore has more impact. Add a comment about purchasing Hispanic lists by ZIP code or other segmenting method? Billboard   According to CBS Outdoor, out-of-home advertising has been shown to be very influential with this audience. There are a few key considerations to keep in mind. Limit the message to seven words or less. This includes headline and any other content. There is no time to read a wordy billboard when you’re driving by. Visuals, including photos and graphic elements, must be easily discernible. Cinema Advertising   Cinema advertising can be an effective marketing tactic, but it is sometimes difficult to pinpoint appropriate theater outlets. If targeted media placement can be achieved, cinema advertising is powerful due to its captive, receptive audience, and uncluttered environment. Recall is three to six times higher than television. In-Hospital Marketing Literature   This is a valuable way to communicate to this sometimes skeptical demographic. Hispanic patients are often resistant to the healthcare establishment, its process, and its complexities. Educating patients and families during a hospital stay or while waiting for treatment through in-hospital brochures, table tents, and newsletters, you are communicating to an already interested audience who can easily ask the attending physician or nurse about wound care. Newsletter Advertising   Church and school newsletters are inexpensive advertising vehicles that also show support of local community institutions to the target audience. Community Sponsorships   Sponsoring community events is another way to increase awareness and establish trust. Try getting involved in educational, health-related, and family-oriented activities in the community. The key is to be creative. Host a series of Spanish cooking classes that focus on healthy, diabetic meals. Be sure the teacher speaks Spanish and ask participants to bring recipes from home to share and discuss. Public Relations   Not only is it free, but also getting your press releases published in Spanish-language media is one of the best ways to establish credibility among your audience. Press releases most apt to be picked up are timely, relevant, and newsworthy. Marketing Now   By marketing to Hispanics about healthcare, one is educating them about a subject, which is often intimidating. Instead of leaving them with unanswered questions, quell their fears and increase their comfort levels by communicating with sensitivity to their cultural values. Educating them about wound care services, supporting better wound care practices is important for these patients.   Now is a great time to advertise. Decreased overall spending leaves room for other voices and gives you an opportunity to stand out. This is an excellent time to build customer loyalty and grow the patient base. Erica Park, director of marketing for National Healing Corporation, is responsible for developing and implementing the company’s communications strategies. She can be reached at Robert Breitenstein is an international marketing strategist based in Miami, specializing in the northern European, Latin American and US Hispanic markets. He can be reached at


1) Kemp, Charles. Mexican &Mexican-Americans: Health Beliefs & Practices Cambridge University Press. November 2004. 2) Jessica Galarraga May 31, 2007 “Hispanic-American Culture and Health”.

Erica Park, Director of Marketing, National Healing Corporation; Robert Breitenstein, MBA, Marketing Consultant
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