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Square wants to reach Hispanic consumers with new Spanish-language marketing push

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As Hispanic entrepreneurs and consumers become an increasingly influential part of the U.S. economy, Square — the San Francisco-based fintech company — hopes its new Spanish-language marketing efforts will resonate with small business owners and the communities they serve.

After translating its ecosystem of payment-processing products into Spanish last month, the company has been running a new campaign aimed at Hispanic small business owners. (Square’s parent company, Block, also owns the mobile payment platform Cash App and the buy-now-pay-later service Afterpay.)

The campaign, “Para Tu Proximo Paso” — which in English is “For your Next Step” — debuted last month and is now running across connected TV, YouTube, social media and out-of-home ads in Miami, Houston and Dallas. Although Square has had some materials available in Spanish for years, Square chief marketing officer Lauren Weinberg said it wasn’t consistently available across all of the company’s products and services. Although it has been expanding internationally in Spain and elsewhere in Europe, “Para Tu Proximo Paso” is the company’s first campaign specifically for Hispanic consumers in the U.S.

“We wanted to portray business owners that are on the verge of taking an important milestone,” Weinberg told Digiday. “So not people that are maybe just getting started, but who are really contemplating what the next steps should be for them.”

To convey this, Square created characters who are archetypes of various business owners. In one ad, a music store owner is deciding on where to open a second location. In another, a restauranteur decides to sell one of her signature dishes online.

Square also is using Meta’s native ad-targeting features on Facebook and Instagram to target Spanish speakers. The strategy is a reflection of changing times: using social media to reach audiences based on criteria like race or ethnicity is no longer an option. Last year, Facebook banned ads targeting people based on race, ethnicity, religion and sexual orientation — a move that came amid growing concern around how personal information deemed as “sensitive” could put people at risk of discrimination or violate user privacy.

Social media ad prices have increased “a lot” in the first half of 2022, according to Weinberg. Although she didn’t share specific CPM rates, Weinberg said weaker ad-targeting tools have also led to more “wasted [ad] impressions.” However, Square has been able to drive better results by making more creative assets. (She added that marketplace competition is at least somewhat lighter now than earlier in the year.)

“We’re really going much broader in our targeting and then allowing the platforms to make the optimizations,” Weinberg said. “I think in the past, we were a lot more prescriptive, but in the future, we really need to let the algorithms do their work on their end because there’s just less that we know about customers going into it.”

Square isn’t the only company to reach Hispanic consumers with Spanish-language websites. Amazon debuted a Spanish-language version in 2017 and Walmart added Spanish search capabilities last year before expanding them this past summer.

Cross-cultural marketers with experience helping brands reach Hispanic audiences say it’s smart of Square to create a Spanish-language campaign. Aldo Quevedo, CEO and creative chairman of the cross-cultural marketing agency BeautifulBeast, said companies often either “mirror messages” or “magnet messages” when trying to reach cross-cultural audiences. Although mirror messages might speak to consumers in their language, magnet messages create relevancy by making people feel understood.

“When you talk about a magnet brand — which is something that is more attractive as the name says — it’s really something about you,” Quevedo said. “A brand knows you and knows what you’re going through in life and all that.”

However, that doesn’t mean the marketing has to be in Spanish, he said, adding that focus groups his agency did for an undisclosed insurance brand found that some Spanish speakers worried that Spanish-language materials offered a worse deal than those in English. (He added that targeting for only segmentation can be dangerous without context.)

Rather than focus too much on translation, cross-cultural marketing should focus on “transcreation,” according to Hernan Tagliani, president and founder of The Group Advertising.

“It’s not about re-inventing the wheel,” he said. “You don’t need to create different campaigns. They have to be aligned in the market so they don’t look like two separate campaigns, but the message has to be for the audiences.”

Square isn’t the only financial services company either marketing specifically to Hispanic business owners. Last year, QuickBooks worked with the Latino-founded agency Alma to create its first campaign aimed at Latino small business owners. (Quickbooks and Alma then released a second campaign this summer.)

If Square’s able to reach Hispanic business owners, it could be good for business. A recent survey of 2,700 Hispanic small business owners conducted by Square and the small business platform Hello Alice found that access to capital, acquiring new customers and marketing were among respondents’ top challenges. The report, released on Wednesday, also mentioned that Hispanic owners were more likely than other groups to mention marketing as a challenge while around half mentioned paid advertising and social media as “potential growth areas.”

Angela Rodriguez, head of strategy at Alma, said companies that market directly to Hispanic audiences stand out, especially since there are so many financial services firms to choose from. She said there’s an opportunity for Square to grow with new consumers while providing value to many Hispanic business owners that might not be native English speakers.

“There are just so many spaces in the economy being led by Hispanics and having their entire point of sale system in Spanish,” Rodriguez said.

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