What’s Missing?

By Leslie Inzunza

Despite the proliferation of mass tort advertising online and on the airwaves, Hispanic consumers are virtually absent from mass tort plaintiff classes.  After one too many disappointing yields from television or radio campaigns, legal advertisers have all but given up on this segment of consumers.  Success with the Spanish-language market can be a difficult group to reach  primarily, but not exclusively, because of  language.  The Hispanic consumer is unique — something that is lost on many firms who try to reach them.  Dimensions of culture, levels of acculturation and language preferences all need careful consideration in order to connect with this growing segment of the U.S. population.

Culture

Why is it that even translated into Spanish, the familiar introduction to a pitch —  “Have you been injured by . . .  ?” — barely registers with Hispanic consumers?  One answer is culture.  Their perceptions are heavily influenced by the larger dimensions that shape what we know as “culture” or the shared beliefs, experiences and norms of a particular group. Critical facets of Hispanic culture, those that make or break ad campaigns, are often overlooked or misunderstood by legal advertisers.

Inzunza

Mass tort advertising—more so than any other type of legal marketing— requires educating a new consumer base. Key aspects of Hispanic culture that shape perception need to be addressed.  First, who is making the pitch?  Hispanic perceptions of leadership differ so they respond to a different type of influence than the general market.  Secondly, what is their tolerance for risk?  Documented or not, they perceive risk is involved with any kind litigation.  Third, how do they see time?  The reward of a possible settlement years down the road may not be enough to influence their behavior now.  Finally, what caused their injuries?  Hispanics tend to be fatalistic and may attribute their injuries to an unknown force.

Hispanics may not make the connection between their injuries and the relevant litigation.

Whatever their level of acculturation, Hispanics have zero consciousness of mass tort or class action litigation. The concept of a “mass tort” is foreign to general market consumers, even more so with Hispanics, who have less experience with the U.S. civil justice system.  Many Latin American nations lack a well-functioning and stable criminal justice system, much less a system for consumers seeking recourse for a harm done to them.

Levels of Acculturation

Understanding the process of acculturation and assimilation is essential to successfully marketing products and services to Hispanics.  Efforts to reach them must start with an understanding of how well they navigate U.S. culture and to what degree are they acculturated.

While pharmaceutical companies have been slow to dedicate significant dollars from their sizable marketing budgets to prescription drug advertising to Hispanics, they have made progress through grassroots marketing to get their products in front of this untapped segment of the market.  By sponsoring community health fairs and clinics in densely populated Hispanic areas, pharmaceutical companies have direct access to community health care workers, “promotoras de salud,” who have significant influence among Hispanics.  More importantly, drug makers are reaching Hispanics early in the process of acculturation, when they are eager to adapt to U.S. culture and are most receptive to “guidance” –in this case pharma’s prescription drug marketing.

Drug makers are reaching Hispanics early in the process of acculturation when they are eager to adapt and are most receptive to messaging.

Language

Language is the one clear unifying bond among Hispanics.  Spanish is carried on through the third generation and beyond.  Even so, it is a mistake to always use Spanish in advertising to Hispanics because most Hispanic households include individuals with varying levels of language proficiency. The Spanish dominant older generation and new immigrants rely on English-proficient family and friends for information and guidance.  Bilingual and bicultural second and third generation Hispanics consume media in English, especially online.  Since education levels and language preferences often vary within one household, marketers need to prepare messaging that references culture and that can be shared in both languages.

The less obvious aspects of culture and the process of acculturation both inform consumer behavior and should be understood fully by mass tort marketers.  Yes, ad campaigns with big budgets reach Hispanics through mass communications.  Connecting with Hispanic consumers and influencing their behavior is another matter.  Legal marketers who understand the dimensions of Hispanic culture, acculturation and language that are relevant to mass tort litigation, and skillfully address these in their marketing, will lead the way.

Leslie Inzunza is a New York-based marketing and public relations consultant specializing in the Hispanic market.  She is a guest speaker at the forthcoming Mass Tort Med School, May 7-9 in Boca Raton, Florida. 

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