In the course of working with Goose Island Beer Company I’ve learned to distinguish between many types of beer, and have become an aficionado and discriminating craft beer tribalist. Understanding the product is great, but I’ve become concerned with the question: what about marketing beer (or other product categories) to ethnic tribe cultures?
I’ve been working with Nicolás Cuervo on a project. It began simply with Spanish language copywriting, but became a tribal analysis. An example: You can offer a Mexican a chela, in familiar slang. But you’ll lose Peruvians Spaniards, Venezuelans or any other Spanish-speaking cultural natives. They’d prefer a cerveza. Although they may understand your offer, it will come with a subtle insult: “you don’t know who I am.”
The super in the spot says "esperando a chela" (waiting for chela), so you might thing that he is waiting for woman. Chela is also the nickname for cecelias in mexico. But no, he's waiting for his chela to get cold. The song they play also helps, the lyrics say "espera, un poquito mas" (wait a little bit more.) It's a very clever spot, but best-suited for Mexicans. Surprisingly, the most common—and very cool—word for beer is birra. Who would have guessed that an Italian word would become so widely adopted by Hispanic cultures?
Cuervo runs a Cultural Tribalism Wiki focused on Spanish malaprops . His purpose is to educate American marketers on the nuances of Hispanic culture as they seek to tap the fastest growing ethnic segment in the US economy. A humorous section of the Wiki is dedicated to Burrismos—“asinine” malapropos if you will— which provides examples of words to use only with great tribal awareness. There, you’ll find a long list of examples, such as Lonchear, a manufactured word that comes from the English "to lunch". It’s often used in copy written for Cubans, Mexicans and second generation Hispanics. However, the ‘spanglish’ fabrication denotes a very familiar tone that might be inappropriate for certain marketing or advertising. The correct and more accepted phrase is: almorzar, comer.
Tribes use brands to relate to each other. The first step a business can take in building acceptance with its customer tribe is to show a faciltiy with a common language. Language translation isn’t simply a matter of mechanical conversion, but choice words, phases and style are laced with cultural nuance. It’s true whether you’re addressing Fast Track Moms, Game Geek tribes or Guatemalans.
To read more on marketing trens that distinguishing Spanish language tribes, read NewsWeek's Race to Win Hispanic Consumers. For more discussion, follow Nicolás Cuervo, at http://twitter.com/Nicolas_Cuervo. To find great beer at, go to gooseisland.com