Businesses adopt bilingual approach
Steve McNichols didn't need to explain much when asked why his company, DriveRight Autos in York County, decided to make a bilingual commercial.
“Why wouldn’t we?” McNichols said.
In the commercial, which has been airing this year, McNichols and another employee speak English, while payments and sales associate Paola Rosario talks about services in both English and Spanish.
McNichols, the sales, leasing and marketing manager for the dealership, said the company surveyed residents within a nine-mile radius of its locations, at 1595 S. George St. in York Township and 1459 S. George St. in Spring Garden Township. The survey found that a large segment was Hispanic. And with 40 percent to 45 percent of its sales coming from those who identify as Hispanic, it just made sense for DriveRight to market to its customers, McNichols said.
According to a recent report from the United Way of York County, per Pew Research data, the county’s Hispanic population grew 155 percent between 2000 and 2014. The report noted that in the same period, the Hispanic population grew more than 180 percent in Cumberland County, about 120 percent in Dauphin County and about 100 percent in Lancaster County.
The 2016 Census reported that York County’s Hispanic population totaled 31,899, or 7.2 percent of the total population. According to the report, in 2014 the Hispanic population made up less than 4 percent of the total in Cumberland County, more than 8 percent in Dauphin County, and almost 10 percent in Lancaster County. For Lebanon County, the U.S. Census estimates the Hispanic or Latino population to be more than 13 percent.
DriveRight Autos is not the only company tailoring its approach.
At F&M Trust, having bilingual materials and staff can aid customers who don’t speak fluent English, making them more comfortable and ensuring they understand what is going on during transactions, said Paulo Oliveira, Cumberland County/capital region market manager and vice president. The chief banking subsidiary of Chambersburg-based Franklin Financial Services Corp., F&M Trust also has locations in Franklin, Fulton and Huntingdon counties.
“Since many of our customers speak other languages, we feel it is important to highlight employees that are bilingual or multilingual so they can help customers feel more comfortable when discussing their banking needs and to make sure they fully understand our product and service offerings,” Oliveira said.
Chris Savarese, vice president of client services at Gavin Advertising in York and Harrisburg, said many organizations in the area are making an effort to engage Hispanic residents more frequently.
Savarese said Gavin has worked on a few campaigns that involved multiple languages, including social media campaigns and display advertising in health care and retail. The posts and ads speak to customers, provide what they need and engage the community. He added that it is important for customers to see themselves in the brand.
“It is about being inclusive and really ensuring all prospective customers are hearing from your brand,” Savarese said.
McNichols said Rosario’s hiring has been beneficial for the community and the dealership has been able to communicate better with customers.
With 18 forms and intricate leasing details, “it’s a hard thing to do when you don’t speak the language,” McNichols said. Now, he said, the customers don’t just shake their heads; they understand the transaction.
Rosario said customers are happy when they realize she speaks Spanish.
“They are completely ecstatic,” Rosario said. “Customers are better able to understand and express themselves.”
Savarese said he personally does not see anything negative about a business deciding to advertise and conduct services in multiple languages. He said it is up to the individual business, but it makes sense to be inclusive and have customers feel comfortable with the brand.
“Businesses need to evolve with the times and the population,” he said.
In releasing the United Way of York County report, the organization’s president, Anne Druck, said, “As the demographics of our community change, it is imperative that we have an honest discussion as to how we’re meeting the needs of residents in York County.”
The report recommended that free or low-cost Spanish language and culture courses be offered in the community, both for public-services workers and the population at large.
However, there can be some issues with implementing new services across the board at larger businesses. Oliveira said not all of a company’s locations may be staffed with someone who is bilingual or multilingual. Also, it could be difficult to maintain multiple versions of promotional materials and documents, and make sure there are enough at all times, he said.
Most importantly, translating English to Spanish can be challenging, as Spanish has a number of nuances that are not easily converted, Oliveira said.
“If a business is considering this approach, it is very helpful to find a translator with experience translating to a wide demographic range of audiences,” he said.
Although McNichols said he has heard negative racial comments in general in the community, DriveRight has not received any negative feedback on its bilingual ads.
Savarese said there is a community element, beyond the business opportunity, of offering services and advertising in multiple languages.
For businesses, he said, “Ultimately it could be an opportunity to educate, discuss why they are doing it, and what they are doing” for the community if they receive any backlash.