SOUNDING OFF: Claudio Perez-Korinko-Cultural Dissonance in Product Labeling

Latinas (Latin American women) wash their hair because they want to look good, confident and attractive just like any other woman in the market. However, and in order to get to such stage, they have to purchase products that allow them to meet such expectations.

By Claudio Perez-Korinko, President Latino Consumer Insights.

images (1)The consumption of personal care products is on the rise in the U.S. Latina marketplace, and yet, the industry is still labeling their products in English.

In U.S. print media, personal care brands are advertising to Latina shoppers in Spanish, and most of the personal products marketed include shampoos, conditioning mousse, primers, soaps and cleansing items. While these magazines are focused on Latina shoppers, the product is still introduced with English labeling but supported with Spanish copy. The combination of English labeling with Spanish copy is creating a disassociation between product attributes and shopper’s desired benefits in three areas of the decision-making process, the external search, evaluation of alternatives and post-purchasing experience.

Before addressing the subject, consider this, a shampoo has two primary objectives from the consumer stand point, the first one is functionality, (cleaning) and the second one an abstract benefit (confidence). Consequently, we will focus on shampoo as the perfect product to illustrate the disassociation between English labeling and Spanish copy.

External Search

Once Latina shoppers are involved in external search through magazines and looking for alternatives, finding the right option depends on the amount of involvement they are willing to invest in their reading.

  • Problem Recognition

-The juxtaposition of creative Spanish copy with product labeling in English builds unnecessary “noise” by the brand and nullifies positive perceptual associations that Spanish creative copy would normally trigger in the mind of Latina readers.

-The reading investment is jeopardized by the disassociation of Spanish copy and product labeling in English.

-Such disassociation also interrupts the flow of the copy and does not direct the reader’s eye to all key points in the ad.

-The effectiveness of moving the reader from understanding the shampoo’s benefits to linking those benefits with personal values (leverage point) is removed.

Once at the store, most Latina shoppers rely on an evaluative criteria formulated through previous experience with other shampoos (alternative brands).

  • Evaluation of alternatives:

-The purchasing act is at risk as the Latina shopper is not being able to transfer the benefits of the product and link them to her criteria (expected benefits).

-The level of product involvement is limited to shallow attributes such as the color, font and design of the bottle.

Even when the product is bought and used for the first time, cognitive dissonance arises as the Latina shopper, now a customer experiences frustration since the product did not meet her expectations (benefits sought).

  • Post-purchase evaluation:
credit: © Andres Rodriguez / Dreamstime

-The disassociation between Spanish copy and English labeling leads Latina customers to experience some dissonance from an imbalance of information.

-The imbalance of information jeopardizes further product involvement.

Marketing Implications

Even when English labeling is moving Latina shoppers to purchase the product, the shoppers don’t necessarily understand the benefits of the product, let alone link the product benefits to their personal values. Consequently, the potential brand and customer relationship is at risk since the advertised benefits did not meet Latina shoppers’ criteria.

In order to build intimacy with Latina shoppers in the personal care products industry, brands will have to acknowledge that Spanish labeling is a functional utility that must be part of the leverage point in the message strategy. This does not mean that brands have no choice but to do the labeling in Spanish only, on the contrary, this is an opportunity for manufacturers to start working on bilingual labeling to create synergy between Spanish copy and product description.

It is also clear that cost is a factor of consideration in packaging, however, a brand that wants to enhance their positioning in the U.S. Latina personal care products market will have to inevitably do a cost and benefits analysis to evaluate the opportunity.

After all a shampoo is a bundle of psychological and functional satisfiers. This being the case and from the perceptual standpoint, color, odor and texture are the initial factors for product consideration followed by functionality, including product form, application, packaging and finally labeling. Labeling should be factual supportive material in Spanish in order to reinforce Latina shoppers’ reasons to believe.

Claudio Perez-Korinko, leads IM Insights Latino, a marketing research and cultural brand building lab focused on Latino consumers in the U.S. and Latin America. He also teaches marketing research & consumer behavior at California Lutheran University.He has almost 25 years of experience developing consumer insights for Fortune 100 to medium-sized companies focused on developing relationships with Latino and Latin American consumers.Spent 10 years in corporate strategic Hispanic marketing and international research and marketing and 15 years on the agency side in Latino qualitative research and cultural-brand-building.Founder of IM Insights Latino in 2001, an insights development and cultural-brand-building lab using culture as an organizational tool to gain access to Latino humans using products and brands in real-life situations.Claudio is currently leading IM Insights Latino and teaching marketing and marketing research at California Lutheran University.Claudio is a culture lover, forward thinker, tennis fanatic, long distance runner and dark roast coffee drinker. Bicultural and bilingual in Spanish and English. Baker University is Claudio’s alma mater and he is “tan chileno como Pablo Neruda.”