It’s official; Cinco de Mayo is the new St Patrick’s Day. In the lead-up to this annual celebration of Mexico’s liberation from the French army at Puebla, more and more brands position themselves as celebrants of all things Mexican.
Much like St Patrick’s Day, Cinco de Mayo has been co-opted as a drinking holiday in the States, with less focus on any actual cultural significance with each passing year. This is in no small part thanks to American beer companies, and has led to many consumers believing that by raising a glass on May 5th they are celebrating Mexican Independence Day, although that event actually occurs in September and relates to a separate moment in Mexican history entirely. To contrast, Mexican beer brand Montejo has been sitting out the celebrations entirely, perceiving Cinco de Mayo as a largely North American holiday, with very little bearing on its actual target market below the border.
But it’s not just food and drink brands trying to cash in on the considerable purchasing power of the Hispanic community (a staggering $1.2 trillion according to Nielsen). The trouble is, a lot of these connections range from the tenuous to the outright insensitive, and carry about as much meaning as a brand turning its Twitter profile green in honour of St Paddy.
“Multilingual content riddled with poor translations that are not culturally relevant tells customers only one thing – they don’t matter,” Judd Marcello, VP of translation company Smartling, told Digiday. Far too often, not enough thought is put into “content that truly reflects the way Hispanic consumers live, act and speak.”
Some companies aren’t even bothering with Google Translate, instead choosing to exploit tired stereotypes. This less-than-deft approach has landed several brands in trouble, like Victoria’s Secret, whose irreverent themed tank tops (featuring slogans such as “I know the guac is extra”) were described as “garbage” by some critics.
While it is undeniably tempting to get in on the action of a popular occasion like Cinco de Mayo, brands need to ask themselves; do we know anything about Mexico beyond tacos and tequila? If the answer is no, then maybe give this particular fiesta a miss.