Lost In Translation

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When Denver Community FCU opened its new West Denver branch here, it was counting on its own expertise to offer residents in the heavily Hispanic neighborhood a better alternative to payday lenders and check cashing services.

But in the process, it also recognized where it lacked expertise, so to ensure the message was properly received, DCFCU turned to an experienced marketing consultancy.

Annie Greengrass, the CU's director of marketing, said Denver Community previously had used BDC Hispanic to assist in translating forms. Impressed with the company's work, DCFCU expanded the relationship to include marketing materials and, eventually, television and radio advertisements.

"We had used online translation tools, but weren't very happy with those," recalled Greengrass. "When we searched for translators, we found BDC Hispanic. They have staff members from several Spanish-speaking countries, including Mexico and Venezuela. They rewrite the text so it makes sense."

Brian Powers, president and CEO of Denver-based Black Diamond Concepts and BDC Hispanic, said DCFCU experienced a common problem.

Mistaken Translation

"Many companies have made the mistake of doing straight translation from English to Spanish. It doesn't work," he declared. "You have to be able to say the right things and push the right buttons."

Powers said his company has been involved in marketing to the Hispanic community for seven years. He said the Hispanic market is a natural fit for CUs.

"Credit unions are community oriented, and Hispanics are extremely community and family oriented. If companies reach out to Hispanics, they are extremely loyal. If they see a company has honest intentions and wants to help them, they'll be customers for life. And if companies don't market to Hispanics now, their competitors will."

In preparation for the launch of the new branch-which is near Invesco Stadium, where the NFL's Denver Broncos play-Denver Community FCU prepared a multi-channel blitz to raise awareness. The neighborhood was blanketed with door-hangers, which had English on one side and Spanish on the other. In addition, two 30-second TV spots and two 60-second radio spots began airing one week before opening and continued for eight weeks.

Said Greengrass: "BDC Hispanic helped us develop the radio and TV ads. They have their own camera equipment, they wrote the scripts and they supplied some of the talent. We also used some of our employees who speak Spanish. When the spots were completed, BDC Hispanic helped us get the TV spots on Telemundo and the radio spots on Spanish-language radio stations, because they have relationships with the stations."

The radio and TV spots featured products targeted to the Hispanic market. These include a credit-builder loan, check-cashing services, wire transfers and free checking accounts.

DCFCU also is developing a stored value card to allow people to send money back to their home countries. Greengrass said it would be cheaper to use than a wire transfer.

"We are one of the few financial institutions in Denver to focus on the Hispanic market," she said.

Postive Results

So far, the results have been positive, according to Greengrass. A large crowd showed up for the grand opening, and the West Denver branch is doing "very well," she said. More than 250 new members signed on in the first six weeks it was open, and the checking penetration rate is higher than the rest of the locations.

Denver Community's relationship with BDC Hispanic will continue. Greengrass said the consultancy recently translated all of the $196-million CU's brochures into Spanish, and is working on translating its Web pages. The next project will be a series of bilingual door hangers near each of DCFCU's three branches.

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