CROSS-NATIONAL FORMS OF ADDRESS IN THE US AND MEXICO: ADDRESSING CONSUMERS AQUI Y ALLI.
This study compares trends in the Spanish-language commercial landscape of US based retail stores that operate in the United States and Mexico. It is based on observations made in four locations, two in each country. Two research questions guide the study: 1. Does the same store brand address its US and Mexican customers using the same Spanish form of address?; and 2. If there is a difference, how might we explain it and its possible impact on sales, brand recognition, and the like? Seven stores provided comparable cross national samples of address forms: General Nutrition Center (GNC); AutoZone; Walmart; Best Buy; Radio Shack; Home Depot; and Lowe's. Since Best Buy and Radio Shack sell similar electronic products, and Home Depot and Lowe's are comparable home improvement stores, they provide data across brands as well as across national borders.
2. FORMS OF ADDRESS IN ADVERTISING. TWO theoretical frameworks guide our discussion. First, the tenets of LINGUISTIC LANDSCAPE (LL) frame our discussion since we focus on commercial signage. Second, international marketing provides the tools for analyzing commercial texts. Finally, the cultural and commercial implications of the linguistic similarities and differences we find form the crux of our discussion.
The burgeoning field of LL examines the written language that surrounds us in public and commercial spaces, including store signs, billboards, safety instructions, directions, and other domains to which the general public has ready access (Landry & Bourhis 1997:23). LL emerged as a framework through which to study language roles in multilingual environments like Jerusalem (Ben-Rafael et al. 2006, Spolsky & Cooper 1991), Montreal (Landry & Bourhis 1997), and the Basque Country (Cenoz & Gorter 2006). Those studies examined questions of social and political power of the languages at play in each of the regions studied. Other LL studies of Jordan (El-Ya-sin & Mahadin 1996), Tokyo (Backhaus 2007) and Ljubljana (Schlick 2002) considered similar issues of power but in areas that are less linguistically and culturally diverse (Ivkovic & Lotherington 2009). Although multilingual environments inspired LL research, its principles are applicable to the study of the dialectal features of the same language (cf. Hueber 2009). The presence of specific dialectal features shows the social status of those features in the language communities at hand (Escribano 2006:296). Moreover, the use of specific dialectal features reflects the advertisers' or business owners' perception of their customers and the relationship they wish to foster (Adam & Bonhomme 2000:10). This is the approach we take in identifying the forms of address that US businesses use in their Spanish-language signage in the United States and in Mexico.
Spolsky and Cooper (1991:81-84) describe commercial and other signs as linguistic artifacts. They are written for a specific purpose, in a specific way, for a specific audience. In multilingual areas, signs are expected to be written in a language that the target audience is known to read. Moreover, it is expected that the sign writers use a language that they know well and with which they wish to be identified. The concept of sign writers projecting a positive image vis-a-vis their choice of language, as well as the target audience identifying with the linguistic form they see and read, is extended to the study of the use of dialectal features of the same language. In this case, the choice to use a particular form of address commits the sign writer to identify socially and linguistically as an equal, as the voice of authority, or some other role that is produced by varying degrees of social distance (Moccero 2003:349-50).
Forms of address in conversation vary throughout the Spanish-speaking world. It is commonly held that tu (and vos where it is used) represents solidarity and usted conveys respect and/or some level of social distance. Nonetheless, the ways in which such norms diverge form the basis of a rich body of research on address forms. For example, Uber (1985) describes how in Colombia usted has a dual purpose, representing both social closeness as well as social distance, depending on its context. Moser (2010) describes a similar continuum of formal and informal ustedeo in Costa Rica. Alvarez and Barros (2001:23) report that in Merida, Venezuela, usted is traditionally the sole form of address; tu is used to accommodate speakers from outside the community. Weyers (2009:837) shows that in Uruguayan subject/verb form combinations VV (e.g. vos tenes 'have'), TV (e.g. tu tenes 'have'), TT (e.g. tu tienes 'have'), and UU (ustedtiene 'have'), we find a complex system that ranges from most intimate (VV) to most respectful (UU). Finally, the tone and overall import of the conversation might contribute to the use of usted in a heated or serious discussion, while a jovial or collegial conversation might warrant the use of tu (Calderon Campos 2010:233). Given the infinite range of topics that are broached daily, along with the diversity of regional norms found throughout the Spanish-speaking world, the use of forms of address in speech is far from static.
This study focusses on advertising--that is, written communication--which is less variable and tends to follow different norms than speech (Weyers 2011:119). Advertising is a form of communication with a specific objective: commercial advertising is meant to persuade potential consumers to purchase; non-commercial advertising provides instructions, policy statements, and the like (Vestergaard & Schroder 1985:1). Although both types are seemingly ubiquitous, commercial advertising tends to outnumber its non-commercial counterparts in most retail locations. Research on forms of address in Costa Rica (Cameron 2014), Uruguay (Weyers 2012), Mexico (Weyers 2011), Argentina (Kaul de Marlangeon 2010), and Spain (Bursik 2008) show a preference for the pronoun of solidarity in commercial advertising. For non-commercial advertising, Weyers (2011:127) found that tu was used 54% of the time in Mexico, even though non-commercial advertising tends to be authoritative and informative, and Mexico is considered the most hierarchical, and therefore most ustedeante, country in the Spanish-speaking world (Felix-Brasdefer 2004).
In many of those studies, the preference for tu or vos in advertising reflects local linguistic norms (cf. Weyers 2012 for Uruguay); for Mexico, it does not. Weyers (2011) describes that it is common for Mexican employees to address customers as usted in the same businesses whose written advertising uses tu. Given this idiosyncrasy, we conclude that written advertising follows its own norms, preferring the pronoun of solidarity over the reverential usted.
As stated, commercial advertising's singular objective is to persuade consumers to purchase goods or services. That goal is accomplished by expressing solidarity with their target audience. Scollon et al. (2012:40) describe this approach as the application of INVOLVEMENT POLITENESS STRATEGIES. Involvement strategies lessen social distance by claiming a similar point of view, expressing in-group membership, or otherwise demonstrating that the sender and the receiver of the message are social equals (Escribano 2006:274-76). Given our discussion of address forms, tu or vos are called for to express solidarity. When usted appears in advertising (which is more typical in non-commercial advertising than otherwise), we find that message is written using INDEPENDENCE POLITENESS STRATEGIES (Scollon et al. 2012:41). In this case, the advertiser creates some social distance by using indirect language, offering options, or making suggestions (Scollon et al. 2012:45-46). (1)
Spanish-language advertising in the United States is comparatively younger than in Latin America and Spain. It is well known that the Hispanic population of the United States has grown exponentially in recent decades. At the same time, it is widely reported that Hispanic spending power has grown at a similar upward rate (Humphries 2013). As such, marketing to that burgeoning consumer group has become a priority in US businesses (Llopic 2013). How to market to US Hispanics, however, is an imprecise science, given the diversity of Hispanics in the US and the language(s) they speak. Hispanics who were born in the United States are increasingly English dominant, while the use of Spanish among foreign born Hispanics--reported at over 80%--has remained unchanged over the past three decades (Krogstad et al. 2015). US businesses have experimented with Spanish-language advertising outlets to varying degrees of success. Home Depot and Lowe's, for example, launched Spanish-language websites for US consumers and quickly disabled them: Home Depot's site was launched in 2008 and was shut down in 2009 (Zimmerman 2009), citing a lack of traffic; Lowe's site was closed several months after its early 2011 launch (Yunkers 2011). Still, both stores advertise on Spanish television and use Spanish in their in house signage, as we discuss below.
Successful marketing strategies that are to reach the Hispanic consumer in the US must address Hispanic culture and speak to the consumer's identity. Advertising in Spanish is not sufficient. Forbes Online reports that 'Cultural intelligence must replace the misguided notion that simply translating English copy into someone's native language is all you need to do to reach them' (Llopic 2013). As such, recent research in cross-cultural advertising focusses on cultural values (De Mooij & Hofstede 2010). 'If in a country certain appeals and communication styles are more common than in others, these style elements are used because they are effective' (McQuarrie & Phillips 2008).
For those businesses that elect to use Spanish to reach the Hispanic market, the premise of this study is fundamental: should US Hispanics be addressed as tu or usted? Which is culturally appropriate? To answer those questions, Agua Hispanic Marketing (2009) suggests that the decision be based on the Audience, Brand, and Category (that is, the ABCs). Table 1 summarizes their recommendations.
Note that these are the recommendations of one advertising agency. It is logical to expect that advertisers and advertising executives will apply their personal convictions. For example, a colleague described an incident related to address forms in which her contracted Spanish translations were returned for editing by executives of the bank for which they were prepared. The reason was that she had used usted in the bank's advertising and the customer preferred tu. Indeed, her usage mirrored the guidelines we find in Table 1. According to the bank, usted seemed to be for an older audience. Since they hoped to reach a young audience, as well as make their older customers feel young, tu was deemed more appropriate (Toth 2015).
Other tools are used professionally to decide on how to focus cross national advertising according to the cultural norms of the target societies. The HOFSTEDE MODEL (Hofstede et al. 2010) of national culture is frequently cited as a valuable tool for defining cultural norms and therefore guiding cross-national advertising. That model distinguishes cultures on the basis of six dimensions: power distance; individualism/collectivism; masculinity/femininity; uncertainty avoidance; pragmatism; and indulgence. Descriptors of the six dimensions and an explanation of their ratings are found in Table 2. Cultural dimensions are rated on a scale of 0-100. The reader is directed to Hofstede et al. (2010) for a full description of the dimensions.
The Hofstede model is not without its critics, as one would expect with any model that attempts to categorize cultural dimensions of diverse societies. Some of the categories lend themselves to stereotyping (e.g. 'pragmatism' might be interpreted as suggesting that a society is modern or otherwise); the category 'masculinity/femininity' appears particularly unfounded. Still, the category 'power distance' appears quite relevant to our analysis of address forms in US and Mexican advertising. In a comparison between Mexico and the United States (see Table 2), Mexico's score of 81 in that dimension indicates that it is a hierarchical society that values social distinctions; the US, on the other hand, scores a 40 in the same category, which points to an egalitarian society (Hofstede et al. 2010).
Recall our discussion of tu and usted, whose mere existence points to the hierarchical nature of societies in the Spanish-speaking world. As we discussed, tu is most common in advertising in the Spanish-speaking world given the advertiser's marketing strategy of Involvement. In the US, where advertisers may recognize the hierarchical nature of Spanish-speaking world, as well as their desire to be respectful of their clientele, usted appears to be logical response to what US advertisers view as culturally appropriate to their Spanish-speaking customers. This study began with an observation that Lowe's USA appeared to use usted primarily to address its customers. It seems that Lowe's advertising executives are cognizant of the hierarchical nature of their target consumers' culture and the language they speak. With a nod toward showing respect--and therefore not offending customers--usted seems to be a reasonable choice for their signage. The error in this logic is found in the nature of advertising: marketing follows its own norms. Rather than conveying respect, advertisers are charged with drawing in potential consumers. For that reason, to repeat, tu is the pronoun of solidarity that has that potential.
Our purpose is not to single out Lowe's. Instead, we use its advertising as a salient example of divergent forms of address we find on either side of the border. The following section presents the data for all seven stores under consideration in this study.
3. DATA COLLECTION AND ANALYSIS. The data collection for this study took place in four locations: Charleston, SC; Miami, FL; Guadalajara, JAL; and Monterrey, NL. Since Charleston is limited in its use of Spanish advertising, Miami provided an important source of additional data to allow for a wider cross-cultural comparison. Given the study's focus on US based retailers with a presence in Mexico, the first phase of the data collection required a careful combing of Mexican retail outlets (in malls as well as free-standing stores) to identify US brands there. That yielded 41 international brands that operate in both countries. The second phase involved documenting Spanish advertising in US locations for those 41 brands. Consequently, we had to eliminate 34 of the stores from consideration due to a lack of comparable data for the brands on both sides of the border. Stores were eliminated for one of the following reasons: 1. International chains like Forever 21, H&M, and Adidas use English for their in store advertising in Mexico; 2. Some US brands use little or no Spanish in their Mexican locations (for example, Costco has no written in store advertising; Dairy Queen and American Eagle Outfitter use English); and 3. Many brands that operate in Mexico do not use Spanish in their US stores: Pizza Hut, 7-11, Gap, Applebee's, Chili's, Federal Express, DHL, among others. Under these circumstances, it was impossible to compare address forms cross nationally.
The data that is analyzed here comes from 7 retailers that are US based, use Spanish language advertising in their US locations, and have comparable Spanish-language advertising in their Mexican locations (in order of discussion): General Nutrition Center (GNC), Walmart, Auto Zone, Best Buy, Radio Shack, Home Depot, and Lowe's.
In addition to documenting the advertising in physical locations, the stores' websites were consulted as a potential source of additional data. Of the 7 retailers, only Best Buy's and Radio Shack's US websites offered complete Spanish-language versions that allowed for comparison with their Mexican websites. Indeed, those two electronics stores provided more online data in Spanish than their physical locations, as we discuss below. The other stores' US websites did not yield sufficient data in Spanish for our purpose: GNC (USA) does not have a Spanish version of their website; AutoZone offers a professional section in Spanish, but not a Spanish site for shopping; and Walmart provides some minimally translated web pages, but not an entire site dedicated to Spanish. Recall that Home Depot and Lowe's no longer maintain Spanish website for their US customers.
The 7 stores' data is presented in the following subsections. GNC, Walmart, and AutoZone are discussed individually since their competitors, where applicable, did not yield comparable samples. Best Buy and Radio Shack, and Home Depot and Lowe's, are paired and treated comparatively, since they provide data across brands as well as on either side of the border.
3.1. GNC: DIFFERENT FORM OF ADDRESS. GNC opened its doors in 1935 in the United States, and entered the Mexican market in 1991. Currently, there over 6500 GNC stores in the US and approximately 650 in Mexico (GNC 2015). GNC stores are typically small; in store advertising is limited to product labelling and classification, which do not feature a form of address. GNC's storefront slogan uses an imperative form, which features the sole address form we identified in its locations. GNC's slogan in English is 'Live well'. In Spanish, Miami stores display Viva bien '[Live.sub.[usted]] well'; in Mexico, we find Vive mejor '[Live.sub.[tu]] better'. This singular comparison does not allow for a meaningful conclusion. Nonetheless, we offer GNC's singular address form as an example of what we observed and speculated about regarding Lowe's: GNC addresses its US customers as usted, and its Mexican customers as tu.
3.2. WALMART AND AUTO ZONE: MIXED FORMS OF ADDRESS. Although tu is more commonly used in advertising in the Spanish-speaking world (see section 2), it is not uncommon to find tu and usted juxtaposed in the same store. At times, those two forms might serve different functions, like promoting the sale of an item (tu) or stating store policies (usted) (Weyers 2011:129). At other times, it may be a case of different writers who apply their individual criteria on which address form to use. Walmart and Auto Zone in the US and Mexico fall into the category of stores whose advertising mixes address forms. Table 3 shows the distribution of lit and usted in both stores' advertising.
The first Walmart store opened in the US in 1962; Walmart entered the Mexican market in 1991. The chain operates over 3400 Super Centers in the United States and at least 251 in Mexico (Walmart 2015). Regardless of Walmart's location, its Spanish-language advertising follows no discernible pattern with regard to the address forms it uses. For the most part, beyond Walmart's statement of their return policy at the customer service area, there is little in store explanation of how to use products (which relies on imperatives, and provides address form data) in the US or in Mexico. Instead, most of Walmart's signage consists of department identifications (e.g., Shoes, Appliances, etc.) and low price guarantees, at times with tu and at other times with usted, equally mixed in the US and in Mexico. Walmart's slogan in Spanish is Ahorras dinero. Vives mejor '[You.sub.[tu]] save money. [You.sub.[tu]] live better'. Still, we found Usted ahorra dinero '[You.sub.[usted]] save money' on some shelves in the US and as well as in Mexico. Data for Mexico was first collected in Guadalajara around Christmas; later, observations were made in a Monterrey location during the summer. For Christmas products that were specially displayed in aisles throughout the store, tu was the preferred form (i.e., para que tus deseos se hagan realidad 'so that your |ti ] dreams come true'). In summer, we found a display in the grocery section that marketed outdoor grills and products for grilling. There, usted was preferred: Todo para su asador 'Everything for [your.sub.[usted]] grill'; Todo para el sabor de su carne 'Everything for the flavor of [your.sub.[usted]] meat'. In these two examples, it is possible that su 'your' refers to a plural ustedes rather than singular usted. It seems most probable that the reference is singular, however, since it is common that advertising is rendered in the singular given its personalized nature (cf. Vestergaard & Schroder 1985:73).
AutoZone first opened in the US in 1979, where it currently operates over 5000 stores (Auto Zone 2015). The first Mexican Auto Zone opened in 1998; Auto Zone Mexico operates 476 stores (Auto Zone Mexico 2015). Like Walmart, Auto Zone's advertising in Spanish presents a comparable juxtaposition of tu and usted in their stores. Unlike Walmart, Auto Zone's use of address forms appears to follow a pattern. Their freestanding buildings in Mexico feature the store name and its slogan on several sides: Auto Zone: Todas las refacciones que busca para su auto, y mas 'All of the parts you need for [your.sub.[usted]] car, and more'. The use of usted on the stores' front and side exterior walls would seem to create an expectation that Auto Zone addresses its customers formally. It does in part, but with noteworthy variation.
The interiors of Auto Zone in both countries are identical. The stationary perimeter walls are labelled as 'Zones', like Battery Zone, Oil Zone, and Tire Zone. Those Zones along the perimeter of the store address the customer as usted. For example, in Battery Zone, we see Se le olvido apagar las luces? 'Did [you.sub.[usted]] forget to turn off [your.sub.[usted]] lights?; and Permitanos cargar su bateria gratuitamente '[Allow.sub.[usted]] us to charge [your.sub.[usted]] battery for free'. In Oil Zone, the explanation begins with Proteja y revitalice su motor. Su seguridad es primero! '[Protect.sub.[usted]] and revitalize [your.sub.[usted]] engine. [Your.sub.[usted]] safety comes first!', addressing their customers respectfully. The rest of the interior is filled with rows of shelved products, along with some smaller displays near the entrance for seasonal items. Signage on those interior shelves and displays uses tu: preparate para el invierno '[prepare.sub.[tu]] for winter' (in Miami, January); preparate para el calor '[prepare.sub.[tu]] for the heat' (in Monterrey, in August); protege tu auto con estilo '[protect.sub.[tu]] [your;.sub.[tu]] car with style'; ahorra gasolina con aditivos 'save [.sub.[tu]]gas with additives'; comienza a divertirte '[start.sub.[tu]]enjoying [yourself.sub.[tu]]. (on your motorcycle, in both countries); and the like. Finally, near and on the exit doors (in Miami, Guadalajara, and Monterrey), we found Cuentanos tu experiencia de compra '[Tell.sub.[tu]] us about [your.sub.[tu]] shopping experience'; Estamos contratando. Que esperas? 'We are hiring. What are [you.sub.[tu]] waiting for?', all in the tu form.
As stated, Auto Zone appears to follow some pattern in its address form, which seems to be based on the store perimeter zones and the interior moveable shelving. The store's slogan in the usted form has not changed since its entrance in the Mexican market (Auto Zone Mexico 2015). It seems reasonable to deduce that the permanent structure of the building, including the Zones that occupy the interior walls, has remained unchanged like the store's slogan. Times change, and new products are introduced, along with changing norms in advertising. As such, we see the use of tu in the less permanent shelves and other displays that might be updated, discontinued, or relocated.
3.3. BEST BUY AND RADIO SHACK: ONLINE DISTINCTIONS. Best Buy opened in the US in 1966 (as the Sound of Music; it became Best Buy in 1983), where it currently operates over 1400 stores (Best Buy 2015). Radio Shack opened in the US in 1921; in 2015 it operated 1753 stores (Radio Shack 2015). Both electronics stores entered the Mexican market in 2008. Best Buy operates 23 stores in Mexico (Best Buy Mexico 2015) and Radio Shack operates 273 (Rack Shack Mexico 2015).
Best Buy and Radio Shack's use of in store advertising is reminiscent of Walmart's: beyond the statement of the store's return policy, signage is at a minimum in their stores. Moreover, the in store signage in both stores is descriptive: signs identify departments and product specifications and little else. We found no in store advertising that used an address form. Recall that online sources for the 7 stores under consideration were also consulted. Best Buy and Radio Shack--unlike the other 5 stores--have full web sites in Spanish for online shopping. Their websites proved a valuable source of data.
Radio Shack underwent a Chapter 11 bankruptcy restructuring in 2015 (Reuters 2015). When their Spanish-language websites were first identified in 2014 for inclusion in this study, Radio Shack's websites in both countries (Radio Shack in Spanish 2015; Radio Shack Mexico 2015) used tu exclusively. Attempts to verify and update the 2014 data were unsuccessful since the former Spanish language site's URL now redirects the customer to its US site in English.
The websites for Best Buy USA (Best Buy in Spanish 2015) and Best Buy Mexico (2015) provide a different scenario in that Best Buy's online customers are addressed differently in the US than in Mexico. A comparison of these two Best Buy sites shows similar products, and a similar tone. At the time of writing, back to school was the theme and both sites featured computers, cell phones, and tablets, along with the rest of their inventory of electronics. The way the products are marketed to the consumer is of note. At Best Buy Mexico's site, the reader is told that certain electronics are tan profesional como tu 'as professional as [you.sub.[tu]]'. [P]onle dedos encima de este Touch(iba) '[Get.sub.[tu]] [your.sub.[tu]] fingers on this Touch(iba)' plays with the touch screen feature of Toshiba laptops and does so in the tu form. Best Buy USA in Spanish assures consumers that they will find 4G electronics, in the ustedfotm: Encuentre equipos con capacidad 4G Lite '[Find.sub.[usted]]electronics with 4G Lite accessibility'. Haga realidad sus suenos de entretenimiento para el hogar '[Make.sub.[usted]] [your.sub.[usted]] home entertainment dreams come true' introduces television and home theater options, and the site map directs users to contact Best Buy by phone or social media: conectese '[connect.sub.[usted]]. Siga @BestBuy '[Follow.sub.[usted]]@BestBuy', all in usted. The same messages use tu on Best Buy Mexico's site. Careful consideration of both sites shows that they are consistent in their forms of address. The customer is addressed as usted on Best Buy USA's site, and as tu on Best Buy Mexico's. Table 4 summarizes the address forms the sites use. Given the nature of web pages, particularly given the links within links, it is impossible to count how many times tu and usted are available on the site. Many of the same messages (such as ahorra '[save.sub.[tu]]' and [ahorre'.sub.[usted]]') were repeated on the sites. Due to the difficulties of confirming an exact count of online address forms, and considering that the data for the other stores averages 33 tokens each (see Tables 3 and 5), we limited the tokens extracted here to 50. The results are found in Table 4.
Best Buy USA is the only electronics store of the four whose Spanish website addresses customers as usted. Indeed, Table 4 shows that there is consistency in the address forms that appear online: they categorically use one form or the other. This brings up an important consideration about using online data and comparing it with in store data. Websites are likely created and maintained by a single team; it is reasonable to surmise that they introduce updates as a singular process. In comparison, in store advertising is 'polyphonic', made up of superimposed voices (i.e., individual managers, local product marketers, national campaign leaders, etc.). In that light, there are inherent complexities in comparing data from one platform with another. Our discussion acknowledges that caveat. Although the platforms are different, and the consistency of the online data versus the heterogeneity of the in store data is evident in Table 4, we chose to use the online data for two reasons: 1. it illustrates the hypothesis that different address forms are sometimes used on either side of the border; and 2. irrespective of its delivery, online advertising represents the official voice of the stores we consider here.
3.4. HOME DEPOT AND LOWE'S: DIFFERENT FORMS OF ADDRESS. Home Depot was founded in the US in 1978, where it operates over 1900 stores (Home Depot 2015). Home Depot entered the Mexican market in 2001, where by 2015 it operated 111 locations (Home Depot Mexico 2015). Lowe's opened in the US in 1946, and currently has nearly 2300 stores (Lowe's 2015). Its presence in Mexico is more recent. Lowe's opened their first Mexican store in 2010 and, at the time of writing, operated 9 stores concentrated in northern Mexico (Lowe's Mexico 2015).
Lowe's in store signage inspired this study. In Miami and Charleston locations, Lowe's uses usted exclusively, and Home Depot stores in those two cities shows a preference for tu, although usted does have a presence in that store. In Mexico, both stores use tu in 80% of their advertising; the remaining 20% uses usted. Table 5 shows the distribution of forms of address that are used in both stores in the US and in Mexico. In Table 5, Lowe's USA stands out as unique in its reliance on usted.
According to Table 5, Home Depot Mexico and Lowe's Mexico use tu more frequently than usted. Still, Lowe's Mexico uses a higher percentage of usted than its competition. For example, in the bathroom fixtures sections of both stores, Lowe's Mexico instructs customers how to change a shower head using usted: Retire la regadera anterior ... envuelva el brazo de la regadera ... '[Remove.sub.[usted]] the old shower head ... [wrap.sub.[usted]] the shower head arm'... In a similar instance, Home Depot Mexico provides these instructions in the tu form for toilet installation: Coloca el anillo de cera ... presiona para ajustarlo... '[Place.sub.[tu]]the wax ring ... [press.sub.[tu]] down to adjust it..'.. Note that these instructions, along with all the examples that form part of this study, were taken from store shelves or in store advertising, not from product boxes.
In both stores' Mexico locations, we find some mixing of forms of address that is reminiscent of stores like Walmart. For example, in a Guadalajara Home Depot, we identified a customer service call station (a button that you ring when service is required) that had two placards with the same message, one on top of the other, one in tu and one in usted: Necesitas ayuda? Presiona el boton 'Do [you.sub.[tu]]need help? [Press.sub.[tu]] the button' (above the button); Necesita ayuda? Oprima el boton 'Do [you.sub.[usted]] need help? [Press.sub.[usted]] the button' (above the first sign). That juxtaposition seems to be the result of two sign writers, as well as different sign installers who seemingly did not notice that the message was repeated.
There appears to be no discernible pattern to explain the use of use of tu or usted in either store's Mexican locations. Sink basins, bathroom fixtures, molding, and the like, are advertised most frequently in tu, although we find at times certain products are described or services offered in usted: lo cargamos para usted 'we'll carry it out for [you.sub.[usted]]' in Lowe's, for example. One likely reason for this situation is that products come from multiple sources. Lowe's and Home Depot have their own products, but others they carry are probably advertised by their corresponding advertising agencies. In Lowe's Mexico, for example, we find that comparable instruction panels that explain how to choose a kitchen sink and how to choose a lamp are presented with different forms of address: Pasos para elegir una tarja para cocina. 1. Elija el material, 2. Elija una opcion de instalacion 'Steps for choosing a kitchen sink. 1. [Choose.sub.[usted]] the material, 2. [Choose.sub.[usted]] an installation option', using usted. Conversely, to choose a lamp: Elige el accesorio + elige la pantalla = diseno unico '[Choose.sub.[tu]] a lamp + [choose.sub.[tu]] a shade = special design', using tu.
As stated, Lowe's presence in Mexico is fairly recent. This might explain why we found some signage and other information in Lowe's Mexico that appeared to have been transferred from a US store. For example, a sign hanging from the ceiling in the molding section instructs customers to access a website for ideas to design rooms with molding (Ingrese a internet y utilice el programa para disenar habitaciones con molduras. Lowes.com/Evertrue '[Go.sub.[usted]] online and [use.sub.[usted]] the program to design rooms with molding'). That web address goes to a US site in English and would seemingly be of little use to a Mexican consumer. Also, we found a product locator in a Monterrey store that seems to have been designed for a US store as it was in English in large font, with a smaller font Spanish translation below it, rather than the other way around.
In addition to documenting their in store advertising, we perused the Mexican websites for both companies (recall that their US sites in Spanish were disabled). On those sites, both companies offer a video channel in which customers are shown how to do certain home or garden projects. Home Depot Mexico (2015) features original Spanish-language videos. Lowe's (Lowe's Mexico 2015), on the other hand, dubs the videos from their US site in Spanish. In short, given this video dubbing and the signage that was apparently transferred from a US store, we conclude that Lowe's limited and nascent presence in Mexico has not yet resulted in a full immersion into Mexican society. Home Depot, on the other hand, addresses their Mexican customers with signage and videos that are made in Mexico. In the following section, we discuss the potential impact that this type of corporate immersion (or lack thereof) has on business.
4. CONCLUSION. This study grew from an observation. Data collection spanned four cities in two countries. The sample size is small. Data is used from online and in store sources. Admittedly, these represent weaknesses of which we are cognizant. Nonetheless, we believe the data are useful in contributing to our understanding of address forms in the Spanish-language advertising in general, and in the US in particular.
The first conclusion we derive from the data is that advertising in Spanish is not an exact science. Tu and usted are found in the same store, the likely result of different people or agencies contributing to the linguistic landscape rather than the existence of a singularly applied corporate policy. Walmart is an illustrative example: the forms of address one finds in their US and Mexican stores follow no identifiable pattern. Auto Zone similarly uses tu and usted, albeit not as haphazardly.
Irrespective of the juxtaposition of two address forms in the same store, tu is shown in this study and elsewhere (cf. Bursik 2008) to be more prominent in commercial advertising around the Spanish-speaking world. As discussed, the use of tu is part of a politeness strategy that purports to establish a bond of trust with them. Nonetheless, we find an inclination toward the use of usted in some US advertising. In almost half of the cases studied here (e.g. GNC, Best Buy, Lowe's), we find that customers are addressed differently on different sides of the border, that is, as usted in the US and tu in Mexico.
One possible explanation might involve the companies' advertising agencies of record: GNC split its advertising with three US agencies at the time of writing; Best Buy's website was handled in the US in house (Adage 2015), and Lowe's ad agency for all of its North American operations was New York based BBDO Worldwide (BBDO 2015). In comparison, Radio Shack de Mexico is operated fully in Mexico (agency unknown); and Home Depot's agency of record at the time of writing, Richards/Lerma (2015), has offices in Dallas and Mexico City. (2)
What impact do the stores' agencies of record have? According to our data, GNC, Best Buy, and Lowe's use US based agencies and their US advertising regularly uses usted. Conversely, Mexico based agencies opt more commonly for tu since its use is part of an established marketing strategy. Reflecting on our reference to the Hofstede model, along with the guidelines that are offered by Agua Hispanic Marketing, the use of usted as a means of conveying respect for customers is comprehensible. Nonetheless, such usage disregards international norms.
At the same time, we find that Best Buy and Lowe's (both of which use usted in their US advertising) have a limited presence in Mexico compared with their competitors, Radio Shack and Home Depot, respectively. (1) Might Best Buy's and Lowe's preference for usted be indicative of their lack of immersion in the Mexican market (and its cultural norms), such as we find with Radio Shack and Home Depot? The evidence is insufficient to arrive at such a conclusion. However, there does appear to be some connection between a store's presence in Mexico and its preferred address form in the US. Notably, those stores with a minimal presence in Mexico use US based ad agencies that, in turn, opt to address US customers as usted.
Beyond satisfying a curiosity, this study has potential impact in Spanish advertising in the US. For example, market research shows that a majority of US Hispanic consumers prefers Home Depot over Lowe's (Garcia 2013). There are likely a number of reasons why that is the case. The fact that Home Depot addresses its Spanish-speaking customers as a friend and confidant, while Lowe's uses the respectful usted, might be one of them. Recall that marketing exists to compel the consumer to make a purchase. There is no data to link forms of address with marketing success (or otherwise), but it provides food for thought for US advertisers. (4)
The current study sets the stage for further research in cross national advertising. In light of its weaknesses, it suggests a trend in US advertising's preference for usted, which goes against international norms. Future studies might replicate the methodology of this one in other parts of the US, particularly along the border: it is possible that US stores in, for example, El Paso might use more Spanish than those we visited in Miami and Charleston, thereby allowing for a larger sample size. More important, further study is required to determine the bearing that addressing US consumers as usted or tu has on brand loyalty. The research on Home Depot's and Lowe's customer preference should be sufficient to inspire more studies of other brands' marketing strategies and their impact. As we find here, some US advertisers may miss the mark of attracting a growing, influential Hispanic market based on their treatment of Hispanics as bound by social hierarchies or even easily offended, that is, as usted. It would seem that advertisers and their clients would benefit from a change in perspective. A more regular use of tu in US advertising--which is in line with the rest of the Spanish-speaking world--would communicate that Hispanics represent an important market force. This Involvement strategy seems likely to have a positive impact on sales which, after all, is the purpose of advertising.
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Department of Hispanic Studies
College of Charleston
Charleston, SC 29424
JOSEPH R. WEYERS
College of Charleston
(1) Usted commonly appears in advertising that targets a senior audience or deals with life and death issues (i.e., hospitals, assisted living, funeral homes, and the like). In those cases, usted is not the product of a particular strategy, rather a means to express respect for the consumer.
(2) Auto Zone and Walmart are not included since they do not present cases of divergent address forms between competitors or across borders.
(3) GNC also uses usted in the US and tu in Mexico, but only in its slogan. That singular token is insufficient to include GNC in this argument.
(4) Attempts at locating research on online sales for Best Buy and Radio Shack were unsuccessful.
TABLE 1. Guidelines for using tu and usted in advertising(Agua Hispanic Marketing 2009) Tu is used ... Usted is used ... Audience with younger with older, more customers affluent customers Brand for approachable, for serious brands informal brands Category for less serious for serious categories, categories, like like banking and fast food and candy health care TABLE 2. Comparative cultural dimensions for Mexico and the United States. Dimension Mexico United Considerations States Power Distance 81 40 Mexico is a hierarchical society; the US is egalitarian Individualism 30 91 Mexico is collectivist; the US is individualist Masculinity 69 62 Both countries are motivated by 'do -ing' and succeeding Uncertainty 82 46 Mexico is traditional avoidance and relies on traditional means to problem solving; the US is open to new ideas to find new solutions to problems Pragmatism 24 26 Both societies look for quick results rather than saving for the future Indulgence 97 68 While both societies are indulgent, Mexico is more indulgent than the US TABLE 3. Distribution of tu and usted in Walmart and Auto Zone. Number of Uses of tu Uses of % of usted in samples usted advertising Walmart USA 15 9 6 40% Walmart Mexico 29 18 11 38% Auto Zone USA 15 10 5 33% Auto Zone 23 16 7 30% Mexico TABLE 4. Distribution of tu and usted in Best Buy and Radio Shack. Number of Uses of tu Uses of % of usted in samples usted advertising Best Buy 50 0 50 100% USA Best Buy 50 50 0 0% Mexico Radio 50 50 0 0% Shack USA Radio 50 50 0 0% Shack Mexico TABLE 5. Distribution of tu and usted in Home Depot and Lowe's. Number of Uses of tu Uses of % of usted in samples usted advertising Home Depot USA 50 40 10 20% Home Depot Mexico 45 36 9 20% Lowe's USA 53 0 53 100% Lowe's Mexico 36 25 11 31%
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|Author:||Weyers, Joseph R.|
|Publication:||International journal of the Linguistic Association of the Southwest|
|Date:||Dec 1, 2014|
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