Marketing to a new culture is a big step – full of important tiny details. Here’s how to do it right


Ever wonder why an internationally successful company like McDonald’s doesn’t directly translate its slogans for each market?

Advertising in different cultures goes beyond surface meanings. It’s fine, say, to translate your slogan into a rough equivalent…but does that rough equivalent really resonate with this particular set of potential clients, or would it be better to do something completely different?

In other words, if what you say is right, what about how you say it?

Let’s look at some reasons why marketing has to be adapted for each culture you’re targeting – and how your company can run a successful marketing campaign wherever your ambitions and dreams take you.

All cultures have their unique reaction to marketing campaigns. For example, Americans and Germans like to be given hard facts about a product, while French and Italian consumers prefer advertising that makes them dream.

Even cultures that seem fairly similar don’t always respond to ads the same way. Take the fascinating study that looked at the success of American commercials in Canada. These commercials had not been changed or adapted in any way for the local market, since the two North American cultures seem pretty similar. But the study found that the Canadian market differs from the American one in some interesting ways. For one thing, Canadian consumers find nostalgia more appealing than their American counterparts do. That said, Canadians are also more progressive; in a fairly recent survey, 48% of Americans agreed that a father is head of the household – only 22% of Canadians agreed.

Business journalist Matt Palmquist puts it perfectly:

[C]ulture informs how consumers perceive products, when and where they shop, and how much they’re willing to spend. Deeply ingrained cultural viewpoints and customs also influence individuals’ inclination to embrace innovative products, trust foreign brands, and rely on word of mouth.

But not all companies, marketing teams, and translators are aware of this. Forty percent of ads in new markets fail.

If you’re thinking about expanding your business, you might be feeling a little nervous right now. But don’t be – there are ways to get it right. For starters, here are five things to keep in mind when it comes to advertising to other cultures:

Remember that you’re marketing to other cultures, not necessarily other countries.

Think about it: even individual towns are often made up of people from different backgrounds – that certainly has to go for countries. One very interesting example of this is Gillette’s marketing campaign for its 48-jour deodorant to the Orthodox Jewish community in Israel. Instead of creating one international campaign or one campaign for Israel, the company focused on a specific community and created ads that made them seem “in the know” – since Orthodox Jews can’t do any kind of work, including applying deodorant, on Sabbath, the company pointed out that its deodorant offers a solution, since it should last for the entire 24-hours of Sabbath (and even longer!). By targeting a very specific culture within a culture, Gillette saw its sales jump more than 10% within just a few months.

Consider this list of factors that impact a business’s success in different cultures.

According to business analyst Nigel Hollis, there are some basic reasons why some businesses fail in different cultures. These are: clutter (the more ads that are already present, the harder it will be to get the public’s attention), brand status (how do consumers in this market consider your brand?), consumer identification (issues like people’s economic status will affect how they perceive your brand), category development (Is this market ready for your product?), cultural differences (notably, issues like collectivism vs individualism), and the kinds of advertising consumers are used to (how to consumers in this market tend to view ads, which selling techniques work – or don’t, etc.).

Question how to approach customers and when to expect results.

This is especially helpful if you’re planning on sending sales representatives or even opening a branch of your company in a new market. Writer Anup Soans proposes a helpful checklist of things you need to know before taking the plunge. These include:

– How much time on average does it take to build trust and relationships with customers?

– How strongly can you push the advantages and benefits of your product or service?

– How strongly can you push for a commitment from the customer?

Don’t underestimate the importance of imagery.

Make sure your product’s packaging doesn’t contain any symbols or images that could be misunderstood or even interpreted in a negative or offensive way by the local culture. And keep in mind that in some markets, images that clearly explain how to use your product are essential – for example, in markets where a significant portion of the population is illiterate.

Choose your words carefully.

It’s not enough to make sure your advertising is translated properly – you also have to make sure that words being used apply to the local market. For instance, words like “peckish” or “quid,” which are common in the UK, would not be understood by consumers in the US or Australia, even though a majority of people in all of these places speak English. The same, of course, applies to other languages spoken in different countries and cultures. This means that your strategy has to be adapted to each market, not necessarily each language. Or, if you need to reduce costs, be sure that the words you use are understandable for all speakers of a language.

Before you launch your product or service into a new market (domestic or foreign), you’ll have to take some time to get to know each culture you’re trying to sell to. Ask the necessary questions and remember that behind “musts” like basic translation lie other, equally important details that should never be overlooked.

by Alysa Salzberg

#aiatranslations #crossculturalmarketing #marketing #translations

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