Often companies with highly-successful marketing plans in the US look toward entering the international playground. Before climbing into the global marketing sandbox; however, there are steps that need to be taken to avoid tripping and stubbing your toes.
All of them require that you embrace the cultures you will encounter along the way. It’s nearly impossible to have a successful international marketing endeavor without knowing how intertwined all the steps are with culture. Understanding this will make your marketing stand out, your playground grow, your pockets deeper and all people involved happy. So, let’s take a look at what it takes to join this playground to reap the most benefits:
Plan ahead. The best marketing plans include steps on going global from the very beginning. Fully understanding the market(s) you are entering, the culture(s), traditions, and nuances is paramount. Have your marketing and communications strategies translated early on by a seasoned translator. Meet with people who know the country. Have knowledgeable contacts in the country you are trying to reach. Have this all in place long before you put it into practice.
Know the culture. Know the considerable importance of a culture’s impact on business practices. Ask yourself about the target country’s cultural norms among different age groups, genders, and geographical areas. Be aware of class structure, computer usage, and consumer habits. What about traditions, holidays, religious observances? How do the people most like to receive marketing messages? Are they more receptive to social media or more apt to respond to print ads?
Also know the cultural differences within each region of the country you are targeting. Even countries that share the same language can have vastly different cultures. This includes the way of life and the way they conduct business. In the US, the way you market a product or service in New York City is different than in Hawaii, for example. Northern and southern Germany have largely different cultures. In Great Britain, even though they speak our language, “Thanksgiving Specials” won’t mean anything.
Some visual representation you use in your marketing may be fine in one country, but could be seen as highly offensive in another. There are entire human factors studies that describe what works and doesn’t work in each country. The colors used, type of clothing worn, or even how a person looks matters. One UK company asked designers from 18 different countries to Photoshop an image of a woman to align with the beauty standards of their specific countries. The differences are vast. And aside from the obvious conversation on what each country defines as beauty, this too ties into culture and the difference between countries. Remember all the differences when you create your global marketing plan.
Know the language.
Of course you will need quality translations for your messages. However, just translating your message into another language is not enough. A quality translator knows how to translate figurative language – the idioms, alliteration and symbolism, to name a few.
Context, colloquial language, and the like is difficult for a computer to translate, which is why human translators are key to the entire process and should be by your side every step of the way.
We have all heard stories of global marketing blunders. The US car manufacturer, Ford, found a poor translation meant poor sales in Belgium. Ford’s European ad campaign touted “Every car has a high-quality body.” That sounds all fine until the slogan was translated. The translation read “Every car has a high-quality corpse” — a dead body in each car was not exactly what Ford wanted to convey.
Use solid, simple writing.
Writing for translation needs to be solid, simple and short. [Tweet it] Clarity is important, as is sentence structure. A long quote or catchy phrase may make little sense in another language. Idioms don’t generally “hit the nail on the head” in other countries either. When translators meet with idioms, they may find it hard to find suitable replacements. Be nice to your translators and replace idioms with more universal phrases whenever possible.
Also, avoid long sentences. If you can convey your thought in about 20 words, your content will be more effective. Less is more when it comes to your message. And your message may even sound better than the original as well.
Understand regional regulations. There are also regulations and laws that garner what you can and cannot use in marketing. Pharmaceuticals are often subject to governing bodies, for instance. There are often laws about packaging, materials, size and safety. Be informed about possible licensing, permits, tariffs and fees.
Also, beware of using competitive marketing. Countries such as Germany, France and Belgium dissuade this type of advertising.
Ultimately, your chance at successfully entering the international playground comes understanding the rules before you enter and being aware that at its core, going global is a cultural, human endeavor. Having a holistic view that includes deep understanding of where you are headed will undoubtedly help you create success no matter where you go. Happy playing!
5-Star writer Ilona K is a writer who can blog and also write technical documents. Some of Ilona’s earliest memories center around writing. She wrote and illustrated her first novel when she was eleven.
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