Looking to go global with your marketing?
We live in a big world, with endless opportunity for engaged customers in other countries and cultures. Your brand could easily hop across the border to Canada or Mexico, or cross oceans to Europe and beyond.
You might even bring an international flair to your brand here at home, for the multicultural population in your own neighborhood!
Whether you’re starting to go global or just trying to reach a new international audience at home, there are important things to consider to make sure your business doesn’t become the latest “foreign fail” story.
This might seem like the most obvious factor to think about, but language can have greater implications than simply knowing word-to-word translations. Marketing your business in a new language requires not just speaking it, but being aware of the differences in word length and phrasing. English is a relatively malleable language, and allows for short words and phrasing. A language like French, for example, tends to be much longer! This presents new challenges for ad copy when it comes to character limits in title tags, meta descriptions, PPC ads, and other venues. Plus, factor in added complexities like formality. Many languages have formal and informal subject and verb forms that have intricate rules for use – and choosing the wrong option could easily offend. Study up before launching your first campaigns.
Understanding the language is only the first step. How do customs and customer expectations differ in your target market? Some of the biggest international blunders have resulted from a complete lack of understanding of the culture being entered. Home Depot – a DIY-er’s mothership – opened 12 stores in China before they realized that the Chinese population isn’t into DIY. Cases like these happen time and time again, with businesses not researching culture and norms before barreling in with their American brand and business model.
Google might still be the top, most-used search engine in the country you’re targeting, but how do they use it? Do people typically type out full search questions? Do they shy away from sponsored results and prefer organic results? Many nations – even highly modern ones – have developed more slowly (or just differently) in terms of digital business discovery, online shopping, or trust in businesses found online. Tailor your marketing messages and techniques accordingly.
Good news! Your business is already global, thanks to social media and the Internet. With your company on platforms like Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter, customers can find you easily no matter where in the world they might be. Use this to your advantage! When you’re expanding into a new market, sprinkle a few Tweets into your usual schedule that focus on news or information happening in that country, or even in that language. Start slow (you don’t want to alienate your current customer base if their favorite brand is suddenly exclusively in Español) but gradually start speaking to your new audience.
Your business name just might not translate into other languages. Maybe it’s difficult to pronounce and customers struggle to say it. Worse still, maybe it spells out or sounds like something offensive. Tissue brand Puffs encountered this problem when promoting its products in Germany, finally discovering that in German, “puff” is a slang term for a brothel. Not exactly the image they were going for. Whether it’s your business name or your products, save yourself some PR headaches; make sure your names and terms are appropriate or alter them as necessary to suit new languages.
International marketing can present some interesting problems. From translation mishaps and misinterpretations to pure cultural differences, there are many pitfalls if you’re not careful.
When branding your business abroad, it’s crucial that you understand all aspects of your new market’s language, culture, and expectations. In short, do your research!