The world we inhabit keeps shrinking day in, day out.
And while we have developed countless ways to stay in touch, the disconnect prevalent among the human race has never been more acutely felt.
The more technologically aware we become, the easier it is to connect - yet the less we seem to want to do so.
Gone are the days when salesmen travelled the globe in search of new clients.
And unlike these culturally savvy and multilingual individuals who have often spent years immersing themselves in a specific culture, modern marketing strategies often assume that globalization has played an important enough role for the global language of advertising to have become understandable on every continent, and in every metropolis.
While this is to an extent true – and ads for giants the likes of Nike and McDonald’s have permeated even the most remote cultures, a little knowledge about the cultural paradigm you wish to address can help your message cause a larger and more profound ripple in the fabric of our diverse digital channels.
The initial step in most marketing campaigns is defining a target audience.
And while segmenting it based on demographics, age and gender is a useful tactic to employ, marketers often forget to take into account the importance culture plays in their segmentation.
Members of a certain demographic will embrace the cultural tastes of another.
Precisely because of our present-day global interconnectedness, demographic segmentation is no longer enough.
Before you decide to target senior middle- and upper-class males living in German-speaking countries – make sure you understand the actual interests of these groups.
They may not be as interested in your product as you believe they are.
The slogan your brand uses at home might have a significantly different meaning in another culture.
When you were first creating it, you were relying on your knowledge of your own culture and language.
Now you need to make sure that the message, and not the meaning itself, is what gets translated into another language.
A good translator will take into account all the nuances and intricacies of your target language, and often come up with something not at all similarly worded as the original, which will, however, convey the same sentiment and inspire the same actions.
Trusting them is key: a native speaker of a language is far more likely to understand the cultural implications woven into it.
Naturally, you want to avoid obvious mistranslations – yet be aware that even the largest of brands are sometimes guilty of them.
Individualism vs. Collectivism
Some countries have a very high regard for the individual, while others place more value on collectivism.
In the former, you should focus your marketing campaigns on personal gain, and how your client as an individual can benefit from your product.
These individuals can often also be power-driven, another important factor to keep in mind. Countries belonging to this group are the USA, Australia and most Western European countries.
On the other end of the spectre, those living in collectivist countries make decisions on a group level, based on what will benefit the larger whole and not the individual.
The individual is perceived through the lens of the group he belongs to: be it a family, a work collective or an ethnicity. Some of the countries belonging to this group are China, India, and Korea.
Bearing these facts in mind will help you word your ads more carefully, targeting the decision-maker of your target audience, whoever that person may be.
The Science of Colors
Another important branding facet you might want to reconsider is the use of colors and logos.
Not all cultures view the same color in the same way.
For example, while western countries associate the color white with purity, and it is for that reason the color of wedding dresses, Chinese brides wear red, and will not associate the same feelings with your white logo.
Make sure to explore who uses your colors in your target country: is it perhaps associated with the government, or a sports team, even a rival brand?
All of this knowledge will help you craft different branding if need be, one that will more likely appeal to your targeted customers in your targeted culture.
Tone and Voice
In certain cultures, a “hard sell” will go down much better than soft spoken messages.
Likewise, other cultures prefer indirect advertising without any blatant promotion. The way you approach these different cultures must be well thought out in advance.
Even if you have translated your message accordingly, and used all the right symbolism, if you them try to push it down people’s throats like you would at home, all of your hard work will likely turn to ashes in their mouths.
This is especially true of the content you plan to create on the website you will use to target your new market.
Simply translating what you already have on your original one will not be enough to entice certain individuals to make a purchase.
Finally, never forget that culture is not something we are necessarily born with.
Our heritage and descent may place us in a certain demographic category, but that is not to say that the culture we choose to adopt cannot be strikingly different.
When doing international marketing, you must at all times be aware that you are dealing with a cultural territory that is alien to you, and must learn to adapt.
Don’t make the mistake of assuming dominance or even haughtiness.
Culture is what has differentiated humans from other humans since the dawn of time – dismissing it with a casual nod towards globalization will hurt any marketing campaign you dare to dream up.
What to take into consideration when creating an International Marketing Strategy?
- Demographic Segmentation
- Language Barriers
- Individualism vs. Collectivism
- The Science of Colors
- Tone and Voice
- Cultural Appropiation
Anita Sambol is a content strategist and graphic designer at Point Visible digital marketing agency. She has years of experience in designing graphics for web and running social media and content marketing campaigns. She loves cooking and football.