Selling Around The World

Adapting Your Marketing To A Global Audience

When entrepreneurs seek growth by expanding into global markets, they often forget that their marketing assets and strategies might not work equally well even when addressing the exact same target audiences abroad. The frequent cause is that these apparently exact same target audiences often have got a different cultural background and therefore are not the same audiences at all. Read more on adapting your marketing to a global audience.

adapting your marketing to a global audience
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Marketing across borders usually means that you are dealing with very diverse audiences. The demographics might be the same, thinking and behaviour, however, can be different due to cultural influences. Therefore, the translation of marketing assets into local languages often does not go far enough to multiply successful marketing abroad.

Tailoring Content And Visuals

Tailoring content and visuals of marketing assets according to the preferences of global audiences, often called localisation, is key. Large corporates employ highly qualified marketing specialists to do so, small and medium-sized businesses on the other hand need to evaluate first if it is feasible at all to develop local approaches for every market they want to sell in. Adapting your marketing to a global audience can be a huge cost factor.  

Factors that make a difference 

First of all, it is a good idea to gain information on how culturally diverse your new target audiences are. Neighbouring countries, regions within a country and even people using the same language may not be as culturally homogenous as you might think at first sight. Look at Germany and Austria for example. Both audiences will use the German version of your website, email marketing or brochures, but certain expressions or phrases, and even behaviour patterns when clicking or reading may differ.

What is needed before adapting your marketing to a global audience is some deeper research:

  • Does a target audience use desktops or mobile phones more frequently to learn online about products and services? How important are high-quality printed marketing assets sent by post?
  • Which level of details do they prefer when collecting product information?
  • Are people keen on chat options to instantly ask questions?
  • What is common regarding receiving further information?
  • Are people happy to register and provide their personal details?
  • Are they comfortable with using third-party platforms?
  • How frequent should you be sending out marketing emails?

Culture-specific Patterns

When presenting your products and services to a new audience, you should also know about culturally specific practices or patterns they may engage in. Observing the context of use, e.g. for products of local competitors, can quickly uncover cultural differences. Conducting usability testing with international audiences can also offer valuable insights. Then adjust your visuals or ads accordingly.

In countries with a high group orientation, for example, the consumption of a food item should be shown within a social gathering because people usually want to share the experience with friends and family. Someone enjoying their favourite chocolate bar at home on the sofa seems rather lonely and pitiful. Only in cultures, which place the individual above all else, do people find it pleasant to have some me-time and the chocolate to themselves!

As a general rule applies: the more individualistic a culture, the more the individual or the uniqueness of a product should be in the centre of attention. In collectivist cultures, it is advisable to use visuals expressing group dynamics. Also, implementing community-building initiatives (e.g. Facebook groups) will be perceived as hugely favourable as there is a tendency to follow the group opinion or to link oneself to a company image.

It is also fair to say that the more your products and services are used in daily life, the more localized your marketing approach should be.

Colours, Symbols And Gestures

Finally, attention should be paid to the different meaning of colours, symbols and gestures around the world when adapting your marketing for global audiences. In the US, for example, the colour combination green and orange signals cheap products. Pastel shades, on the other hand, are considered faded and weak in many Asian markets. In Bulgaria, people shake their heads when they mean “yes.” Symbols can have very different meanings around the world. And a series of images will be perceived from right to left in Arab countries, which puts a European left-to-right design to absurdity.

Neutralised English Marketing Assets

Let the numbers decide if it is worth it to go for fully localised, culturally specific versions. The golden mean can be to offer your products and services around the world, but to provide translated and culturally adapted marketing content only for selected target audiences that will generate the most revenue. Clients from other countries will have to use internationalised or neutralised English versions. Treat any slogans, puns or idioms with caution as they often lose their effectiveness after translation. Provide lots of visual cues to help international customers when browsing your website or reading printed information that is not in their language. Use a variety of images showing a mix of situations and people.

Developing Your Brand

Similar cultural awareness is needed when developing your brand abroad. The emotional response your branding creates will influence how people appraise your products or services. Building trust can be a successful strategy in cultures that are highly relationship- and group-oriented. In other countries, your long-term experience or accessibility might be the all-decisive factor to buy from you. Your brand also may have a higher perceived value in one country, enabling you to charge a higher premium for your products and services, compared to other countries.

Adapting your marketing to a global audience requires cultural awareness and care. Do your research on international marketing, talk to cross-cultural experts and decide if going for a neutralised, international or culturally specific approach to be most successful.

Katrin Koll Prakoonwit

Key Takeaways

  • Adapting your marketing to a global audience requires cultural awareness and care.
  • Tailoring content and visuals according to the preferences of global audiences, often called localisation, is key.
  • Gain information on how culturally diverse your new target audiences are.
  • You should know about culturally specific practices or patterns.
  • Provide translated and culturally adapted marketing content or use a internationalised or neutralised English version.
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