Picture this: Sailing on the crystal clear waters of the Amalfi coast, unwinding in the hot springs of New Zealand’s Lake Taupo, roaming the ancient ruins of Pompeii, island hopping around Thailand. Sounds like heaven, right? We know you may want to travel across the world — but what about your content?
Taking your content abroad and tackling a global marketing strategy could just be the step forward your brand needs. Other than garnering a ton of attention and new followers, there’s potential for large profits, too; 96 percent of the world’s consumers live outside the U.S, according to the Small Business Administration.
But it does come with its challenges. Content Marketing Institute reports that less than 6 percent of the world’s population speaks English well enough to conduct business, and when you throw in the different cultures, demographics, needs and wants, the art of communication is bound to become foggy. Here’s what to keep in mind when going global with your content.
Speak the language
Did you know there are 16 possible translations for the word “you” in Spanish? If there are so many options for such a simple word, imagine the complications when we get to more complex levels of language. Avoid unnecessary mistakes by finding a native writer to create your content. He or she will know both the rules and nuances of the language, including all that masculine, feminine, informal, formal nitty-gritty.
Language inaccuracies go further than just grammar. Jargon, colloquialisms, sarcasm — subtleties like these make content more engaging, and these things are culturally specific. Without a native writer (or at the very least, an experienced translator), you run the risk of creating nonsensical jumble, embarrassing your brand name and (worst-case scenario) offending your audience. Attempting to repair such errors can cost a ton of money, too.
Want to see what I mean? Check out the blunders these brands made when taking their content international:
- Mercedes-Benz entered the Chinese market under the brand name “Bensi,” which means “rush to your death.” Not the best idea for a car company.
- Clairol launched a curling iron in Germany under the name “Mist Stick.” Turns out “mist” is German slang for “manure.” Get that away from my hair.
- The California Milk Processor Board duplicated its “Got Milk?” campaign for Spanish-speaking countries, where it directly translated into, “Are You Lactating?” Now that’s a weird question to ask.
Let’s not make the same mistakes.
I chatted with the ClearVoice editing team about this, and they agree — they can always tell when a writer is not a local, even if the grammar and spelling are technically correct. It may sound small, but it makes all the difference when brands are matched with local writers. It helps you relate to the local audience and shows you understand their market.
Be aware of cultural differences
While the U.S. has the Super Bowl, South America and Europe get geared up for the FIFA World Cup and Australia cheers for the Boxing Day Test Match. Differences like these are important to note for effective global marketing. And it doesn’t stop at sports; there are discrepancies regarding everything from public holidays, laws and seasons to pop culture and fashion trends. Being aware of these differences demonstrates cultural sensitivity, helps you put out time-appropriate content and increases your relatability with local audiences.
The “Spider-Man 2” movie campaign did just that in the U.S in 2014 with this tweet:
Understanding the popularity of the Super Bowl within the U.S. market, the campaign used it as a platform to gain exposure and attract a following. Imagine if they had no idea how popular the Super Bowl was in the U.S., or thought it was held in May, or even thought it was a basketball game (sounds ridiculous, but you get the point). The result? A lost opportunity and a reputation for being untrustworthy.
Not convinced at how important cultural awareness is, or just how different other countries can be? Let’s look at Australia. The seasons run opposite, so the traditional white Christmases that Americans are so fond of are exchanged for spending Dec. 25 at the beach. The college year runs from March to November, tax return is in July, and Australia Day on Jan. 26 is one of the most celebrated days of the year (I know, it’s mind-blowing). Without this information, you could release content about college kids walking through the snow to get to class in January, and nobody would know what you were talking about. Yikes.
Customize your SEO & social media activity
Maintaining a long-distance relationship with customers in Tokyo may be difficult from your stateside office, but hey, living in the 21st century means the Internet is there to bridge that gap. The online world however, can be different in each country. Customize your activity, especially in relation to your SEO and social media efforts.
SEO. Conducting business internationally often starts with your company website, which means accurate SEO becomes pivotal to your marketing strategy. You may be surprised to hear that the big three search engines (Google, Yahoo and Bing) are not always the popular choices overseas. In South Korea, Naver is number one; the Czech Republic has Seznam; Russia uses Yandex; and China prefers Baidu. Research each country’s go-to search engine to maximize your SEO opportunities.
Social media. Maintaining an engaging social media presence can be difficult in the face of various audience groups, each with their own culture and language. While one joke may be hilarious to the U.S. audience, it could make no sense in Denmark. Awkward.
Generally, there are two options for global social media management:
- Have multiple country-specific accounts. This option clearly separates your content according to language and country. However, with multiple accounts on multiple platforms, keeping on top of social media activity will require more maintenance.
- Have one brand account with country-specific, targeted posts. This streamlined approach may be more manageable from a company perspective, but there is the potential for audiences to receive multiple language posts on their feed. This can get annoying to scroll through, and may lead to less engagement.
Bonus tip: Best countries for business
Forbes graded the best countries to do business in according to property rights, innovation, taxes, technology, corruption, freedom (personal, trade and monetary), red tape, investor protection and stock market success. Accordingly, these are the top 10 countries to do business in:
- New Zealand
- United Kingdom
Taking your company past U.S. borders can be equal parts exciting and challenging. But by using these few ideas as a starting point, your company will be jet-setting around the world in no time. Happy travels.