Is Your Global Brand Marketing In Your Customer’s Native Language?

How many of your cus­tomers speak a lan­guage oth­er than Eng­lish or don’t speak it at all? Do you mar­ket to this sub­set in ways they can under­stand?

Lisa Lacy By Lisa Lacy. Join the discussion » 0 comments

A recent sur­vey shows brands are mar­ket­ing to cus­tomers out­side the U.S. in a lan­guage not native to their coun­try. Instead, brands con­tin­ue to mar­ket to their glob­al cus­tomer base in Eng­lish only. Cre­at­ing con­tent for con­sumers in their own lan­guage great­ly increas­es the odds they’ll buy from you. Should trans­la­tion be a pri­or­i­ty for your brand?

How many of your cus­tomers speak a lan­guage oth­er than Eng­lish? How many of them don’t speak Eng­lish at all? Are you mar­ket­ing to this sub­set in a lan­guage they can under­stand?

These are some of the ques­tions that Smartling, a trans­la­tion man­age­ment com­pa­ny, sought to find answers and solu­tions to in the study, “Trans­late or Pay the Price: Over­looked Mar­ket­ing Oppor­tu­ni­ties for Glob­al Busi­ness­es.”

In the sur­vey of 160 mar­ket­ing pro­fes­sion­als from “emerg­ing” brands in the U.S., Smartling found that 22 per­cent said 21 per­cent to 50 per­cent of their cus­tomer base came from out­side the U.S., while 41 per­cent said up to 20 per­cent came from out­side the States.

How­ev­er, the major­i­ty – 70 per­cent – report­ed that even though they mar­ket­ed to coun­tries out­side the U.S., it was in Eng­lish only. Smartling called this shock­ing.

From the report:

Com­pa­nies that fail to deliv­er mul­ti­lin­gual con­tent may be miss­ing out on tremen­dous buy­ing pow­er. Com­pa­nies that com­mu­ni­cate with mul­ti­lin­gual audi­ences in Eng­lish only risk dri­ving cus­tomers and prospects to com­peti­tors.”

Why Brands Should Speak Their Customer’s Language

With all the care and strat­e­gy that goes into cre­at­ing Eng­lish-lan­guage con­tent for a brand’s mar­ket­ing, to have it fall on deaf ears in the tar­get mar­ket seems wild­ly inef­fi­cient.

In anoth­er study from 2012 by the Com­mon Sense Advi­so­ry, it found that 72 per­cent of con­sumers said they were more like­ly to buy a prod­uct with infor­ma­tion in their own lan­guage.

Seems like a pret­ty obvi­ous point, but are brands ignor­ing it?

Actu­al­ly, it’s more a case of a lack of bud­get for our mul­ti­lin­gual world, accord­ing to the Smartling report. Which is odd, con­sid­er­ing:

  • Inter­net usage in all parts of the world is grow­ing: Those in remote parts of the world are gain­ing Inter­net access at an alarm­ing speed – and these could be your next cus­tomers. The report cites that the num­ber of Inter­net users in Africa, for exam­ple, went from 18 per­cent of the pop­u­la­tion in 2013 to 38 per­cent in 2014.
  • Domes­tic brands also have oth­er lan­guages to con­sid­er: In the U.S., Span­ish is a preva­lent lan­guage; in fact, the report cites 53 mil­lion peo­ple in the U.S. are native Span­ish speak­ers. And 78 per­cent use the Inter­net as their main infor­ma­tion source, accord­ing to Smartling. Does your brand have a His­pan­ic cus­tomer base?

Multilanguage Marketing: Challenges & Tips

Mar­ket­ing to mul­ti­ple lan­guages may not be as easy as sim­ply gar­ner­ing bud­get, espe­cial­ly with the tech­ni­cal imple­men­ta­tion involved with a brand’s web­site con­tent.

Bill Hunt, pres­i­dent of Back Azimuth Con­sult­ing, said the ques­tion of bud­get is often a “cart before the horse” sit­u­a­tion when talk­ing about local­iza­tion mar­ket­ing.

While local­iza­tion for your tar­get mar­kets is the opti­mal way to tar­get non-Eng­lish mar­kets, com­pa­nies may not have the bud­get to do so. There is oppor­tu­ni­ty, but you can­not tar­get it until you have the local­ized ver­sion, and you can­not local­ize until you can prove there is mar­ket oppor­tu­ni­ty.”

Hunt rec­om­mend­ed first start­ing by using sim­ple Eng­lish in a brand’s approach to mar­ket­ing to a glob­al audi­ence, and even try­ing to under­stand “how peo­ple from around the world might search for that prod­uct” online.

Many com­pa­nies do very well with just an Eng­lish site if they make sure they are answer­ing the ques­tions of the con­sumer. I have seen sites in 40 lan­guages that fail to do that. So ensure you can make it easy for any­one to do busi­ness with you first, then focus on gain­ing addi­tion­al oppor­tu­ni­ty with local­iza­tion.”

Hunt adds that in the case of a brand’s Span­ish-speak­ing audi­ence, sim­ply mar­ket­ing to one His­pan­ic audi­ence isn’t gran­u­lar enough.

In the case of Span­ish, where there are 22 coun­tries with Span­ish as the offi­cial lan­guage, it is hard for most busi­ness to accom­mo­date all of the vari­a­tions,” Hunt said. “What I sug­gest is start with mar­kets that use com­mon phras­es and devel­op for them.”

How­ev­er, huge glob­al cam­paigns can be extreme­ly com­plex, espe­cial­ly in Chi­na, accord­ing to Michael Bon­fils, man­ag­ing part­ner at Inter­na­tion­al Media Man­age­ment. For exam­ple, he point­ed out the dif­fi­cul­ties brands face mar­ket­ing in Chi­na.

The Chi­nese mar­ket doesn’t trust sites enough to buy direct­ly from them, unless you use a shop­ping por­tal, like Taobao or tMall,” Bon­fils said. “For Intel, we have to get 15 dialect vari­a­tions of one key­word. When you have 1,000 key­words, that turns into 15,000 very quick­ly. Not only that, the cost to oper­ate in Chi­na and the amount of red tape and gov­ern­men­tal autho­riza­tions one needs to go through is immense and can take a year to process.”

This study by Smartling is anoth­er reminder that brands can iden­ti­fy and have an impact on moments in the lives of non-Eng­lish speak­ing con­sumers with per­sua­sive, rel­e­vant mes­sag­ing, thus expand­ing their glob­al reach to bring ideas, prod­ucts, and ser­vices to peo­ple around the world.

Lisa Lacy

Written by Lisa Lacy

Lisa is a senior features writer for Inked. She also previously covered digital marketing for Incisive Media. Her background includes editorial positions at Dow Jones, the Financial Times, the Huffington Post, AOL, Amazon, Hearst, Martha Stewart Living and the Dian Fossey Gorilla Fund.

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