Spoiler alert: Yes. As the cultural composition of the United States continues to diversify and change, the marketing strategies employed by savvy businesses must also change. While there are many dangers to marketing incorrectly to a multicultural audience, over time we have identified three top tips to help you make your multicultural marketing strategy effective.
Language isn't the only barrier to communication between cultures -- how people perceive words and images can obscure the message. A deep understanding of the nuances of the target culture is needed to successfully transmit ideas across borders.
Carrying a concept from one language to another in a way that retains the original message requires more than fluency in the language. Translating with the intention of maintaining cultural relevance calls for a more strategic and creative solution, specifically: transcreation.
What is it that makes us laugh and why? We all need a bit of humor in our lives. But understanding how to get it isn’t so simple. It’s a difficult question with an array of vague explanations but no single definitive answer. To really underpin the complexity of defining what’s funny and what’s not, one must examine just how poorly humor often fairs in foreign lands. Here is a step-by-step explanation of why humor is the hardest thing to translate to a different language.
Social media has transformed globalization, bringing people together from around the world to share experiences and information — and it isn’t just individuals making connections. Innovative businesses are using social media marketing to promote products to an international audience with great success. Many find that Facebook is the clear leader in advanced solutions for companies of all sizes.
From audience insights to performance metrics, Facebook’s tools have made it possible for organizations to connect with consumers on every continent. As of September 30, 2016, the site had 1.79 billion active users — 84.9 percent of whom are outside the United States and Canada. When creating Facebook ads, targeted parameters for audience segmentation is critical. These parameters then allow you to localize your facebook ad copy and images that will resonate with the target audience of specific loocale. It is important to understand that ad copy that targets millennials in Seattle, WA, when translated, may not resonate when shown to millennials in the UK.
Although your mind might be on the tremendous growth that could result from this expansion, you also need to remember there are several key steps that must be addressed for successful translation:
These might seem like common sense requirements to some, but you would be surprised how many companies, even major brands, have flubbed these steps.
What happens if you make a mistake involving one of these concepts? Unfortunately, we don't need to imagine the consequences: there are plenty of real life examples of embarrassing, offensive international marketing failures that wise marketers can learn from.
Translations Gone Wrong: How NOT to Localize Your Brand
Many companies have experienced challenges localizing their marketing materials, but few have failed as spectacularly as these major brands. The missteps of these companies should provide some understanding of why your business needs professional translation help.
Coors: Turn it Loose!
In the 1980s, the Coors beer company was promoting an advertising campaign centered on a “Beerwolf” character. The slogan that went along with the Beerwolf character was "Turn it Loose!" Unfortunately, someone at Coors didn't do their homework on proper translations: in Spanish, the ad campaign was perceived as "suffer from diarrhea." Not the most appealing way to promote a refreshing beverage.
However, prominent brands face their own unique challenges when it comes to global marketing. Let’s look at a few of the most recognizable brands in the world, the challenges they successfully overcame, and what agencies can learn from them.
Airbnb is a sort of Craigslist for travelers; people who are looking for a place to stay in a new city but don't want to book a traditional hotel can browse Airbnb’s listings to find a room, cottage, guest house, or couch for their travels. Those who are interested in renting out part of their living space can place a listing on the site to entice travelers.
Since its inception in San Francisco in 2008, Airbnb has seen tremendous growth. In 2011 alone, it experienced 425% growth in France, 719% in Spain, and 946% in Italy. How did they go from the startup phase to nearly 1000% growth in a completely foreign market in only three years? Some of this growth can be attributed to social media and the global connections forged by the rise of the Internet.
Companies that are looking to succeed in the new age of international marketing must be sure they are paying attention to how communications are changing. There are several factors that are having a huge impact on today's international marketers.
The Social Media Boom
In a relatively short amount of time, social media has exploded as a dominant communication channel in human culture. At the end of 2009, Facebook had 360 million monthly active users. Over the next four years, Facebook's user base more than tripled. The popular social media network reached 1.2 billion active users per month in 2013.
Social media has become one of the world's major international marketing trends because it has allowed brands to reach people in almost any location. Users can instantly connect to a brand that is on the other side of the world. Many major brands have leveraged this connectivity as a way to market to people in other parts of the world.
The luxury fashion brand Burberry, for example, had a relatively insignificant presence in China as recently as 2010. By launching a social media presence on Sina Weibo, one of China's top social networks, and continuously interacting with customers and exposing them to their brand, Burberry was able to become the number one selling fashion brand on several of China's top retail e-Commerce websites.
There are plenty of things to think about when it comes to creating collateral for international brands. Here are six of the top obstacles to this process.
Deciding between transcreation and translation
While translation is typically a more basic, literal method of converting content into a new language, transcreation refers to the process of re-creating the message of that collateral in a new language.
One great example of transcreation can be found in McDonald's popular advertising slogan from the early 2000s, "I'm loving it." The fast food conglomerate knew that they needed to ensure that the sentiment of this phrase stayed consistent around the world, so they decided to transcreate it in each international market that they wanted to enter. In Spain, for example, the slogan was translated as me encanta. While this Spanish phrase is actually closer to "I really like it," in English, McDonald's determined that this new phrase was more culturally relevant in Spanish.
Deciding between these two tactics can be difficult; transcreation usually results in a more accurate message for collateral pieces, but translation requires fewer resources.
You’re likely already familiar with localization, which is defined as adapting an existing piece of content to make it understandable in a specific language and culture. Transcreation, on the other hand, is the process by which a product or advertising message is completely adapted for the target market, while still retaining the original intent. This requires a particularly creative approach, in order to truly resonate with international consumers.
In an earlier blog post, we shared a clever example of transcreation that highlighted Swedish car manufacturer Saab’s approach to advertising its line of convertibles back in the 1990s. The ad in the U.S. posed the comparison: “Saab vs. Oxygen bars,” since these trendy bars were popular in America at the time. When Saab “transcreated” the advertisement for potential customers in their home country of Sweden, the ad instead read: “Saab vs. Claustrophobia.” Despite that claustrophobia and oxygen bars conjure different images, you can see how the message is the same in each case: Saab convertibles offer fresh air and wide, open spaces. With transcreation, the literal meaning was changed for different markets, but the same messaging goal was achieved. Transcreation is particularly useful in addressing marketing challenges like these, with cultural-specific references or wordplay that are too difficult to translate directly into different languages.