WRITING FOR AN INTERNATIONAL AUDIENCE
Writing for an international audience requires some forethought in order to fully engage the target customer and prompt them into action. There are culturally specific and linguistic factors that need to be considered for copywriting and marketing to be truly effective.
Clever wordplay, alliteration, humour, and other literary tactics can be challenging to localise for an international audience. However, these hurdles are not insurmountable, so long as the following seven rules are considered when targeting customers on a worldwide scale.
DON’T REST ON ENGLISH
English may be the lingua franca of the world, and many people in many countries do speak some English, if not having English as a second language. But, it is a mistake to think that presenting content in English is okay for an international audience.
It might sound basic, but audiences respond more positively when content is presented in their native tongue. Ensuring content is accessible in the language of your target country can increase sales, even when most people in that target country speak English well.
RESEARCH, THEN RESEARCH SOME MORE
Research is the backbone of any successful marketing or advertising campaign. However, any research done prior to an original campaign may not necessarily translate into new marketplaces. Asking yourself a few simple questions before you begin can help you gauge your preparedness for entering new markets. Some sample questions should be:
- Are the demographics the same as those of the original research?
- Will your product appeal to the same age groups and personas targeted by the original research?
- Do the customers in the new target market consume the same types of media as those in the original research?
- What languages and dialects are spoken by the new target market?
- Does the new market speak formally or informally?
- Does the new market use slang or culturally significant euphemisms?
ENGAGE IN LANGUAGE-SPECIFIC SEO
Multilingual SEO is an absolute necessity when marketing to international audiences. What ranked well on Google in English may not rank as well, or at all, when directly translated into other languages. So, knowledge of local SEO practices will get you listed where you want to be. If your potential customers can’t find you, they certainly can’t buy from you. It also needs to be considered that Google may not be the preferred search engine used by your target market. For instance, in China, the most popular search engine on both desktop and mobile is Baidu.
COMPLY WITH LAWS IN TARGET MARKETS
Advertising laws can vary from country to country. What may be acceptable in one marketplace may not be in another. Checking local advertising laws prior to initiating any campaigns will prevent tiresome and costly rewrites. This is especially true concerning products in extremely regulated sectors that will warrant extra caution, such as healthcare and nutraceuticals.
In some countries, using hyperbole to highlight a product’s effectiveness is acceptable, while in others it is frowned upon. Researching the advertising laws of each target country is due diligence for the informed marketer and copywriter.
TRANSCREATION IS BETTER THAN DIRECT TRANSLATION
When targeting a number of markets with different languages and other cultural variables that may affect the accessibility of your content, direct translations can lose the impact of the original description. It can be more effective to use the emotions and narrative arc of the original version as a guide for a complete rewrite of the campaign in the target language. This is called transcreation and can result in a fresh campaign suited to each new target market—not only in language, but in nuance, cultural references, and other local peculiarities.
GET A LOCAL TO HELP
Engaging a local copywriter or editor is the gold standard when translating marketing campaigns and advertisements into other languages. Their unique insights into their own cultures’ quirks will help transcreate a campaign that has the same impact on a local audience as the original.
IMAGES ARE IMPORTANT TOO
A picture paints a thousand words, but the wrong picture has the potential to paint a thousand insults. In order to resonate deeply, images need to be as culturally appropriate and relevant for a successful campaign as language. Western consumers wouldn’t be alarmed to see a picture of a person in swimwear or images of certain animals, whereas, for example, the exact same images can cause offence in Muslim nations.
Colours also have different meanings from culture to culture, and page layout needs to be considered for the differing design sensibilities. Also, once a language has been translated or transcreated to suit the target market, layout may need to be rearranged for purely practical reasons. For example, not all languages read left to right, which will certainly change the text layout and arrangement of associated images.
THE BOTTOM LINE
It is pretty much impossible to create an ad or marketing campaign that is truly international and resonates with everyone, everywhere. The core message and business ethos will certainly remain unchanged, however, different markets with different languages and cultures require customisation of the original description to suit the target marketplace.
Your company or brand has undoubtedly put a lot of time and effort into getting your campaign perfect. Make sure all that creativity and hard work don’t get lost in translation.