Mastering Language Variants for Impactful Global Marketing: Boosting Sales and Customer Loyalty – Part 1
In today’s increasingly interconnected world, effective marketing strategies are crucial to connecting with diverse audiences and driving business growth. One important factor to successful marketing is the ability to resonates with your customers’ culture, language, and regional identity. This is where understanding language variants can augment your efforts and increase marketing efficacy.
The following is an introduction to language variants and the first of future articles on the topic. We have seen an increased interest in understanding more about language variants and their potential impact in global marketing. Our hope is that this this series of articles will help our clients unfamiliar with the concept find ways to apply them in their
What are language variants?
If you are new to the world of linguistics and localization, language variants refer to the variations in language that exist within a particular language due to geographical, historical, social, or cultural factors. These variations can manifest as differences in vocabulary, grammar, pronunciation, and even idiomatic expressions. Understanding and embracing language variants in your marketing and communication efforts is crucial to effectively reach and resonate with your target audience, demonstrating your brand’s commitment to understanding and addressing the unique linguistic and cultural nuances of the people you serve. In essence, language variants are the key to unlocking the full potential of your global marketing strategy by creating authentic and relatable messages that foster trust, credibility, and a sense of local relevance.
For example, let’s take the case of the word “car” in various Latin American countries. In Mexico, the term commonly used is “coche”, while in Argentina the word “auto” is more prevalent. Yet in Puerto Rico, you might hear “carro”. All these words signify the same object – a car – but the term used can vary significantly depending on the region.
Language variants, including dialects and regional languages, play a significant role in how businesses approach their marketing campaigns. By understanding and incorporating these nuances, companies can foster stronger connections with their target audience, establish trust, and ultimately boost sales and customer loyalty.
As an executive in a leading language service provider with a wealth of experience in global sales and marketing, I’ve witnessed the transformative power of language variant-driven marketing firsthand. International Translating Company (ITC), the company I work for, has been in the business since 1969, making it one of the oldest surviving language service providers in the United States. We have worked with a wide range of clients, from prestigious universities to multinational corporations, helping them navigate the complexities of language and culture in their marketing efforts.
In this series of articles, we will explore the importance of language variants in marketing, the strategies for incorporating them, and the potential pitfalls of relying solely on untrained linguists, machine translation models or inadequate processes. Drawing on real-world examples and case studies, we will demonstrate how understanding and leveraging language variants can differentiate your brand and set you apart from your competition.
The Importance of Language Variants in Marketing
In a globalized world, the key to successful marketing lies in the details. Among these, the use of language variants can play a significant role in establishing brand trust and credibility. Businesses that make an effort to communicate using the vernacular that is familiar and comfortable to their audience aren’t just translating; they are transcreating. That is adapting their message to resonate on a local level. This approach underscores authenticity and shows a deep respect for the customer’s culture and language. It not only allows consumers to fully understand the brand’s message but also fosters a sense of trust, as it reflects a company’s dedication to going the extra mile to connect on a more personal, relatable level.
A prime example of this is McDonald’s, a global fast-food giant that has made a name for itself by connecting with local audiences using language variants and culturally relevant messaging. McDonald’s doesn’t just translate its slogans and advertisements; it transcreates, adapting its message to resonate on a local level. For instance, in Spain, the famous “I’m lovin’ it” slogan is translated as “Me encanta,” while in Brazil, it becomes “Amo Muito Tudo Isso.” These nuanced approaches underscore authenticity and show a deep respect for the customer’s culture and language. It not only allows consumers to fully understand the brand’s message but also fosters a sense of trust, as it reflects McDonald’s dedication to going the extra mile to connect on a more personal, relatable level.
In addition to building a deeper level of trust and being relatable, using language variants is a powerful strategy to create local relevance. When marketing materials are tailored to the local dialect or regional language, the message sent is clear: the brand understands and values the unique context and needs of its target audience. This isn’t about mere translation; it’s about contextual localization, where every word and phrase is meticulously chosen to cater to the specific cultural and linguistic nuances of a region. This dedication to local relevance allows a brand to penetrate deeper into markets, effectively reaching hearts and minds on a more intimate level, which can significantly increase the efficacy of marketing efforts.
Strategies for Incorporating Language Variants
We have found many effective strategies to incorporate language variants into marketing content and processes. Here are a few strategies we feel are widely applicable to business marketing internationally.
As previously mentioned, one strategy for incorporating language variants is transcreation, which involves going beyond translation by adapting your content to the cultural context of your target audience. This ensures that your message resonates with them on a deeper level. For example, when Coca-Cola introduced its “Share a Coke” campaign in China, the company not only translated the names on the bottles but also ensured that they were culturally appropriate and meaningful to the Chinese audience.
In English-speaking countries, the campaign involved replacing the Coca-Cola logo on one side of the bottle with popular names, inviting people to “Share a Coke” with the person whose name appeared on the bottle. This created a personal connection with consumers and sparked a flurry of social media sharing as people sought bottles with their own names or those of friends and family.
When the company took this campaign to China, however, it faced a unique challenge. The use of given names in public is considered quite intimate in Chinese culture, and such a direct approach could have been seen as inappropriate or even offensive. Instead of using actual names, Coca-Cola used popular Chinese idioms and phrases that are often used in a friendly, informal context, effectively adapting the campaign to local cultural norms. Phrases like “Please Understand My Heart” and “I Miss You” were used, evoking emotional responses and creating a similar personal connection with consumers.
By understanding the nuances of Chinese culture and adjusting their approach accordingly, Coca-Cola successfully transcreated its “Share a Coke” campaign for the Chinese market, resulting in an impactful and culturally sensitive marketing campaign.
This attention to detail helped make the campaign a success in China. However, this example goes deeper into the quality of people and processes required to have a similar impact with your translations and avoid being percieved as culturally insensitive. Most companies, marketing teams or managers won’t know the questions to ask or how to scrutinize their content like a qualified native linguist would. Not because they are insensitive, but because they may be unaware or may lack the bandwidth to add this to their already full plate. Your typical language service provider is also unlikely to be of assistance in this case due to industry norms of hiring the least expensive “linguist” to quickly review machine translations and only look for minor corrections to grammar and then move on to the next project.
To competently and consistently offer this type of service, a blend of process, technology, personnel, training and last but definitely not least culture is required. Our culture at ITC is highly focused on the message and context. “Where every word matters” is a deep part of our company and our native linguists are trained to identify and escalate cultural concerns that may damage a brand and propose the ideal transcreation of the original content.
Working with trained native-speaking linguists:
Another strategy is to collaborate with professional linguists who have a deep understanding of the local language and culture. This ensures the accuracy and appropriateness of your content. We find it concerning as we are vetting and hiring new linguists as our teams expand when they tell us we are the first company that will not permit them to translate into a language other than their native language. The usually express relief that they will be working only in their native language. Many also compliment us that our projects and deadlines are well-planed and our training is comprehensive to help them adapt to our culture, expectations and cadence. Many are relieved that to know another team member will be reviewing their work. What surprises us is that we consider these things fundamental and have been doing them for over 50 years. These should be industry norms. Much of our onboarding process is helping linguists “un-learn” unproductive habits. The end result is exactly what we are looking for. A qualified, native linguist who understands what is expected and empowered and rewarded to make it happen.
Tailoring marketing materials for specific regions or demographics:
Customizing your marketing materials to address the unique preferences and sensibilities of different regions or demographic groups is crucial for connecting with your target audience. When the original idea is adapted to the regional culture and demographic, it becomes elegantly effective. For example, a skincare brand may use different visual elements and messaging in their advertisements for the Middle East, highlighting modesty and respecting local customs, while using a more relaxed, beach-themed approach for an Australian audience.
Using regional humor and cultural references:
Incorporating regional humor and cultural references in your marketing campaigns helps create a sense of familiarity and connection with your target audience. This approach requires feet on the ground to understand the intent and local equivalent. When working with humor we recommend a local team to create a few options and hold a focus group to vet the ideas. It’s not a costly or lengthy process. Usually this can be completed in one or two days. For example, a global snack brand might use popular local catchphrases or jokes in their advertisements in Mexico to create a sense of camaraderie and appeal to the audience’s sense of humor. This can make the brand feel more relatable and “in tune” with the local culture, ultimately increasing its appeal to potential customers.
Use Cases: Successful Uses of Language Variant-Driven Marketing
The following use cases illustrate the powerful impact of language variant-driven marketing, demonstrating how companies have leveraged regional linguistic differences to enhance their advertising efforts.
SEO and ad campaigns with regional keyword optimization:
One company saw significant improvement in its search engine rankings and ad performance by optimizing its content with region-specific keywords. Previously this client had relied solely on machine translation for their keyword translations. After spending a significant amount in ad spend and not seeing the results, they approached us to help them find the terms used by natives to find their products rather than the correctly translated machine translations that did not apply. The results were significant and well worth the effort. The costs to have find the correct terms was insignificant when compared to the results.
Radio and TV ads tailored for local markets:
A multinational company experienced increased brand recognition and sales by customizing its radio and TV ads for specific Latin American markets, using slang and humor that resonated with local audiences. This increased brand recognition and differentiated them from other global competitors in the same region. A small effort for a large return.
Airline campaigns targeting different Spanish-speaking countries:
An airline set itself apart from competitors by using region-specific terms in its ad campaigns, demonstrating a deeper understanding and appreciation of the local culture. Again, the results were great.
Customizing ads with slang and humor for European markets:
An ad agency successfully engaged audiences in different EU countries by creating customized radio ads that incorporated local slang and humorous cultural references specific to each country.
These are just a few examples of applying language variants to everyday international and global marketing that produce significant ROI for relatively low effort.
In our next article on this topic, we will review the resources available to implement language variant-driven marketing and related best practices.