Common Challenges in International Marketing

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It takes hours of research and countless rounds of revisions before marketers are ready to present their work to consumers in the U.S. When a company is going global and the marketing department must speak to an international audience, the challenges become more pronounced. International audiences are familiar with different business customs, social norms, religions and aesthetics, not to mention language. It’s essential that professional marketers do their due diligence in researching the international market before launching an advertising campaign.

When Something Gets Lost in Translation

There’s no such thing as an exact translation that makes perfect sense. This is because words and sentences do not translate seamlessly from one language to another. For example, English speakers would understand what you mean if you were to say, “I’m so hungry I could eat a horse.” Unfortunately, its translated version might convince non-English speakers that you really did want to eat horse steaks for dinner. International marketing campaigns often run into trouble when they write the message in English and then try to translate it precisely into the other language. Instead, your marketing team should work with a talented interpreter who can preserve the meaning of the message, while adapting it for the target language and culture. It’s ideal to hire an interpreter who has a native’s grasp on the other language.

When Humor Falls Flat

Humor is a commonly used marketing tool. It’s useful for making a brand seem more likeable and relatable. This is particularly true if the product or service happens to be dry, like insurance, for instance. As useful as humor can be, it does have its downsides. It’s another common challenge in international marketing, since humor is a product of both language and culture. What might seem hilarious in America might be offensive in Japan or simply make no sense in Morocco. Rather than attempting to translate humor into the target language and culture, it may be best to take a proactive approach. Find a consultant who is fluent in the target language and culture. Ask the consultant to explain some of the cultural traditions, and discuss the situations that the native audience is likely to find funny. Then, build an ad campaign around that.

When an AD Campaign Has Poor Timing

While language might seem like an obvious challenge in international marketing, timing is a lesser-known, more nuanced issue to consider. In America, it’s common for marketers to develop campaigns around holidays, particularly the winter holidays like Christmas, New Year’s, and Valentine’s Day. But before building an ad campaign around a seasonal event, marketers need to ensure that the target country celebrates that holiday during that particular time. For instance, in Argentina, Valentine’s Day is actually more like Valentine’s Week, and it takes place in July. And in Finland and Estonia, February 14th is Happy Friends’ Day. It celebrates friendships, rather than romance. Marketers should always double-check to ensure that the timing of their campaign is appropriate for the target audience.

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