Marketing is tricky at the best of times. Even when you know your target market really well, it’s still possible to completely miss the mark. Sometimes the failure is benign, and your message just falls flat. Other times marketing can be unintentionally offensive, setting your brand back and undoing months of work.

When you try to put together a campaign in a culture that’s foreign to you, all that risk is multiplied. In this modern world of global branding the issue of cultural sensitivity is a virtual minefield.

KFC infamously missed the fact that their translation of “Finger lickin’ good” to Chinese translated as “eat your fingers off”. Not the most consumer-friendly slogan, I think you’d agree. It works the other way around as well. How many times have we seen companies from the Far East or otherwise non-Western regions leave us scratching our heads?

Doing Your Research

Obviously, many of the worst marketing disasters could have been avoided if the companies in question simply knew enough about their target market. Doing extensive market research can however be expensive and tedious. In the fast world of marketing it’s not always possible to do deep market research. So here are some tips to get a grip on your target market when you’re pressed for time and don’t want to potentially embarrass yourself to a worldwide audience.

Speak the Language

It’s mind-boggling, for example, that so many Chinese companies don’t spend money on people who are fluent in both English and Chinese. Honestly, there’s no reason not to hire a person who is bilingual in your target language pair and there are companies out there that specialize in recruiting bilingual or multilingual employees.

Whatever you do, don’t rely on machine translation to check the meaning of your foreign language marketing copy.

Learn from the Best

If you are entering a market where you don’t know as much as you should, look at the people who are already doing a great job there. If your target market is foreign in nature, there will be plenty of highly-successful companies that have their marketing content and strategy dialled in.

Try it Yourself

Language shapes the way we see the world. While it’s not possible for you to become fluent in every language and culture you encounter. It is however a good idea to try your hand at the language of the target market.

By engaging with the basics of a language you can really transform your understanding of the people who speak it.

Do Mini Focus Groups

Focus group testing is an intense and valuable method to make sure that a product or advert you put out in the wild. However, for common issues or obvious gaffes quick polls or small once-off focus groups with people who represent the target market can save you from the most idiotic mistakes.

For example, any Spanish speaking person could have told Mitsubishi that their “Pajero” vehicle also means something vulgar in their native tongue.

Measure Twice, Cut Once

In the end the difference between a marketing success and failure boils down to attention to detail and good quality assurance. You can’t do a good job at either of these things if you don’t know who you’re marketing to. Apply some of these basic tips and that should never be a problem.

IMAGE CREDIT: Lead Image Public Domain via Pixabay

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