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How Languages Affect Brand Marketing

In the U.S., which is predominantly an English-speaking country, an average consumer is exposed to thousands of advertisements each day. Although most advertised brands are familiar to many consumers, it is not wise for brands to ignore the large multilingual communities. It is challenging for current and upcoming brands to find creative ways to extend their various messages across to a multitude of consumers.

The success of brand marketing is on the perception of consumers. It is essential for them to relate to the brand and for the brand to provide them with a solution for their particular need. Brand engagement is necessary, as every consumer interaction with the brand has an impact.

How languages affect brand marketing

Language plays a significant role in making an interaction negative or positive. Sometimes the adverse reaction is not because of using the wrong language, but in how the language is used even if it is English.

In 1994, one telecommunications company’s advertising said, “The future’s bright, the future’s Orange,” which alienated Northern Ireland’s Protestant community. Another example is Reebok’s 2012 campaign, the advertising copy of which was, “Cheat on your girlfriend, not your workout.” It resulted in protests from the advocates of women’s rights. Sometimes, in trying to be creative, copywriters forget to be effective. They should focus more on how they say the word, and not on what they want to say.

Advertising copy has the power to engage, sway, or turn off consumers. The negative perception of consumers hurts the brand and the company’s bottom line. Over the years, several brands were successful in their advertising campaign, such as Nike’s “Find Your Greatness”, “Hear What You Want” from Beats by Dr. Dre, Pret A Manger’s “Little Veggie Pop-Up”, and “The Choices We Make” by Nespresso.

It’s a matter of finding the right words to use to hook the audience’s interest. But this is just one part of the story. For the international market, localization, meaning translating the website, brand name, and all marketing and advertising campaign materials into the dominant local language, is the most effective brand marketing strategy. Localization creates a local persona for a brand while maintaining its international identity.

Creating a new image for the brand in the local market involves market research. Aside from analyzing consumer demographics, brands should also study the culture of the market they want to explore. Using the correct local language is critical, so do images. One example is the first time Pampers advertised in Japan, using the same campaign they used in the U.S. The product packaging showed a stork bringing a baby to a family. However, the company did not expect its sales to plummet. They later found out that Japanese consumers were not familiar with storks bringing babies. They believe that babies come from giant peaches.

Why is language important when marketing products and services internationally?

Marketing performance is affected by slight changes to the language. While advertisers spend millions of dollars to create tools and strategies to make their presence felt in global markets, they should also create a budget to develop a sustainable, effective, data-based way to write better copy for marketing materials.

Skewing marketing efforts to the local audience

Ensuring positive response from local markets means spending time and money for market research, studying the competition, reaching out to target customers, etc. All these are part of the internationalization process, which is a step in preparing for localization.

Localization is the process of converting a website to conform to the preferences of the local consumers, including all product and marketing materials that are available to the public.

Internationalization identifies all the elements that will be skewed to local preferences. It makes the transition to localization faster since it already makes the products and services adaptable to the local market. It prepares the products and services to multilingual audiences. The process involves technical experts’ services, especially those with international experience, together with subject matter experts.

It is vital for companies planning to enter the international market to prepare well in advance. Internationalization and localization should be done before the launch. It is critical to choose the right translation company that has experience in adapting a brand into the local market.

Translation of marketing materials, product information, and the company’s website take time. Subject matter specialists and linguists who undertake localization have an in-depth knowledge of the nuances of the language and the culture of the target market.

It makes sense to have marketing materials and websites available in the local language. It pushes the brand closer to the target consumers by speaking to them in their language and adjusting to their preferences by presenting them with familiar things.

Top languages commonly used in advertising

While localization is vital to many markets, some markets that prefer to see advertising materials in their original language because most consumers are bilingual. For example, the Philippine market is used to advertising campaigns in English and Filipino. Some international brands air original materials while others are adaptations of original concepts.

But for other international markets, advertisers have to choose the languages that would appeal the most to local audiences.

  • English. English still tops the list, as 67 countries speak the language. Moreover, English is the formal business language in 27 countries. More than 25% of Internet users worldwide consume content available in English.
  • Chinese. The huge Chinese population and large Chinese communities in many parts of the world make the language one of the top languages used for advertising.
  • Spanish. Spanish is the fourth most spoken language in the world today. It is not only used in Latin America but in many parts of North America as well. A large section of the U.S. population speaks Spanish.
  • Hindi. Global brands flock to India, which is one of the biggest consumer markets in the world. While India was once a territory of Britain, and therefore English became an official language, most of the Indian subcontinent population prefer to speak local languages and dialects.
  • Russian. Around 260 million online users consume content in the Russian language. Russian is now one of the most important languages, particularly in the gaming sector.
  • Arabic. Arabic is fast becoming one of the most vital languages globally, and many companies include the language in their localized websites. Brands are localizing their websites into Arabic to target consumers in Africa and the Middle East.

Other languages include Portuguese, Malay, French, and German.

Common mistakes in using foreign languages in marketing

Translation errors are likely to occur when there is insufficient market research. Moreover, localization is the best way to communicate with local markets because of the language’s nuances, which standard translation may not cover.

For example, General Motors released a mid-size car intended for the foreign market. They gave it the name “Matador,” which resonates with the image of courage and bravery, as exemplified by bullfighters. But the product failed to attract the Puerto Rican market because “matador” for them means a killer.

KFC’s famous slogan, “Finger-lickin’ good,” was not good enough for the Chinese market because the local translators came up with “Eat your fingers off.”

The use of slang frequently does not work either. Electrolux learned it the hard way when their vacuum cleaner commercial, with the headline, “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux,” did not resonate well with American audiences. The verb “sucks” in American slang has derogatory and negative connotations.

Avoiding such mistakes is necessary. One of the things companies should do is to work with a professional translation agency with experience in localization in your niche market, with linguistic and subject matter expertise. Use market research, demographic study, in-depth understanding of the local market. Further, cross-reference the translation with local experts to ensure that the terms used are correct before releasing information and marketing campaigns.

Contact Us – We’re here to help you in your brand marketing efforts

Get in touch with eTranslation Services at [email protected] or thru (800) 882 6058 when you need help with your brand marketing campaigns. We have native-speaking translators capable of localizing your marketing and advertising content to appeal significantly to your multilingual target audiences. We work closely with our clients to provide them with excellent language services at competitive rates.


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