Marketing Across Continents – How Global Companies Are Missing the Mark

Mythili Viswanathan, PhD

Recently, I’ve noticed some global corporations missing the mark when it comes to marketing across continents. I’ve seen everything from posting transliterations of English on country or region-specific pages, to forgetting that some languages are read right to left. These kinds of mistakes waste critical marketing dollars, can result in lost clients, and could even tank growth/expansion efforts. Regardless of where your customers or prospects are - Chennai, Hong Kong, Johannesburg, Toronto, Perth, Chicago - your content has to be relevant, pertinent, and culturally sensitive to appeal to everyone. So, I want to share with you my top tips on how to keep your global marketing on target.

Companies with a global presence must face the challenge of creating content that resonates with customers and prospects across continents and regions. I’ve seen boutique consulting firms try to reach out to global markets by simply advertising “Now serving East Asia”. That may not be the exact copy, but their website just tells people “Hey, you don’t have to be in North America to hire us, but we’re not making any effort to align to your needs”. In other words, one piece of content isn’t going to cut it once you go global.

Instead, global marketers have to make versions of content that apply to each region, and if needed, each country. For example, consider language nuances. Even if the primary content is in English, you may need to create versions. I grew up in the British system, spelling the word “realize” as “realise”. Living in Canada, I haven’t had to drop the “u” in words like “behaviour”, but in the US, there is no “u” in many words. This is just a small example; there are a myriad of issues that need to be solved for when working on a global scale.

Beyond translating content into various languages (or even various versions of English!), your content needs to translate mentally and culturally. What is successful in the US or Canada may not be as important or even relevant for customers in India. The easiest way to achieve uniformity but diversity in content is by leveraging technology like Uberflip to manage the content. It’s a lot of effort to have regional content and have each country or region’s content be very different, but it doesn’t have to be different. It has to resonate with the audience or you’re just wasting precious time and budget.

I could go on and on about this topic as it’s something that drives me nuts whenever I come across bad examples, but here are some basic tips to at least get you thinking about how to achieve brand uniformity and customer-centric content.

Top Global Marketing Tips:

  • Templatize content structure. While there may not be a “one-size-fits-all” model for writing content that appeals globally, finding the most common features allows you to develop standardized overall structure of each of your regions’ content. If they’re wildly differently, it’s time to optimize and create a base structure upon which you can build.
  • Stop thinking from your perspective. We often fall victims to inside-out thinking. Taking your or your company’s point of view to a place you know nothing about isn’t going to get you very far. Instead, put yourself in your customers’ shoes. Leverage regional marketing and/or brand managers to understand how to build up from the base concept (which would be a template) and move to region-specific templates.
  • Listen to your customers. Seems obvious but doesn’t happen as often as it should. This is an opportunity for you to educate yourself on your brand’s appeal. Your customers who stick with you are there for a reason. Have your account reps send a survey or have 1:1 conversations, asking them what they like about your content and what they would like to see improved. You may find a common like/dislike/wish based on region. Or, you may find the same feedback globally! You just won’t know unless you ask.
  • Keep changing/adapting: It can be a lot of work to constantly change content templates or email templates, so I’m not suggesting you do this weekly or monthly. Every quarter or every 6 months, monitor performance by conducting an assessment by region on the most successful content. If something isn’t working, kill it! If something seems to be working well in one region and not the other, make a change so that you don’t waste time forcing Region A to endure what Region B likes.

TegTip: While most companies are focused on email engagement, only the best of the best focus on overall content engagement. It is time to become part of the best of the best group!

It’s not easy, by any means, to be successful globally. You need to have a plan and you need to be aware that not everyone thinks like you even if you’re using the same product. Being unaware of commonalities and differences prevents you from pushing content that you think is good because it fits YOUR culture’s mindset. The bottom line is, having region- or country-or language-specific content shows your customers that you care about them and that you’re listening. It also shows prospects that you have made an effort to get to “know” them, even if you don’t actually know them yet.

So, stop the transliterations! Imagine if you had to endure reading English copy that is a transliteration of a language you don’t know: You wouldn’t understand very much, and you’d have to rework sentences in your head to make sense of the content. Why inflict this pain on others?

Here are 5 other points of view on global marketing (in no particular order):


About the Author

Mythili Viswanathan, PhD

Mythili Viswanathan is our IP Warming and Deliverability SME. With two decades of academic experience, Mythili is results-driven and focuses on short-term goals that help our clients achieve long-term marketing success. Mythili is from Hong Kong and resides in Toronto. Her global background helps her work efficiently with our clients who have teams located on various continents. She received her BA and MA in the United States and a PhD in Developmental Cognitive Psychology from York University, Toronto.

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