Adapting Your Marketing To A Global Audience

Home How-To-Guide Adapting Your Marketing To A Global Audience
When expanding into global markets, you need to consider that your website and marketing assets might not work equally well abroad even when addressing the exact same target audiences.

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Marketing across borders usually means that you are dealing with very diverse audiences. The demographics might be the same for your global audience, thinking and behaviour, however, can be different due to cultural influences. Therefore, the translation of websites and marketing assets into local languages often does not go far enough to multiply successful marketing abroad.

Tailoring Content And Visuals

Tailoring content and visuals of websites and printed marketing assets according to the preferences of global audiences, often called localisation, is key. Large corporates employ highly qualified marketing specialists to do so, small and medium-sized businesses on the other hand need to evaluate first if it is feasible at all to develop local approaches for every market they want to sell in. Adapting your marketing to a global audience can be a huge cost factor.  

Factors That Make A Difference For A Global Audience

First of all, it is a good idea to gain information on how culturally diverse your new target audiences are. Neighbouring countries, regions within a country and even people using the same language may not be as culturally homogenous as you might think at first sight. Look at Germany and Austria for example. Both audiences will use the German version of your website, email marketing or brochures, but certain expressions or phrases, and even behaviour patterns when clicking or reading may differ.

What is needed before adapting your marketing to a global audience is some deeper research:

  • Does a target audience use desktops or mobile phones more frequently to learn online about services and products? How important is a modern website or are high-quality printed brochures sent by post?
  • Which level of details do they prefer when collecting information about a service or a product?
  • Are people keen to ask questions before buying?
  • What is common regarding receiving further information?
  • Are people happy to provide their full names and personal details?
  • Are they comfortable with using third-party platforms?
  • How frequent should you be sending out marketing emails?

Culture-specific Patterns In Global Audiences

When presenting your services or products to a new audience, you should also know about culturally specific practices or patterns they may engage in. Observing local competitors can quickly uncover cultural differences. Conducting usability testing with international audiences can also offer valuable insights for web design. Then adjust your marketing assets accordingly.

In countries with a high group orientation, for example, showing an image of a social gathering works better than showing an individual person because people tend to share their experiences with friends and family. Just a simple example: Someone enjoying their favourite chocolate bar at home on the sofa seems rather lonely and pitiful. Only in cultures, which place the individual above all else, do people find it pleasant to have some me-time and the chocolate to themselves!

As a general rule applies: the more individualistic a culture, the more the individual outcome or the uniqueness of a service/product should be in the centre of attention. In collectivist cultures, it is advisable to use visuals expressing group dynamics. Also, implementing community-building initiatives (e.g. Facebook groups) will be perceived as hugely favourable as there is a tendency to follow the group opinion or to link oneself to a company image.

It is also fair to say that the more your services or products are used in daily life, the more localized your marketing approach should be.

Colours, Symbols And Gestures

Finally, attention should be paid to the different meaning of colours and symbols around the world when adapting your marketing for global audiences. In the US, for example, the colour combination green and orange signals cheap products. Pastel shades, on the other hand, are considered faded and weak in many Asian markets. In Bulgaria, people shake their heads when they mean “yes.” Gestures or face expressions can have very different meanings around the globe. A smile could be seen as open and approachable in the one culture, and rather unprofessional in another. And a series of images will be perceived from right to left in Arab countries, which puts a European left-to-right design to absurdity.

Neutralised English Marketing Assets

Let the numbers decide if it is worth it to go for fully localised, culturally specific versions of your website or marketing assets. The golden mean can be to offer your services and products worldwide, but to provide translated and culturally adapted web and marketing content only for selected target audiences that will generate the most revenue. Clients from other countries will have to use internationalised or neutralised English versions.

Treat any slogans, puns or idioms with caution as they often lose their effectiveness after translation. Here you should also pay attention how sales copy and all conversion elements should look like to convince potential clients and customers to buy from you. Provide lots of visual cues to help international customers when browsing your website or reading printed information that is not in their language. Use a variety of images showing a mix of situations and people.

Developing Your Brand For A Global Audience

Similar cultural awareness is needed when developing your brand abroad. The emotional response your branding creates will influence how people appraise your products or services. Building trust can be a successful strategy in cultures that are highly relationship- and group-oriented. In other countries, your long-term experience or accessibility might be the all-decisive factor to buy from you. Your brand also may have a higher perceived value in one country, enabling you to charge a higher premium for your offerings, compared to other countries.

Adapting your marketing to a global audience requires cultural awareness and care. Do your research on international marketing, talk to cross-cultural experts and decide if going for a neutralised, international or culturally specific approach to be most successful.

This article was first published at

Katrin Prakoonwit

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