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Global Marketing: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

Global marketing can be an exciting transition for any company. However, it has its potential pitfalls if you don't take cultural differences into account.

Going global can be an exciting transition for any company. It can also be fraught with potential pitfalls, with many mistakes arising from marketers failing to take cultural differences into account.

Here are some common mistakes you to avoid.

Adopting a Universal Approach

Even if you have a product you feel has a true potential global appeal, make sure you adapt your message to the individual market. Many truly worldwide brands, such as Sony and McDonald’s, adopt a ‘glocal’ strategy. Mcdonald’s, for example, is a global brand that adapts not only its marketing campaigns but also its menus to cater for local markets.

Even a company as experienced as McDonald’s can make a cultural mistake however. In a 2010 campaign, comic book character Asterix The Gaul was shown holding a victory feast in a McDonald’s restaurant. The character is little known in the US, but in France he is a cultural icon and the theme of his resistance to the Roman Empire has been co-opted in recent times to represent France’s resistance to perceived American cultural imperialism. This makes him a uniquely poor choice to sell a fast food brand like McDonald’s and the campaign caused something of a backlash among defenders of French cuisine and culture.

Failing to Localize Your Online Presence

Traditional marketing such as TV, radio, and print advertising is naturally tailored to each target market. But there’s sometimes a tendency to neglect international customers online. The nature of the web means anyone can access your main website. Major social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter also have established international audiences. English remains the most commonly used language online but it still represents only around a quarter of total usage.

Additionally, many users who access foreign language websites place more trust in websites written in their own native language. A survey by Eurobarometer found nearly half of internet users in the European Union visited foreign language websites (typically English) at least occasionally. Only 18% said they would frequently buy online in another language however, and 42% said they would never buy online in a language that was not their own. Localizing your website and social media presence can really help you reach out to international markets. A fully localized site with a country code top level domain such as .fr for France can also help engender trust by giving your site a local feel and boost your search engine rankings in local searches.

Poor Translation

Good quality translation is essential in all aspects of your global marketing strategy, from product names to slogans and website content. The most effective way of doing this is to work with native speaking translators who are also familiar with your sector.

You should also make sure existing brand and product names don’t mean anything inappropriate in your new target market. In German, for example, the word “mist” means “manure”, giving an entirely different slant to Irish Mistwhiskey liqueur, Clairol’s mist stick curling iron and the Rolls Royce Silver Mist model.

Keeping The Same Keywords

Literal translations do not always make effective keywords as locals could use colloquialisms, abbreviations, acronyms or simply alternative terms to search for the same thing online.

A direct Italian translation of “low cost flights” for example could produce “voli a basso prezzo”, which performs relatively poorly as a keyword. The Anglo-Italian mash-up “voli low cost” actually performs far better, but this is something you’d never guess without a little cultural knowledge. You don’t necessarily need to ditch all your carefully researched English language keywords but use them as a jumping off point and conduct extensive research keywords. This would ideally start off with a brainstorming session with native translators.

Not Being Mobile Friendly

The mobile web is becoming increasingly important wherever you operate. In developed countries, more and more people are browsing the web, shopping and keeping in touch via their smartphones.

In some markets, catering to mobile is absolutely vital. In many developing nations, the majority of users only have access to the internet via their phones and other mobile devices. 70% of Egyptian users, 59% of those in India and 57% in South Africa only access the mobile web and your website design and marketing efforts should reflect this.

There’s a lot to consider when taking your brand global. Thorough market research should cover practical considerations such as demand, competition, and local rules and regulations. In marketing terms you should also take cultural differences into consideration and try to speak to each subgroup of customers in a way they understand.


Image created by author

Christian Arno CEO at Lingo24

Christian Arno is the founder of Lingo24, a global translation company. Launched in 2001, Lingo24 now has over 200 employees ...

Global Marketing: 5 Common Mistakes to Avoid

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