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What is Happiness In China? The Answer May Surprise You

What is happiness? It’s one of the most basic human emotions. The pursuit of it is considered a basic human right, enshrined in the American Declaration of Independence and recognised by the UN as a “fundamental human goal.” But what is it? And is it the same on the other side of the world?

Spoiler Alert: No, it’s not. In fact, the belief that happiness is universal is a common mistake that could impact how you market your  global business. After all, “happiness” is one of the major emotions that marketers appeal to. Here are some examples of how happiness varies across cultures, and some tips to avoid this common international marketing pitfall.

Why Happiness Gets Lost in Translation

Why is “happiness” so hard to translate?  To start, it’s more difficult than you’d think to define it, even in English. Sure, Merriam-Webster may define it as “the state of being happy.” But if it were that easy, the self-help industry wouldn’t be raking in billions of dollars, would it?  In the pop culture of the English-speaking world, it’s been described as everything from a warm puppy to a warm gun.

So, what is happiness? Even sociologists who study happiness for a living have had trouble creating a definition that translates easily to other languages and other cultures. As the Washington Post points out, that’s the trouble with all the studies that claim to have identified the “happiest countries,” usually Denmark. The definition of happiness may have been lost in translation:

Some researchers say the reason is that happiness in Danish is often translated as lykke — a term that can describe a kind of everyday well-being that might be brought on by a nice cup of coffee or a slice of bread with cheese.”

Although now that I think about it, good coffee and good cheese make me a very happy girl, and I’m not even Danish. What is happiness? Is there more to it than that? I’m not sure.

In most languages, there are a variety of possible translations for “happiness.” Each one carries its own shades of meaning, and often none of them match the English definition exactly. For example, researchers studying happiness in China used three different words in surveys and interviews, “xingfu for a good life, you yiyi for meaning and kuaile for a good mood.” Read more

cultural diversity in marketing

5 Things Marketers Should Know About Cultural Diversity in Marketing  

Like or not, we live in a world where it’s more important than ever to value cultural diversity. The world is more connected than its ever been before. There are more opportunities for businesses to expand – but there’s also more competition. Companies that wish to seek out new markets for their products must market them effectively, and that means targeting diverse audiences.

With that in mind, here are five things you should know about cultural diversity in marketing.

Cultural diversity in marketing matters, whether you’re “going global” or not.

Do you need to worry about cultural diversity if you only do business in the UK? Well, yes, if you want to reach all of your potential customers in a meaningful way. For example, according to the Office for National Statistics, 13% of the population in England and Wales were born overseas.  Around  8% speak a language other than English at home.

Language is essential (even if your target market speaks some English).

Speaking of language, your marketing will be more effective if you speak your customers’ language.  For example, according to a 2014 study by Common Sense Advisory, “more local language content throughout the customer experience leads to a greater likelihood of purchase.”

This is true even for people who speak some English as a second language. People feel more comfortable researching and buying products in the language they understand the best.

However, cultural differences matter, too.

Many human experiences and emotions are universal. Around the world, parents love their children. People love their families. That said, there’s also quite a bit of variation across cultures. So, just translating material from one language to another may not be enough to inspire the same emotions and actions in the new target audience. Often, transcreation is more effective. (For more, see Why Transcreation is Important for International Businesses.)

For example, teenage rebellion is expected and even grudgingly encouraged in Western cultures. And it’s been the basis of many a successful marketing campaign. However, in East Asian cultures,  teens are expected to remain obedient and respectful. (That doesn’t mean they always do, of course.)

The concept of “family” varies according to culture, as well. For example, in the US and the UK, “family” usually means two adults raising one or more children. But in other cultures, “family” might include grandparents, aunts, uncles, and cousins, and it may make sense to adjust your imagery accordingly.

On the flip side, seemingly unimportant elements of your marketing campaigns can become deal-breakers in another culture. For example, the number “4” is considered unlucky in Chinese culture. If you’re trying to market your product in China or to Chinese immigrant communities, avoid using this number at all costs.

Culture matters in B2B marketing, too. For example, here’s just one example of how Spencer Waldron from Prezi customises his press outreach and content marketing efforts for the German market:

When dealing with journalists from Germany, I always talk about the security features of Prezi and how safe the data is.  I even had a security Prezi built in German, to talk about and showcase these issues.  This small step is crucial to gaining trust.

Representation matters, as well.

Want people to see themselves in your marketing? Pay attention to representation. Use models and imagery that are specific to the culture you’re targeting.

However, it’s also important to be authentic.

For example, Microsoft (in)famously tried to cut corners in this area when translating an American ad for the Polish market.

The American version featured a diverse group of people, including Asians and an African American. For the Polish version, Microsoft decided to change the African American model to a Caucasian model. But instead of re-shooting the ad with a new model, they photo-shopped a Caucasian head into the existing picture. They might have gotten away with it, too, except that they forgot to photoshop the original model’s hand to match the new head.

Oops! Cue a minor controversy and the removal of the Polish version of the ad.

Different cultural groups have different media consumption patterns

This is true both for different cultural groups within the same country and for different countries. For example, in the United States, Spanish-speaking radio and TV is the best way to target Hispanics. Meanwhile, newspapers are more popular amongst Asian-Americans.

Meanwhile, in countries like France, Germany and the UK, mobile Internet use is increasingly common, but most users also have access to desktop computers or tablets. In India, Indonesia and Mexico, on the other hand, more users access the Internet exclusively on mobile devices.

As you can see, understanding the cultural diversity of your audience is crucial to effective marketing. To reach all of a diverse audience, speaking their language is only the first step. You must also take cultural nuances into account, avoid unintentionally offending anyone, and create campaigns that accurately reflect and resonate with your target audience.

Does that sound like a tall order? At K International, our team of translators, multilingual copywriters, multilingual voiceover artists, and designers are here to help. Check out our language and translation services and feel free to get in touch.  We’d love to hear from you!

11 Thought-Provoking Social Media and International Marketing Statistics for 2016

For businesses, social media is an opportunity to connect with existing and potential customers around the world. But do you know enough to use it effectively? If you think a “one country fits all” social strategy is enough, think again. Here are 11 statistics about social media around the world to fuel your international marketing campaigns:

Asia now has more internet users than Western Europe and North America put together.

International Marketing Takeaways:Planning to market your business in Asia? The internet is your friend. Localised social media should be part of your marketing strategy. That means targeting content to local languages and preferences. It may also mean developing a presence on local social networks.  These networks can rival or exceed Western giants like Facebook in some markets.  Read more