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!

Translation at the World Cup

The 2018 FIFA World Cup is happening now. The opening ceremonies were held on 14 June, and the final game will take place in Moscow on 15 July. Football is one of the world’s top sports, and the World Cup is by definition a multilingual event. The focus is on the players and the games, of course, but it wouldn’t be possible without the translators and interpreters working behind the scenes. With that in mind, here are ten interesting facts and statistics about translation at the World Cup.

FIFA has four official languages.

They are  English, French, German and Spanish. They also translate content to and from the language of the countries hosting the events. This year, of course, that’s Russia.

Russian, the host of the language of the 2018 World Cup, is the most widely spoken native language in Europe. 144 million people speak it in Europe. 260 million people speak it around the world.

Instead of the Latin alphabet, Russian uses the Cyrillic alphabet. That’s part of what makes it such a challenging language to learn.

FIFA translates 3 million words per language, per year.

According to Slator, FIFA mainly uses a network of freelance translators, as well as some translation agencies. So, what does it take to translate for FIFA? According to Caitlin Stephens, Deputy Head of Language Services at FIFA,

“FIFA’s translators have to be both good specialists and generalists. They also have to be able to juggle working on long projects — often with short deadlines — with reacting quickly to translate urgent media releases or provide ad hoc linguistic advice.”

Press conferences are translated into as many as nine languages via a remote translation centre in Moscow

Russia launched a remote translation centre in 2017 for the Confederations Cup. For 2018, the translation centre is located in Moscow. According to Andrey Moiseev, head of Local Organising Committee Language Services, “there will be up to nine languages in play: five core languages (English, German, Spanish, French, Russian), the first team’s language, the second team’s language, language of the first team’s coach, language of the second team’s coach.”

Over 50 interpreters will be available so that the press conferences can be translated as quickly as possible.

Each country has their own football-specific slang.

The most striking example of this, of course, is the United States. For some odd reason, they insist on calling football “soccer.” But there are also loads of other colourful phrases in other languages to describe various aspects of the sport.

For example, according to the World in Words podcast, a chaotic moment in a football match can  be described in the following ways:

  • Vrouwen en kinderen eerst: Dutch for “women and children first.”
  • Andar aos papéis: Portuguese for “walking on papers.”
  • Hawaii football: Norwegian for “Hawaii football.”

This year, gender roles and relations keep getting lost in translation.

To assist Moscow-bound World Cup players, coaches, executives and reporters, the Argentine Football Association held a seminar on Russian Language and Culture.

Unfortunately, it went down in flames when organisers realised that the course manual included a section on “how to have a chance with a Russian girl.” It contained such earth-shatteringly obvious tips as “be clean,” and “treat Russian women as people instead of objects.”

Brazilian football fans could have used just such a manual. Some of them videotaped themselves insulting local Russian women in Portuguese or enticing the women to repeat obscene phrases in Portuguese. Of course, the women may get the last laugh. The men in question were dumb enough to post videos of themselves being jerks on social media. Some of them have already lost their jobs, and they may face prosecution.

Travellers in Moscow will face translation challenges.

As this video shows, people are friendly. However, there is not a lot of foreign-language material available to guide tourists.

Given the lack of multilingual tourist infrastructure, many fans rely on Google Translate.

And that’s not a bad thing. Apps like Google Translate are often the only practical option for leisure travellers. They certainly beat gesturing, or speaking English with a Russian accent and expecting to be understood.  But of course, they aren’t perfect.

As University of Minnesota language professor Andrew Cohen told the Associated Press, “In many ways Google Translate is remarkable” but it “may have considerable difficulty translating humor, sarcasm, subtle forms of criticism, curses, apologies so that they work, even requests in a way that they are appropriately mitigated rather than bossy sounding.”

For more ways to translate conversations while you travel, see 7 Powerful Translation Apps and Devices for Travelers.

Volunteer interpreters help meet the need for language services at the World Cup.

As the FIFA volunteer page explains, “Language services is one of the most important volunteers’ functional areas as the interpreters are irreplaceable at these high profile events.” Volunteer interpreters must know Russian and another foreign language and have prior experience in interpreting and cross-cultural communication.

Pure MT translation is not enough for FIFA.

As noted above, FIFA has quite a bit of content to translate. How much are they using machine translation?  As Caitlin Stephens told Slator, MT won’t be replacing human translators any time soon:

“The size of our translation memory has enabled us to increase productivity greatly. But as most of our work is creative and not repetitive, we will not be embracing pure machine translation anytime soon … Cost is not the only factor that we look at when outsourcing translation work as quality is of the utmost importance to us. Many of our translations are public documents and a poor translation could negatively affect FIFA’s image.”

Pure machine translation isn’t good enough for FIFA, and it shouldn’t be good enough for your business either.  To guard your brand image and communicate effectively with people from around the world,  partner with an experienced translation company like K International. Take a look at the language services we offer and feel free to get in touch!

Who are you cheering for this year? Let us know in the comments!

Refugees Around the World, and How Translators Can Help

20 June is World Refugee Day. To mark the occasion, the UN is hosting events in cities and refugee camps around the world. The goal is to show support for refugees and to increase awareness of this global problem.

With that in mind, here are some shocking statistics about refugees around the world, and some ways that translators can help.

By the end of 2017, there were 68.5 million forcibly displaced people in the world. All of these people were driven from their homes by persecution, conflict, violence, or human rights violations.

  • 40 million were internally displaced, which means they had to leave their homes but remained in their home countries.
  • 25.4 million had to abandon their countries, making them refugees.  This figure is the highest ever recorded, and it’s a 10 per cent increase over 2016.
  • 3.1 million sought asylum in another country.

In 2017 alone, war, violence and persecution drove 16.2 million people from their homes.

That’s 44,400 people a day, and it’s the highest number that the United Nations High Commissioner has ever recorded. 11.8 million people stayed in their own countries; 4.4 million left their countries to become refugees or seek asylum elsewhere.

52% of refugees are children.

These children have witnessed violence and war firsthand. They’ve lost their homes and their friends and had their schooling interrupted.  According to the UN, refugee children are more than five times more likely to not be in school than children in the general population.

Many of them have also lost their parents. The statistics include 173,800 children who were unaccompanied or became separated from their families as they fled.  Read more

Father’s Day Around The World

At least in the US  and the UK, this Sunday is Father’s Day. It’s a day to celebrate all of the dads in your life. But have you ever wondered where the holiday came from? Or how it’s celebrated in other countries? Here are 10 facts about Father’s Day around the world.

Father’s Day wasn’t always celebrated on the 3rd Sunday in June (and in some countries, it still isn’t).

In fact, in Catholic Europe, it was originally celebrated on 19 March, which is the feast day of St. Joseph. The first Father’s Day to be celebrated in June was held at a YMCA in Spokane, Washington on June 19, 1910. A young woman named Sonora Smart Dodd started the tradition to honour her father, a single dad who raised six children on his own.

Of course, the holiday didn’t gain nationwide traction until she convinced the manufacturers of products like neckties and men’s clothing and tobacco pipes to get on board. But it’s nice to know that for once, behind the commercialisation, there’s a sweet story.

The American date spread around the world, and today, at least 86 countries from Afghanistan to Zimbabwe celebrate Father’s Day on the third Sunday of June.  Portugal, Spain, Italy, Switzerland, Honduras and 7 other countries celebrate on St. Joseph’s Day, March 19. Other countries have their own days – for example, Thailand celebrates on 5 December, the birthday of King Bhumibol Adulyadej.

In Germany, Father’s Day is celebrated with beer and pork.

German “Father’s Day” (Vatertag) is celebrated on Ascension Day. German men traditionally celebrate by hiking out into the woods with copious amounts of beer and ham (along with other traditional German foods).

France owes its Father’s Day celebration to a company that manufactured cigarette lighters.

Read more

Translation Fails 2018

10 Hilarious Translation Fails From 2018

Can you believe 2018 is already half over? A lot can happen in six short months, so it’s high time we took a look back at some of the funniest translation errors that have made us laugh this year. K International presents, for your amusement,  the top 10 funniest translation fails of 2018  (at least so far.)

Avengers: Infinity War’s Korean subtitles contain infinite translation errors.

Translating movies is a high-stakes business, especially when you’re dealing with the latest instalment of a beloved franchise like The Avengers. Unfortunately, many Korean fans of the movie felt like the subtitles weren’t up to par. In fact, fans were so unhappy with the translation quality that they started an online petition calling for the translator to be fired.  

According to the petition, which got close to 4,000 signatures, “Even for ordinary people who don’t speak English fluently, it’s easily recognizable that this translator’s English doesn’t even reach a basic level.”

Some examples, courtesy of

  • Nick Fury’s use of “Mother . . . ” as an almost-swear word being translated literally as  “Mother” in Korean.
  • The word “seed” was translated as the Korean word for “f#*@!”

Read more

10 Spanish Language Facts You Might Not Have Known

Spanish is an interesting language with a rich history, and there’s no doubt it’s one of the most important languages for businesses today. Ready to learn more about it? Here are 10 Spanish language facts you might not have known.

Spanish has over 405 million native speakers.

That makes it the 2nd most commonly spoken language in the world, after Mandarin. English has only 360 million native speakers. In fact, 5.85% of the world’s population speaks Spanish.

If you count people who speak Spanish as their second language, the number of Spanish speakers climbs to 513 million. That’s just one of the reasons we think Spanish is one of the top languages to learn in 2018.

Meanwhile, about 120,000 people in the UK speak Spanish, or about .2% of the population.

The number of Spanish speakers is growing.

Read more

5 Inspiring TED Talks About Translation

If you’re looking for inspiration or a new perspective on a particular topic, TED Talks are a fantastic resource. If you’re not familiar with TED, it’s an organisation that showcases “ideas worth spreading” through conferences that feature short talks from speakers around the world.

For your viewing pleasure, here are some of our favourite TED talks about translation (and languages in general).

 TED Talks About Translation: Lera Boroditsky, How Language Shapes the Way We Think

How does language shape the way we think? That’s a question that’s occupied researchers and academics alike for decades.  In this TED talk, cognitive scientist Lera Boroditsky describes some of the fascinating ways that linguistic diversity can shape the way people experience the world. For example, unless the sun is rising or setting, most of us would have a hard time pointing to “North” without a compass. But in some indigenous Australian cultures, there’s no “left” or “right” or “this way” or “that way.” There’s just north, south, east, west and all of the directions in between. So, people from these cultures develop a much better internal compass than we do, because their language forces them to practice that skill more than we do.
People sometimes ask why it’s important to preserve endangered languages. Wouldn’t everything be better if we all spoke the same language, anyway? Boroditsky ends her speech with a powerful antidote to that line of thought:
“[T]he beauty of linguistic diversity is that it reveals to us just how ingenious and how flexible the human mind is. Human minds have invented not one cognitive universe, but 7,000 — there are 7,000 languages spoken around the world. And we can create many more — languages, of course, are living things, things that we can hone and change to suit our needs. The tragic thing is that we’re losing so much of this linguistic diversity all the time.”

Read more

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