8 Important Truths About International Copywriting

copywriting for international audiences
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Copywriting for international audiences is more complicated than you might think at first. Advertising and marketing copy depends on culturally and linguistically-specific factors to motivate the audience to act. For example, clever wordplay is challenging to translate, as is humour.

These factors can make it more difficult for international businesses to sell to customers on a global scale.  But it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are eight truths about copywriting for international audiences to increase your odds of success.

Copy is more appealing when it’s in your customers’ native language.

So, make sure your company’s content is available in that language. Yes, that sounds basic. However, since so many people around the world speak at least some English, you could be forgiven for thinking it’s okay to cut corners and write in English for your international audience.

However, research shows that people are more likely to buy products when product information is available in their native language, even if they speak English as well.

There’s no such thing as an “international audience.”

Instead, there are international audiences, plural. Each target market is its own audience requiring a custom approach.

Always be researching.

Research is the foundation of almost all successful marketing and advertising campaigns. However, you can’t assume that the research you did before you came up with your original campaign will carry over to new markets. Here are some sample questions to answer before you even begin:

  • Will your product appeal to the same age groups and personas?
  • Are the demographics the same?
  • Will customers in your new target market consume the same types of media?

Also, it’s essential to understand how your target customers talk. That means you need to know not just what language they speak, but what dialect? Do they speak formally or informally? What about slang?

Don’t forget multilingual SEO.

If you’re writing to an international audience online, you absolutely have to take multilingual SEO into account.  Look at it this way – would you hire a copywriter with no SEO knowledge to rewrite your website? Probably not, at least not without an SEO specialist for guidance. If your customers can’t find you, they won’t buy from you.

Just because your original website copy ranks well in Google, that doesn’t mean a direct translation will perform well in another language. Additionally, depending on the market, Google may not even be the top search engine.

For more, see How to Win at Multilingual SEO in 2019. 

Make sure your advertising claims comply with the law in the markets you’re targeting.

Each country regulates advertising claims differently, and it’s essential to make sure your ad complies with all the applicable laws. Don’t assume an advert that passes muster in your home country will be compliant in another.  When it comes to products in heavily-regulated sectors like consumer healthcare or dietary supplements, extra caution is warranted.

For example, a TV commercial for GripEx HotActive was banned in Poland for not complying with consumer health marketing regulations there. According to the MM&M magazine website, “The Main Pharmaceutical Inspectorate questioned the ad because it showed a journalist surrounded with names of symptoms that disappeared immediately after drinking the product. The journalist got back to work within seconds, and this was found to be misleading.”

In other countries, using a bit of hyperbole to highlight the product’s quick action was acceptable. In Poland, that was not the case.

Attracting an international audience often requires more than a direct translation.

With so many cultural variables at play, sometimes the best course of action is simply to take the original brief and start from scratch to create a new ad campaign that appeals to the same emotions as the original. This process is called transcreation. When it’s done right, the result is a new campaign suited to the target audience and culture.

For more, see What is Transcreation? 

Native-speaking copywriters do it best.

When it comes to copywriting for an international audience, native-speaking copywriters are the gold standard for a reason. They have in-depth cultural insight to transcreate a marketing campaign or an advertisement into a localised version that packs the same punch as the original.

A picture is worth a thousand words, so customise your images, too.

Ideally, when you’re copywriting for international audiences, you’ll need to adjust more than just the words. Images should also be customised to resonate more effectively with your customer and to avoid causing unintentional offence. For example, an ad with a woman in a bikini is normal in most of the Western world but would be offensive in most Arabic countries. Colours, too, can have different meanings depending on culture.

Different cultures also have different design sensibilities to consider. Meanwhile, once the text has been translated or transcreated, the layout may need to be changed for purely practical reasons.

The bottom line is that it’s almost impossible to create a marketing campaign that will be equally effective in different parts of the world without at the very least making some adjustments. Your company probably spends a significant amount of time and effort getting your messaging “just right,” so don’t let it get lost in translation.

Trust our team of marketing experts, native-language copywriters, linguists and other specialists to customise your marketing campaign to appeal to each one of your international audiences. Contact us for your next international copywriting project today!