The following article explores the common ‘copy and paste’ method used by businesses when exploring new markets, and gives insight into the contrasting method — bilingual marketing or transcreation.

You may be familiar with the following scenario:

When you lived in X in the United Kingdom, you knew all your neighbours on a first name basis. It was common for you to pop-round for a cuppa. You were happy living here.

Now you live in Y in the United Kingdom, and it all feels quite different. You don’t know your neighbours names, and you often rush from your car to your house door, hoping that no one will see you. You are also happy living here.

If someone came up to you and said, “where are you from?”, what would you say?

“Where are you from?”

Bilingual people often struggle with this concept. This is because bilingual people are often also bicultural — they associate both cultures with their identity.

When marketing to other cultures, it isn’t about how long you have lived in the country or what passport you have. It’s about how well you know the culture and the audience. What seems like an obvious statement, I am surprised by how many times, this is forgotten by businesses who are expanding into new countries. Suddenly, the ‘copy and paste’ method for marketing to another culture seems appropriate. So why is it unlikely that the ‘copy and paste’ method will work effectively?

In simple terms, marketing aims to connect an individual to a particular feeling, so that the individual takes an action desirable for the marketeer. Feelings are universal, however, they are triggered by different things, depending on our experiences and cultures. Language plays a significant role in how we remember and associate experiences. It is important to note here that a ‘brand’ is nothing more than how an individual perceives a product or service.

When marketing to other cultures, why is it important to consider the language that your team speaks?

Let’s take a look at the following example:

Viorica and Kaushanskaya asked their participants in English and Mandain, “Name a statue of someone standing with a raised arm while looking into the distance”. When the question was asked in English, the participants were more likely to say “Statue of Liberty”. When the participants were asked in Mandarin, they were more likely to say “Statue of Mao”.

Viorica, M., & Kaushanskaya, M. (2007). Language content guides memory content. Psychonomic Bulletin & Review, 14(5), 925-933.

The differences can be explained by a phenomenon called ‘language-dependent recall’. Language-dependent recall can be explained by a closely related phenomenon called ‘context-dependent memory’.

Have you ever listened to a song and it triggered a specific memory?

This is an example of context-dependent memory. With bilinguals, language-dependent recall means that the language spoken during the encoding of the event acts as a trigger. This means that depending on the language that is spoken or focused on, different memories or associations will be triggered for the bilingual.

Why is it important to have a bilingual perspective on your marketing material?

It is important because the bilingual has a deep understanding of both languages and cultures, which means that the individual is agile in changing his/her perspective. For example, I can switch to my German perspective when creating ideas for your target audience. Ideas that I think are effective for an English audience, may not work as well for a German audience. This approach is also called ‘transcreation‘.

Through transcreation, you avoid using

Transcreation helps you to establish and integrate your brand fully into the other culture. Only at this stage, can you start to profit, because you have positioned your brand next to or above the brands, which are native or a household brand in the country.

This is my formula for clients exporting to other cultures:

[tailored marketing strategy] + [transcreated copy] + [transcreated design] = profit

If you have any questions or feedback, please feel free to get in touch.