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Three Caveats for Multicultural Marketing

November 15, 2011  

"Are your campaigns reaching the intended audiences?" asks Darren Megarry at MarketingProfs. "That's a key question facing marketing professionals, as the combined wave of technology, communication access, and spending power continues to extend across the globe." But you don't need a global business to understand the importance of multicultural marketing. In countries like the United States, we have the opportunity to reach diverse audiences within our own communities. But wherever these customers may be, we should remember:

Multicultural marketing is not one-size-fits-all. It's a mistake, for instance, to think of the United States' Hispanic population as a homogenous segment. "Significant regional, socioeconomic, cultural, religious, and racial differences can exist even within one Hispanic group," notes Megarry. "For example, a recent immigrant from Guanajuato, Mexico, may have more in common with a Salvadoran refugee than with a middle-class Mexican American."

Something is almost always lost in translation. Hire native speakers to double- and triple-check any copy for foreign-language snafus. While online translation programs can give you the gist of a foreign word or phrase, they aren't known for elegant, nuanced translation. Megarry received a wide range of results when he translated ¿Cómo se llama? with a few popular services:

  • How is it called? (BabelFish)
  • What is your name? (Google)
  • How yourself call-up? (

Opportunities for faux pas abound. Even when properly translated with impeccable grammar, your copy might inadvertently contain humor, idioms, puns, analogies or metaphors that confuse or offend your target audience. This is yet another reason to enlist the services of a native speaker who can identify potential problems.

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  • by Stephanie Wed Nov 16, 2011 via web

    I agree with the basic premise of the importance of niche targeting (you should be doing that for all your campaigns already), however, if you're serious about convincing that target (U.S. Hispanic, U.S. Chinese or any other) to buy your product or service, you should work with professional translators. Marketing translation, especially for items such as campaign slogans and taglines, is very tricky and nuanced. Getting a professional, human translator is worth the money -- your brand deserves it, plus you'll reap the rewards in terms of sales. Stephanie Engelsen, Acclaro

  • by Mark Wed Nov 16, 2011 via web

    Stephanie, while I agree that hiring a professional translator is important I think you also have to work with someone who understands the culture of the target audience you are trying to influence as that will predicate what kind of message you will develop and what will be the most effective communications media to send this message. I am currently doing work with German companies who are looking to make their mark on the USA and I can't tell you how bad their "English" literature and websites are. Even with a good translator you still need to know how to talk to a US engineer or house wife.

  • by Stephanie Wed Nov 16, 2011 via web

    Mark, totally agree! Your translator, either a professional or colleague or whomever does the translation, should be a native speaker, and live in the target country/area. This person will know the language and as you say, will also know the culture and the latest trends that will influence any good localization of content. Our ideal translator is one that fits these two criteria and is a subject matter expert in whatever is being marketed as well.

  • by Lina Arseneault Thu Nov 17, 2011 via web

    Localization (or localisation) is the process of translating an offer into different languages or adapting a language for a specific country or region.
    The only two countries that have legislated requirements with respect to language are Canada and Japan. In these countries, not only is it good business practice to offer content in English/French and Japanese Ö itís the law. Corporations who do not meet the legislated requirements may find themselves exempted from the bidding process for government contracts and partners may not be willing to associate themselves with a non-conforming company. The importance of quality translation (or better yet original material in the target language) is paramount in these markets Ė skip the online translator, itís not worth the risk for scrutiny of an audit. @LinaArseneault

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