Mate, do me a favour! Go to your Google Analytics account, click on your main money-making website and check out what are your visitors’ top 10 countries. Diverse, huh? Welcome to the Club! The Club of Cross-National Marketers.
So, what do you do now? How do you show your international visitors that you’ve noticed them and you care about their attention, time, and willingness to spend some cash?
The biggest task on your taking-over-the-world-to-do-list is to make sure you avoid any embarrassing “lost in translation” disasters. I’m only putting this out there from the start because I know what you’re thinking – you do your homework and pay attention and you’re smart so you’d never see your website posted in those subreddits dedicated to making fun of bad and weird translations. But let me ask you this: is your company bigger, better, faster than… let’s say… Honda? Yeah, I didn’t think so, and if Honda dropped the ball… who are we, mere mortals, to never slip and fall?
Let’s start with the root of all (lost in translation evil):
Translations and the Slip-ups that Can Damn Us All
A translation plugin can be your best friend, especially when you’re one of the skilled affiliate marketers using multiple affiliate programs and converting traffic from all over the world into cash. The problem with automated translation software, at least until our future robot overlords improve their capabilities, is that it can’t tell when something sounds silly or offensive in another language.
To be honest, if some of the biggest companies in the world can’t avoid using names that are making consumers in some countries roll on the floor laughing, it’s safe to assume that you’re at risk too, but you have one big advantage – you can change your posts, visuals, templates, update your ads, but those “poor” CEOs who had to deal with a “lost in translation” type of mishaps had to explain to their board of directors why they have to spend millions of dollars to rename products and redo entire nation-wide marketing campaigns or change the packaging of hundred of thousand or millions of items.
I mean, think of those poor people, trusting their 800-people branding and advertising agencies, paying them truck-loads of money and having to deal with things like:
The Czech company Walmark sells more health supplements that I have time to count in a day but one of them is really generating a lot of buzz and you already know why but let’s play a game. Think of the worst name you can come up with and get ready to be amazed.
So, it’s a hot beverage, based on cranberries, used to treat UTIs. Yes, UTIs as in Urinary Tract Infections.
So… what would you name a hot beverage for women dealing with discomfort while urinating, that you pack in a yellow box? I bet it’s not Urinal, but… ummm, yeah, that’s what they went for – Urinal. Urinal Hot Drink to be more precise.
A Starbucks Frappuccino that nobody in Romanian could order without blushing.
Romania is the home country of Dracula (which is inspired by the very real and very violent historical figure named Vlad the Impaler), but the name Starbucks chose for their Halloween themed Frappuccino – the Frappula – is basically a two word combination which translates as a manhood Frappuccino.
A car with a scandalous name in Scandinavia.
There must be some sort of a committee to validate the proposals, approve the costs of market research, conduct focus groups. Well, Honda went through this whole process and still had no idea that the Honda Fitta would raise eyebrows and spur giggles or outrage, depending on each person’s life experience and age.
You see, Honda didn’t know that “fitta” was an old-fashioned version of a vulgar word used to refer to a woman’s genitals in 3 Nordic countries – Denmark, Norway, and Sweden. So, they had to change the name to Honda Jazz.
The lesson here is that you should always do your best to uncover any unfortunate names or translations that might have sneaked up in your website copy or in your advertisements.
A great way to spot these issues is to always reward and praise people who email you when they see a mistake or a bad translation on your website. This way you can fix things quick and easy without the whole World knowing about the mishap.
You never know which of the following disasters you might avoid this way:
Now, let’s talk a bit about how to make your international visitors feel welcome, cared for, appreciated. There are a few simple things you should keep in mind when creating new content, even if you’re not going through the effort of translating it from English.
Not Everyone’s Weekend Is the Same
For some nations, Sunday is the last day of the week, for others is the first. Don’t assume that all of your readers have the same plans as you do for their Sundays.
Know When You’re Bringing Your Own Local Culture into the Mix
The best thing about the internet is that you can create any type of content and there will always be someone to appreciate it. Maybe the people in your city aren’t into soup recipes as much as you are but there are a few thousand people in Busan, South Korea, who are your biggest fans. Or maybe you just love reviewing affiliate products but you come from a country where few people your age go online, on the internet you’ll find a like-minded audience and those people can live anywhere in the world.
That’s why you need to remember that very often those consuming your content and buying the products you recommend, seeing the movies you say nice things about, aren’t fully familiarised with your local traditions.
For example, I have a few American friends who get almost the same email every Martin Luther King Jr. Day – “are you OK, man?”. Why? Well, because they take the day off, like many Americans, and they don’t schedule any content to go out. Their international audience doesn’t know about the observance, for them is like you just didn’t show up for work one day. They want to know what happened…
If you’re writing about or simply just mentioning holidays and traditions, make the effort to explain a thing or two. You should write as if those reading your content have no idea what any of the events and traditions born out of your local culture are, because that’s actually the case most of the time.
Speaking the language
Thirty-five percent of Americans say that British accents are appealing, while only 11% of British people say that American accents are appealing, according to a 2014 study by YouGov, a London-based market research firm.
Sometimes just using an accent that appeals better can massively boost your sales. If you don’t have a UK accent that’s ok, there are products available like Video Chief UK that let your videos have that professional and appealing accent whatever your own natural voice.
Dollar, dollar bills, yo! but Remember There Are Other Currencies Out There…
You’re smart and the people checking out your content are also smart, so they’ll make the currency conversion to figure out how much that $29 social media content planner will cost them. They’ll figure it out, no doubt about it, but some of the expressions we’re using should be better explained. Here’s what I’m talking about: a millionaire is someone who has 1,000,000 units of the official currency (i.e. $1M), but there are countries with high inflation rates, where everyone’s a millionaire. In Malawi, for example, you’re a millionaire if you have $1,390 USD because that amount converts to 1,007,923.69 MWK.
If you have readers from all around the World, make an effort to replace expressions like “6-figure profit” with something that would be easily understood by everyone, because in some parts of the Globe people use “6-figure” amounts to buy a can of beer.
It’s Not Summer Everywhere, Bud!
If you’re living in the Northern Hemisphere, when you’re complaining about heat waves and posting Twitter rants about low summer sales, some of your readers might be enjoying a very different season – winter. At the same time, it’s good to remember that your visuals might not strike a chord when you’re betting it all on snow globes and snowflake shaped-discount stickers when some of your readers are actually chilling by the pool, because on that side of the Earth is summer.
I hope you’ve had a good time making fun of other people’s mistakes, I know I did. LOL.
I also hope that you’ve at least started thinking about ways to show some love to those international visitors of yours and that you’ll treat them well.
If you saw a particularly bad and exceptionally funny translation that you still remember, don’t be shy, share it with us in the comments. We’d love to know about it or answer any question you might have.