It has quickly become a commonplace that the internet has made the world much smaller than it ever was. Friends, family, and businesses based thousands of miles across the globe are just seconds away through email, facebook, or skype, just to name a few of the many examples of online communication. However, international businesses, large or small, still need to appeal to a distinct regional or national base to be successful. Globalization and the internet have not – yet – made the world completely homogenous. Linguistic, cultural, and economic differences exist between regions in a country and between countries in a continent, let alone between continents in the world. For example, there is the distinction between amazon.com and amazon.co.uk, selling different products at different prices. There are also major variants such as the French amazon.fr and German amazon.de, appealing to a wide linguistic and cultural consumer base distinctly different from, but using the same familiar template as, the company’s English language versions.
Every aspect of a business’s online promotional material, from websites to banner ads to e-newsletters, needs to be designed with the target audience in mind. To discover the specific qualities of that audience, a business needs to research what the audience has already shown an interest in – what other websites are being accessed? What do they offer? How can your own business improve and offer content and products more specifically tailored to that market? Put simply, what does the target audience want to know and how can you deliver that information? With international markets, this is particularly tricky as there is myriad of cultural and linguistic intricacies that must be faced. In the European Union (EU) there are 23 official languages spoken in the 27 member states. Although English is the most widely spoken, German has the most native speakers in the EU with almost 20%, followed closely by English, Italian and French.
Understanding the nuances within languages is crucial to the translation/localisation process too. For example, the differences between French and German are obvious, even to mono-linguists. But the differences between French in France and French in Switzerland or Belgium aren’t that obvious. In France, déjeuner means ‘lunch’, but in Switzerland and Belgium it means ‘breakfast’. Additionally, dîner is ‘evening meal’ in France, but in Swiss and Belgian French the word is souper. Similarly, Swiss German often uses a different grammatical gender to that used in Germany (e.g. ‘das E-Mail’ instead of ‘die E-Mail’). Assuming you intend to adopt a fully localised marketing strategy, what are the practicalities involved in launching an international advertising campaign? Well, there are many similarities to that of a domestic campaign.