Beyond Bilingual: Multicultural Marketing is a Must in 2023

Still Marketing in English Only? You’re Behind the Curve.

October 26, 2022
Public Relations & Social Media
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Reaching a multicultural audience is far more than just plugging your message into Google Translate. When your organization’s audiences include multiple cultures and languages, you have a unique challenge, and a unique advantage.

On one hand, you have the chance to serve people with a wide variety of different stories, values and needs — and on the other hand, building trust requires genuine knowledge and respect of each culture’s history and particulars.

Count on a Talented Translation Team

Translators must have organic roots in the culture to ensure your messages are not only accurately translated, but also done in a way that feels familiar and genuine to your intended audiences.

In our own work, when we were tasked with helping families choose and enroll on time in a rural mid-Atlantic school district, we knew we needed to reach families who spoke not only English, but also those whose at-home language was Spanish or Haitian Creole — two vastly different languages rooted in disparate cultures. We learned that the barriers to successful enrollment extended beyond language — so instead of translating the same messages, we created unique posts and fliers for each group, in their own language, addressing their specific challenges and their own values.

Know the Lingo

Even in countries where English is prevalent, differences in culture make for potential messaging roadblocks – consider that the boot and bonnet on a car in the U.K. are the trunk and hood in the U.S. Or that while the word “jumper” in an American fashion context would likely refer to a one-piece jumpsuit based on the military flight suit model, in England, Canada and Australia, a jumper is what we in the U.S. would typically call a sweater or sweatshirt.

These are small details but using them correctly telegraphs to your audience that you’re approaching them as an insider and have a clear understanding of their everyday lives. This, in turn, empowers your message.

Keep Your Message Region-Neutral

Make your message more amenable to a multicultural audience by keeping it free of phrases, colloquialisms and idioms that are specific to an American or English-speaking audience. We’ve had to clarify idioms like “pouring salt in the wound” and “inside baseball” — even within our own team!

Consider Other Cultural Signals

Remember that language isn’t just words. Emojis have become a hieroglyphic language all their own and are often incorporated in social media posts to make them more human or attention-grabbing. However, we have to consider the differences in culture that can turn an emoji meant as fun into an insult.

For example, an “OK” hand sign in the U.S. means something far different in France, where it can mean “zero,” or in Venezuela, Turkey and Brazil where it means something more vulgar. The “crossed fingers” emoji that in Western culture means a wish for good luck represents a highly offensive gesture in Vietnam.

Research and understand these cultural signals to make sure your audience isn’t distracted from the core message by emoji mishaps that could have been avoided.

Translate Culture, Not Just Language

Finally, keep culture in mind when doing business. If you regularly work with international clients or customers, you are probably accustomed to adjusting your greetings, body language and negotiating style to each country or culture. We now live in cities populated by people with diverse global backgrounds — so when growing our markets, workforces, and business offerings, we can expect our communication to start shifting to absorb a wider range of cultural influences.

Do you want your company or organization to reach a broader and more multicultural audience? GillespieHall’s team represents a wide range of cultural and international perspectives — but we don’t assume we know what your audience needs to hear. We research the target region, work with individuals who understand its cultural nuances and then craft messages that will resonate. And then we test and evolve — culture and language are constantly changing, and so do we.

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