English May Be the Language of Business, But the Language of Trust Is Your Customer's Mother Tongue

Image of William Mamane
William Mamane
Published: Dec 31, 2021
Last Updated: Jan 5, 2022

We often discuss on the Trust Signals blog the importance of speaking your audience's language to establishing trust. That means understanding how your customers talk, what they care about, and what makes them feel at home on your website.

One of the first steps you can take to building trust with your website's visitors is to speak their language literally—using translation services.

Did you know that the Economist Intelligence Unit reported 64% of executives said that misunderstandings due to poor communication have hurt their plans for international expansion?

English might be "the language of business," but when it comes to building lasting relationships with people from another country or region, solely relying on one language is limiting to your brand. Understanding your customer's mother tongue is the first step to connecting with them culturally, rather than distancing or even offending them.

'Lost in Translation' Has Cost Billions of Dollars

You might think that companies would have learned from countless international marketing blunders that language translation is critical when it comes to building brand trust.

However, business-crippling mistakes continue to happen, even to the largest and savviest brands. In 2019, for example, Nike found itself under fire because their new line of shoes had a logo that resembled the word "Allah" located under the shoes' soles. Not long after, Nike apologized and stopped selling the shoes.

If not done correctly, marketing to a foreign market can create mistrust with target consumers. Here are a few statistics to show you how vital clear communication is:

  • 57% of global customers expect brands to have their services in their native language. (ICMI)
  • 59% of customers gave higher scores to customer satisfaction when the customer care was in their native language. (ICMI)
  • Two-thirds of companies said that culture and language barriers made it harder for their companies to enter new markets. (Economist Impact)

Failing to communicate to your target market properly can cost you not only money but your brand's reputation. Fortunately, some of these issues can been resolved with the help of a translation company, particularly when establishing brands in new, unfamiliar markets.

Best Practices for Building Trust with International Audiences

At Tomedes Translation Company, I have worked on many marketing projects with businesses expanding into new markets for the first time. Over years of working in the industry, I have gained insights into why many marketing campaigns fail abroad and how to overcome cultural differences and language barriers.

Here are five observations and suggestions for building trust with your international users:

1. Build a Profile of Your Target Customers

If you were to examine well-known international brands and study their failed marketing campaigns, you would see a common thread was lack of research. Researching your target market before entering it might seem like a given, but there's a reason why many companies fail to do this: it's hard work.

It's worth the time and effort, however.

During your research period, you should start compiling necessary information like any legal restrictions in selling your services and products, market demand, the cultural and linguistic preferences of your target audience, the gender and age groups interested in your brand, and more.

Online data is helpful, but nothing beats first-hand information. Through the assistance of a translation company, you can conduct feasibility studies, surveys and buyer persona research in your customer's native language. From your research, you can determine if marketing in a particular country would be worth the money based on your study. If not, you can move on to another country or region wherein your brand has a better chance of success.

The money spent on research to avoid a bad market for your business is a drop in the bucket compared to the cost of a failed country launch.

2. Connect Your Brand to Their Cultural Preferences

Another reason marketing campaigns are unsuccessful is that they failed to center their plans around the culture and language of their target locale.

A translation company can assist in identifying your consumer's cultural and linguistic preferences. You will discover what social media platforms they're active on, marketing opportunities in local festivals and holidays, consumer behavior, their cultural and national values, and more. 

For example, how the meaning of color differs depending on the culture you come from. For consumers in Western countries and Mexico, blue represents "trust," while in Korea, it's pink. So when creating your website for your target market, you might want to consider their color preferences into your website's palette.

Once you've created a profile of your target locale, you can start creating a strategy on your best approach to connecting to your consumers. You will need to evaluate the values of your brand and ask yourself, "What values do you and your target market have in common?" Having strong values and objectives for your brand will make it easier to stand out.

3. Don't Get Lost in Translation

Language translation is essential to effectively communicate your brand name and values to your target market. An example of how crucial it is to translate your brand effectively is Coca-Cola.

When Coca-Cola first introduced the brand to the Chinese market, the company failed to realize that the translation of their name—"Ke-Kou-Ke-La"—means "bite the wax tadpole" or "female horse stuffed with wax" depending on the region in China.

Coca-Cola chose this translation because the way it was pronounced was similar to how their brand's name is pronounced.  When they realized their blunder, they changed the name to "Ko-Kou-Ko-Le," which means "happiness in the mouth." The translation of their brand to "happiness in the mouth" was a much better fit for the product. 

Global consumers can easily pick up on poor translations today—hurting your reputation not only in the country you're seeking to enter, but in other markets as well. If you're planning to establish trust with your target consumers through your website, you will need to ensure that the translations have don't make trust-killing mistakes.

Harvard Business Review has reported that more than half of international customers consider getting product information in their native language more important than price. It's worth the investment to get it right.

4. Evaluate Local Competitors to Identify Opportunities

While conducting your research, you will need to study the marketing styles of local competitors. Identify what is working for them as well as the gaps you might be able to exploit. This could include evaluating the brand factors for building trust and the different platforms they use in their marketing.

Among other things, you should research your target market's SEO, identify the kind of searches your target consumers do, and the keywords used by your local online competitors. 

One way of introducing your brand's products and services is through seeking out local vendors interested in selling your products. For example, when Oreo marketed their products to China's market, they sought local convenience stores and offered promo deals to entice consumers to try their products out.

5. 'Glocalize' Your Products and Services 

What does it mean to "glocalize" your marketing? The idea is to have a successful global brand through carefully localizing your brand's marketing.

Going back to Oreo's success in marketing their brand in China, it took them several years of plummeting sales before they truly started to glocalize. They did research and found that Chinese consumers considered the flavor of Oreos too sweet. The Oreo China team introduced a less sweet cookie called "Light Sweet Oreo." 

Oreo didn't stop there and created miniature versions of their packets to make them less expensive. They also created Oreo wafers because they discovered wafer products were popular in China. The end result: Oreo's sales in China grew from $20 million in 2005 to more than $400 million in 2012.

Oreo's example of glocalizing shows that marketing and operations need to work together to successfully integrate your brand into a new market.  

Marketing also has to be conscious of local laws and regulation, as failing to do so can be costly. TikTok had to pay 750,000 Euros to Dutch authorities for failing to conform their privacy policies to Dutch law. 

If you're unsure about your target region's local laws and regulations, look for local legal experts and work with local officials to ensure that your brand doesn't face legal challenges later on that could negatively affect your brand trust and credibility.

English may be the language of business, but the language of trust is the native language of your audience. Learn your customers' language and culture to earn their loyalty and respect.

Your Website Should Feel Like Home to Your Visitors.

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