- Is targeting one language enough?
- What languages do we target to achieve growth?
- How do you choose the most valuable languages to develop digital brand materials in?
- Does the state of the Internet add any additional challenge to the process?
- If so, what opportunities does this present?
These are essential considerations for anyone involved in content creation and global marketing, who are responsible for adapting global brands and digital marketing materials to reach worldwide audiences.
If someone asks us to picture the Internet, it often generates a vague and hazy image. In the English-speaking world, we are often encouraged to think of the World Wide Web as an endless ocean of information that seamlessly connects the planet. With an ever growing infrastructure, the potential is certainly there. However, you may be surprised to learn that your experience surfing the web differs greatly depending on the language you use online.
For example, a recent w3techs survey revealed that 53.2% of websites use English in their content production activities. The next most prevalent language in use scored only 6.4%. The difference between positions one and two alone is in itself food for thought. When you think of how many more results an English language search will return, compared with any other language, it makes our hazy picture clearer.
We can also look at the Internet from the reverse angle. Let’s consider how many users there are in each language group online. A June 2016 survey showed that with nearly 950 million users, the English language user group is by far the largest online. Naturally, the Chinese-speaking group follows with more than 750 million users. There are many people speaking other languages like French, Chinese and Spanish, to name a few, to conduct business and buy products online, as well as conduct other daily activities. Despite this, it remains easier to surf the web in English.
In fact, these results describe a content language chasm that has been labelled the digital language divide’ by some. Certain ideas, topics and solutions are heavily represented in English and distinctly less so by articles in other languages. From a commercial perspective, a perfectly suitable product or service that features at the top of the SERP in an English language search may be invisible to an equivalent buyer persona searching in another country.
This disparity in user experience across the world is certainly a problem. What opportunity does the current language gap present at the same time? Well, for companies wanting to expand their international reach and make their brand identity known worldwide, now is the time.
Global brands have to pay close attention to the changing geographic and demographic makeup of online audiences for brand marketing and product development purposes. In terms of economic opportunity, English still reigns and is the most valuable language according to Common Sense Advisory 2015 Report, The Rise and Fall of Top 100 Languages.
Brand marketers have to look at the 14 languages that reach 90% of the world’s online population – English, Chinese Simplified, Chinese Traditional, Spanish, German, Japanese, French, Portuguese, Russian, Korean, Italian, Dutch and Swedish. Other languages like Bengali, Hindi, Indonesian and Turkish also rank highly in terms of growing numbers of online users. Therefore, it makes sense for global brands to seek to enter and support these emerging markets.
Driving global brand marketing across these multiple markets requires content to be published in native languages and also culturally adapted for each local market. Establishing brands in France will require different concepts than a French-Canadian market.
In addition, Internet access and audience traits, such as age, will affect global content marketing strategies. Culture aside, the state of the Internet will always be an influencing factor in brand marketing. There’s no point in developing a mobile advertising campaign with a B2B banner targeted at Russian 16-25-year-olds, if the intended demographic has no access to smartphones. Your banner will be invisible. In simple terms, if your targeting is off, you will miss the mark and waste significant budget in the process.
Changing economic and political factors can affect global brand decisions too. Global marketers have to keep ahead of the changing tides if they truly wish to harness the power of the Internet, digital marketing and cultural adaptation to open up these essential new revenue streams.
Nathaneal Campbell is a digital copywriter at Adapt Worldwide, a Welocalize digital multilingual digital marketing agency.
If you would like to learn more about Welocalize, Adapt Worldwide and transcreation, contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Further reading: The Phenomenon of Transcreation in Localization