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Digitalization brings customers ever more quickly and closely to products and services, and therefore, to those who are responsible for crafting engaging experiences. It is about beating the competition and winning a race. The start line must be painted with customer centricity. The finish line has to deliver on aspirations reflecting how customers breathe, live and work where they are. 

Digitally speaking customers do not need more or less content than before. They need the right content in the right format, at the right time, and in the right place. Therefore, one of the major digital globalization challenges lies in the effective selection and adaptation of content practices and processes, to meet evolving requirements of diversity and simplicity within a range of ecosystems. Streamlining and optimizing content upfront is the name of the game to keep it compelling and sustainable, as speed and agility are here to stay. Just like the customer experience journey has to match and be powered by the content value chain, global content lifecycles and supply chains must lean on what matters and sells to content consumers in any geography.Simply put, it boils down to speaking the language of customers, which should be central to leading and executing any content strategy globally. Let’s consider the language of customers as a diamond. Telling you that you need to use the proper wording in all languages you want to target would not be good enough, although it is a good starting point. Realistically, it would be like looking at only one facet of the diamond. Here are the other ‘facets’ you should consider as the glue that keeps your globalized content together. 

Use The Right Semantics 

Your language must speak to the mind of customers. What you say has to convey the messages and thoughts that are exactly as meaningful for you as for your customers – even though you may not speak the same native language. So it is crucial to really stick to the gist of your messaging as the baseline for all your content efforts. From a branding perspective, this means that points related to quality, satisfaction, difference, etc., must suffer neither dilution nor recreation according to the standards and expectations of local customers. If you never lose control of what you want to put forward in various markets, you are in a good position to bear it in mind at all times and ensure that your content designers and developers do as well. 

Use The Right Stylistics

The customer language must speak to the heart of customers. It must be culturally relevant to touch them emotionally and personally. You create and maintain a feeling of familiarity and comfort when you use the tone of voice, the qualitative syntax, and the selection of words they are used to.

Marketers know well that delivering messages in a customer-centric manner is vital to content effectiveness and brand equity.  

That may mean using a short and direct tagline in the English-speaking countries where conciseness pays off while writing a paragraph in a more formal way in countries where it is required. 

Use The Right Vocabulary And Terminology

Semantics and stylistics prevail when it comes to choosing the most relevant words and terms. In any language, and for any market, it is essential to balance standard wording that sounds familiar to customers, with differentiating wording that enables you and your content to stand out from the crowd. Anything that might be too generic or specific can shift you away from the immediate attention of your customers. What is more, some words and terms have to make an equally expected impact in multiple languages and across markets. There are plenty of branding examples around the world, which have turned into faux pas and led to counterproductive campaigns such as Nova (“It does not go”) in Spanish-speaking markets or Gerber (“Throw up”) in French-speaking markets. International brand names must be checked and certified, linguistically and culturally to avoid misunderstanding or offense, whether these names are eventually translated or not. 

Use The Right Visuals 

The customer language is not limited to text. Digital experiences are based on visual content to a large extent , and customers expect this content in the overall localized content effectiveness. The great variety of visual components poses a real global challenge, considering some of them can be tricky and trigger opposed reactions. Some elements are known to be locally and internationally sensitive when they include flags, shapes, or body language. However much digital content often combines a number of visuals features, colors and layers to create the richest experiences possible, with logos, animations, videos, or dashboards. So each one must be checked, as there is no such thing as a small detail… 

Use The Right Ecosystem 

The customer language gets its full force in the most appropriate environment, i.e. the most comfortable and dynamic ecosystem(s) for customers. In a world of omnichannel journeys, that language must be tailored and agile enough to remain fluid and customer-centric along the way. This may mean using the language in a modular way, to fit in each ecosystem with the same level of quality and relevance. For example, some content may have to be prioritized and modified between an application and a website. It may also depend on the objective of the property where content is delivered, like the language for transactional (e.g. e-commerce) or assistance (e.g. support) purposes. 

These are the basics to speak to international customers and take your content to where it will be resonating, engaging, and actionable.

Content is more than content and languages are more than words.  

This should be an obsessive goal and a never-ending achievement when you engage with your customers. Speaking the language of customers also empowers digital wordsmiths to delight them by hearing their natural voice. Local language experts won’t fail to help you go the extra mile, as their tactical and operational savviness is paramount to address each touch point of the customer experience. 

Nelson Mandela, who would have been a great digital leader, said ”If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart.” Perfectly applicable to digital experiences and languages driven by facts and emotions… 


Author: Bruno Hermann

This article was published originally in the Brand Quarterly Magazine

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