There's no single global voice



I could stop this blog post here, but it probably needs a wee bit more of an explanation than a simple ‘no’.

There are a lot of global companies out there.

Some are vast, unwieldy multinationals; others are smaller concerns that just happen to have a global market for their products and services.

Whichever camp you’re in, you have one thing in common – you’re selling to vastly different audiences.

Culture-sensitive marketing

One of the most significant barriers to selling to a worldwide audience is language.

You may think that all you have to do is translate your original content into different languages.


That won’t do at all.

You’ve heard the phrase ‘lost in translation’, well that applies here.

Every language has its nuances. Phrases that make sense in one country will be completely alien to another.

Things that are acceptable in one country may be offensive in another.

That’s why a simple translation won’t do.

Here are a few examples that illustrate this point:

Rolls-Royce Silver Shadow [1965-1980]

Initially, the plan for this prestigious car was to be marketed as Rolls-Royce Silver Mist. Sounds elegant, doesn’t it? Unfortunately, “Mist” is the German word for manure (if you put it nicely…) so they quickly changed the plan and marketed the car as Silver Shadow. A similar thing happened with the launch of the Toyota MR2 in France, pronounced out loud – with a French accent – it sounded like ‘merdeux’ which amounts to meaning the same as the German example. The number ‘2’ was quickly dropped from the nomenclature.

Avon [1969]

Avon tried to enter the Japanese market using the same strategy that had worked so well in the US. This strategy included door to door selling. In Japan, however, this did not work. Japanese women did not feel comfortable selling to people they didn’t know. Moreover, in Japan the privacy of one’s home is very important and should not be invaded. Avon suffered a loss but adapted their product placement strategy accordingly.


Using a native writer

Investing in one copywriter and then translating their content is not the way ahead. Instead, you must find great copywriters in every country you’re marketing in (if your website is to be multilingual).

They will be able to advise you on the best way to get your message across.

Being culturally aware, they will know how your audience in each country will think. Therefore, they will be able to pinpoint the critical benefits for each audience.

Despite what you may think, your product or service will benefit people in different ways depending on their culture and where they place the most value.


When you’re marketing to a global audience:

  • Always invest in the services of a native professional copywriter for each country you’re looking to sell in to
  • Research cultural differences to make sure your message stays strong
  • Never translate content in the hope that it will work just as well in another country

Sally Ormond is an international copywriter who has helped European companies make an impact in the UK and US markets.