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December 27, 2017

Developing an effective global messaging strategy

An effective global messaging strategy is critical to ensuring that your corporate message, values and culture translate properly across global teams. Whether you're focusing on internal messaging or creating brand guidelines for global offices, having the right strategy in place is essential. Here's a closer look at how to develop a messaging plan that will effectively take your brand and internal communications to any new market.

Work with local experts

While it's important to define clear global messaging standards for your brand, it's equally vital that you work with local experts. Global companies should have trusted local experts to help localize their brand and product messaging. Considerations may include language, dialect, religious conventions and cultural norms. Options include hiring local full-time staff or partnering with an agency that understands the market.

Understand the difference between translation and localization

Translation is the act of taking messaging from one language to another — for example, a memo that was originally drafted in English might be translated into Chinese. But as this TED blog post points out, there are idioms in every language that don't translate literally between markets. Effective localization goes beyond basic translation to ensure that context, meaning and intention are all effectively conveyed in your messaging.

Pay attention to visual branding

Effective global messaging doesn't just rely on words. It's also important to take visual branding into account, including imagery, colors or the number of items shown on packaging or in messages. If four is considered an unlucky number in a specific market, for example, it may be less likely that buyers will purchase a product branded with that number or that employees will put an idea involving it into practice.

 

CMO reports on why it's important to ensure that visual concepts translate across cultural lines. When Procter & Gamble introduced diapers to the Japanese market with images of storks delivering babies, for example, it caused confusion and didn't resonate with consumers.

Move beyond national perceptions

As the Harvard Business Review (HBR) notes, many people tend to assess cultural differences based on nationality. For example, the ways that people network or motivate employees may be significantly different in the U.S., Sweden and China. Yet localizing your messaging — and adapting the way communications reflect the business context — often has to go beyond the national level. HBR suggests:

  • Evaluating regional norms: Consider how demeanor and the ways people interact or express themselves may vary between New York City and California, for example. Are there regional differences within your global locations that need to be considered?
  • Looking at the industry and company context: Are you communicating to individuals in a fairly global industry, such as management consulting, or are you focused on a more traditional audience that may be less global?
  • Assessing the people: Think about the individuals in your target audience. College students, for example, may have a wider range of global pop culture references in their vocabulary than older consumers.

Balance centralized control and local creativity

Working with local experts and targeting your messaging to the specific market is crucial to reaching internal and external audiences. However, an effective market strategy begins with a clear overarching message. In some cases, brands have found cost efficiencies by centralizing materials production and investing in tools that empower local edits and creativity. Assess your organization's overarching process to find the balance between fidelity to the brand vision and the creative freedom to localize as needed.

 

Companies today are global by virtue of the market, and developing a clear global messaging strategy helps unite their teams across markets. It's also crucial for connecting effectively with external audiences. By developing overarching brand goals, embracing localization and asking the right questions, your brand will be in the position to communicate effectively with every audience — no matter the message or the market.

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