Creating culturally appropriate marketing and advertising campaigns
The rise of the global technology industry has created new ways for companies to reach consumers. Advertisers are increasingly finding that one size does not fit all when reaching international audiences, especially as much of the world becomes increasingly connected through social media channels.
Culture is an important aspect of advertising. In today’s global economy, businesses are forced to adapt their marketing strategies and tactics to different cultures. While some companies choose to adhere to a seamless business structure that minimizes cultural gaps, others take advantage of this to expand into new markets and reach new customers.
And digital marketing has opened the door to that, with more effective and efficient communication with customers, but with it comes a whole new set of challenges: cultural sensitivities in advertising.
Why cultural sensitivity is a must for advertising?
Let’s face it; no one wants to see a poor or racist portrayal of their culture in an ad. Just as we frown upon stereotypes and gross simplifications in television commercials, street advertising and everyday life, we must also strive to be culturally sensitive in Internet advertising.
Businesses need to consider cultural differences when creating ads. The ad may be well-designed in its home market, but it looks different when used globally. Marketing and advertising companies should aim to develop culturally sensitive advertisements that resonate with their target audience.
Petra Odak, director of marketing at Brighton, UK-based Better Proposals, says creating culturally sensitive ads isn’t as hard as it sounds. She says, “The best rule of thumb is to use common sense. You are not targeting the whole world; you are targeting a very select group of people and you probably know very well who they are. Try not to offend anyone and use common sense, but don’t go overboard or be too politically correct.
Additionally, knowing the culture you are targeting or representing in your ad is essential. You need someone on your team who can review the ad text, design, and message to tell you how they interpret it and how it might be interpreted in different regions. Here are some tips for creating culturally sensitive ads.
Related article: Scale advertising with contextual personalization
Include all possible preferences
To create culturally sensitive ads these days, you should consider including all religions, races, and sexual preferences. For example, an ad for baby diapers must include babies of all colors to provide proper representation. When it comes to Valentine’s Day announcements, it’s a good idea to include all potential preferences to prevent people from feeling left out. Additionally, some terms that might have been accepted a few years ago may now be frowned upon, so proper research is essential.
Be aware of different cultural attitudes
You should speak to each culture in a different way. For example, as Michal Strahilevitz, professor of marketing at Saint Mary’s College of California, based in Moraga, Calif., puts it, “You could have a sneaker ad just showing a male athlete exercising, and that You could have another ad where a woman is particularly powerful in a boxing match where she manages to knock down a much taller male opponent, and in some countries that unfortunately won’t work.
Show ads by region
Losing unhappy customers after posting culturally inappropriate advertising can have a significant impact on your bottom line. Brands need to be proactive rather than reactive. The goal of all brands should be to do it right. In this regard, Professor Strahilevitz states that “in the United States, we don’t like to see images of living animals that have to be slaughtered so that we can eat their meat. So we wouldn’t show a live pig or live baby calves and then pork chops and veal in a barbecue commercial. Thus, when evaluating an ad for broadcast, the message (verbal and visual) must be examined in several ways to ensure that it passes the culturally appropriate test.
Research the origins of the words and phrases you use
If you’re unsure of the origin of a phrase, do a quick Google search or avoid using it entirely. For example, if you’re using words in a foreign language, make sure you understand the meaning of that word or phrase in the context of the language you’re creating an ad for. If you run international campaigns and you don’t know their cultural norms, research them. Better yet, get to know someone from that area or bring an expert to consult.
Ultimately, remember that becoming more culturally sensitive starts with educating yourself. Many of the expressions we use growing up may have racist origins and some images and symbols may be considered offensive in some areas. Do your homework and use a culturally sensitive approach because one mistake can cost your brand dearly.