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Do You Speak My Language? How a Common Tongue Connects People in Marketing

GCL | 28 October 2021

The importance of speaking the same language isn’t lost on global brands like Johnnie Walker. When they went global, they didn’t just do a direct translation of their classic phrase “Keep Walking”, but also included local quotes and phrases that were relevant to each language. 
Language is deeply connected to many other aspects of who we are. South African comedian Trevor Noah, who now hosts the popular US programme The Daily Show, insightfully captures the importance of language:

Language brings with it an identity and a culture, or at least the perception of it. A shared language says, 'We're the same.' A language barrier says, 'We're different.' .... The great thing about language is that you can just as easily use it to do the opposite, convince people that they are the same.

This is not just important for personal relationships, but also for professional ones.

Language in business

Gabriela Kruschewsky, a writer for The Huffington Post, further expands upon this by discussing the benefits of speaking another language. We take a look at the points that are relevant to marketers:

  1. You can understand and appreciate cultural references and nuances – Language and culture are intricately interwoven. To best understand what is being communicated by a culture, whether it’s art, a movie, a song or even its food, you need to consume it in its original form.

    This is important for marketers who rely on cultural references to help build a connection with a lead, or they could end up accidentally doing more harm than good. Canadian store Food Basics discovered this when they accidentally promoted Halaal foods for a Sikh holiday

  2. You notice and appreciate the things that are sometimes lost in translation – As Huffington Post correctly points out, “Not everything that’s translated can be easily understood. Sometimes cultural context is needed.'' Language is key here, with even cultures that speak the same language sometimes having subtle, or not so subtle, differences in meanings for the same words.

    One marketing example that demonstrates this is the name for Coca-Cola in China, Ke Kou Ke Le, which means “tasty fun”. At first glance, this may seem like an obvious choice, but due to the way the same word can be interpreted in Mandarin, Cantonese or Hokkien, Coke had to make sure that they found something that worked for all three of these languages.

  3. Your interactions with people of different cultures go deeper – “When you speak someone’s native language, you can talk about a lot more than the weather and other daily fillers. Building deep and meaningful relationships with foreign communities usually involves speaking and understanding, partially at least, the same language.”

    The primary goal for marketers should be about building meaningful relationships with your leads, which can only be done if you are able to speak their language. However, this can become incredibly complex. For example, India, which brands are eyeing due to its growth potential, is home to more than 100 languages

Demonstrate a high emotional intelligence by reaching out to people in their language

Reaching out to leads in their own language isn’t just more effective, it demonstrates that your brand is emotionally aware of the needs of the local people and their culture. This will give you a stronger foundation to work from and help you build more meaningful relationships with leads in a different country.

At GCL, we're aware of how important this is, which is why we offer our B2B telemarketing services in local languages across a number of regions including Europe, the Middle East and emerging BRIC countries. Our multilingual team has almost three decades of experience in offering unscripted, international telemarketing services. To find out more about how our services can benefit your organisation, contact us today.

If you'd like to learn more about the role of emotional intelligence (EQ) in modern marketing, be sure to take a look at our ebook Connect With Your Leads Using EQ.