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By: Courtney Grimes on October 13th, 2020

6 Mistakes That Will Sink Your Global Marketing Campaign

Global marketing operations require a mix of technical and cultural knowledge, but too many marketers forget about the latter.

In a previous blog post, I covered the topic of global marketing, focusing on how to scale marketing campaigns across multiple languages and regions by using Javascript and Marketo’s Apache Velocity to dynamically apply different languages, privacy statements, accessibility requirements and more to a single email template, landing page template, or form.

For marketing operations (MOps) teams, this approach can significantly reduce the number of assets the team has to manage, thereby saving money and reducing complexity.

But marketers who want to engage global markets can’t do so using technical skills alone. Being able to develop a system capable of dynamically inserting specific language and compliance elements into a template based on the location of the recipient or visitor is the first step. However, global marketing requires more than creative scripting and Google Translate. Understanding the nuances surrounding language and culture is a critical second step that many marketers fail to take, and this leaves them vulnerable to mistakes that can alienate their audiences, limit their reach, and open them up to significant fines for non-compliance with local regulations.

Getting to grips with the unique requirements of each country you market to takes time, but it’s well worth the effort. Here are some of the considerations that marketers often overlook when they begin developing campaigns for a global audience.

1. Alphabetization

Forms are a vital part of every campaign, enabling you to collect valuable information about your audience and convert them from unknown visitors to known leads in your database. Yet marketers tend to overlook important elements of their forms when they start to develop multi-language campaigns. For example, they will translate the form labels and drop-down elements to align with the visitor’s language preferences, but often forget to re-alphabetize the picklists to reflect those language rules.

In Swedish, for example, vowels with umlauts come after the letter Z, whereas according to English rules, they would come before. Every language has different rules, and when those rules aren’t followed, it adds friction to this critical conversion point and creates distrust and confusion.

2. First and Last Names

Our names are a fundamental part of our identities. When marketers get them wrong (or leave them out entirely due to a {First_Name} fail), they send a clear signal to the recipient: “We don’t really know (or care about) you.” But savvy marketers who avoid these kinds of personalization errors when marketing exclusively to a North American audience can find themselves making avoidable mistakes when they launch global email campaigns for the first time, because different countries treat family names and given names differently.

In China and Japan, for example, family names always come before given names. To prevent this basic personalization mistake, marketers need to program personalizations in email and form-field order to dynamically arrange given and family names according to the recipient’s cultural preferences (and ensure that their system is set up to collect location data for each lead).

3. Font Selection

In addition to translating the text for your landing pages, emails, and forms (which includes often-overlooked elements such as error messages and the pre-populated text in comment boxes), you will also need to understand which fonts should be selected for specific languages. For example, in Japanese there are three font styles, Mincho, Gothic, and fixed-pitch, that correspond to serif, sans-serif and monospaced in Latin languages. Therefore, all three should be used in the same way you’d use serif vs. sans-serif for reading text or monospace for code snippets.

It’s also important to note that font names can and often do change depending on the language a user has their device set to, so this should be part of your CSS: for example, if you wanted to reference the Japanese Gothic font “Meiryo”, you should include both ‘メイリオ’ and Meiryo in your font-family declaration.

Similarly, some East Asian languages, such as Chinese, Japanese, and Korean, don’t use italics as a way to indicate emphasis or identify a book or newspaper title, so anything in italic will look odd and distorted to them. These typographical elements need to be controlled in landing pages with CSS that dynamically replaces italics with dotted underlining (which is the closest approximation to italics in Asian languages) when visitors are located in these Asian countries.

4. Design Selection

When creating emails and landing pages that originate as English-language content, there are often assumptions made on how visual designs should flow: after all, graphic designers whose first language is read from left to right are taught that eyes look at something starting at the top-left and moving to bottom-right.

However, that’s not always the case. When looking at right-to-left (RTL) languages like Arabic or Hebrew, there may be additional work to do beyond just swapping out text due to cultural differences in the way content is consumed. To use an example from the excellent RTL Styling, swapping just text can look visually awkward:

RTL Styling design selection language layout

However, once you apply additional CSS rules to realign image placement before text again (the same way the left-to-right language design has), you have an experience that is more aesthetically pleasing to RTL readers:

RTL Styling design selection Arabic language layout

For additional considerations that you may want to think about for your emails and landing pages, be sure to read RTL Styling’s right-to-left styling guide.

5. Access and Deliverability

After spending so much time fine-tuning your campaigns, you will want to make sure they reach the markets they’re designed for. But you may need to apply different rules and best practices to the emails and landing pages that are intended for audiences in different regions. For example, China is a notoriously difficult country to successfully deliver email to. Among other nuances, it’s important to know that Google is blocked throughout the Great Firewall, which means that any email or landing page containing Google Analytics or Google fonts will take a long time to load or be delivered. To reach market segments located in China, all Google Analytics needs to be stripped, and Google fonts replaced with acceptable alternatives.

Similarly, you may need to adjust image sizes and other template elements to improve load times for countries where people primarily access the internet across 3G or 4G networks and/or on mobile devices. Understanding and responding to differences in content consumption will ensure that your carefully crafted campaigns reach as many people as possible.

6. Regulatory Compliance

The past few years have seen a big change in the regulatory environment for marketing. Breaking privacy and anti-spam laws can trigger eye-watering fines, and marketers ignore them at their peril. For marketers who are expanding their activities to cover global territories, the burden of compliance becomes that much greater: at DemandLab, we track and comply with more than 20 global regulatory frameworks and counting.

Global compliance is complicated: something as simple as forgetting to include the word “ad” in the subject line of any marketing email intended for a Chinese audience could result in reduced deliverability or hefty fines. Because compliance involves so many moving parts, my previous blog post recommended that marketers whose campaigns span multiple countries should dynamically load the relevant privacy messages and other compliance requirements into emails and landing pages based on the location of the landing-page visitor or email recipient.

The world is a complex and ever-changing place, which means that global marketing operations will always be challenging. But if you go beyond simply translating campaigns and find ways to address the cultural, regulatory, and accessibility considerations that impact campaign effectiveness, you will dramatically improve deliverability and engagement metrics.

See an example of a successful, high-velocity global marketing operation. Read this case study featuring the Adobe eCommerce marketing operations team.