How to Craft Marketing Content for Multicultural Audiences
Between universal adapters and stretchy leggings, we live in a society that clearly values a one-size-fits all philosophy.
The problem: One size does not always fit all…especially when it comes to creating marketing content for your business.
It’s important to recognize this because technology allows us to work with so many people across the globe.
In the United States, it’s considered a “best writing practice” to write content that is concise, clear, and to the point. To achieve this result, we tend to dumb down the content we create to ensure any audience can consume it.
For an American audience, this works well. But if you live in China, it’s possible you’d be greatly offended by this practice.
It all has to do with cultural reader/writer responsibility— something that content creators rarely talk about, but should.
We want to bring this to light in the hope, that after reading this post, you’ll be able to craft content that is both valuable and culturally appropriate, no matter who your audience is.
Keep reading to learn to how to use reader/writer responsibility to craft content for multicultural audiences.
Reader/Writer Responsibility Defined
Writing “reader-responsible” content simply means that the writer has zero responsibility for writing content that everyone should be expected to understand.
For example, if you were a chemical engineer and wrote in a reader-responsible format, you would not go to great lengths to help people understand chemical reaction processes or define technical terms. You’d write as if everyone you were talking to was a chemical engineer.
On the other hand, “writer-responsible content” means that the writer is responsible for ensuring that everyone who reads the content understands what it’s saying—regardless of whether they have a PhD in physics or never graduated from high school.
Using our example above, this would mean that a chemical engineer would need to write in-depth content outlining all his processes while using language any average Joe off the street could understand.
Sure, it’s not a perfect science, and every country blurs the lines for reader/writer responsibility from time to time. But across the globe there are clear reader/writer responsibility content trends that do define how different cultures create content.
Reader/Writer Responsibility Trends Defined by Language
No matter what culture you’re a part of, the goal of picking up a piece of content and reading it is typically the same—you want to learn something new.
So why, if we have the same goal, is our art of crafting content so different?
The answer all boils down to language.
English is primarily a writer-responsible language.
From the beginning, schools teach the English language with a focus on the importance of structure and clarity.
Just think back to your days in the classroom learning to write thesis statements and topic sentences. We were taught that a good writer assumes little to no background knowledge on the part of the reader.
In fact, English is one of the most difficult languages in the world to master, because of its emphasis on clarity.
On the other hand, countries like Korea, China, and Japan all have reader-responsible languages.
When their language is spoken, a person is responsible for deciphering the message, which is often not explicitly stated.
People in these cultures often write with the expectation that readers will require background knowledge for understanding. This is why these cultures are easily offended if content is written in a dumbed-down fashion.
It’s an insult to intelligence.
For an American who is expecting direct information, this style can be very confusing.
Fascinating, isn’t it?
Bridging the Gap: Writing Content for Multicultural Audiences
Clearly, there are some major stylistic differences in the way people write content around the world. And if you’re someone who writes global content, these differences are important to note.
For example, the U.S. market is used to in-your-face sales copy and gimmicky copy, whereas that type of content will backfire for the New Zealand or Australian markets.
So, what happens if you’re in charge of creating content that’s supposed to speak to a multicultural audience?
How do you write content that connects to multiple cultures all at once without looking dumb or being disrespectful?
We have some answers to help you. Check it out…
Write Intelligent Copy That Includes Examples
If your target audience is engineers with PhDs, there’s no reason your text needs to be dumbed down to be digestible for a group of high school kids or art teachers.
This in no way means high schoolers or art teachers are stupid, but they aren’t whom you’re trying to connect with.
If Miss Sally, a third-grade art teacher, wants to grasp a better understanding of mechanical engineers’ practices, it should be her responsibility to do the research or consult a professional engineer to get her questions answered.
That said, if you want to reach a happy medium between reader-and writer-responsible content, it’s a good idea to add some examples, diagrams, or illustrations into your content.
For example, if you are a mechanical engineer you may write an article on how to manipulate the aerodynamics of your car to help you get better gas mileage. Your article may explain that adding a 40-degree curve to the hood of your car will increase your velocity when you reach 55 mph or more by 8%, ultimately saving you 3 cents per gallon of gas.
Engineers who build on a regular basis and understand the science of mechanics will be able to envision what this looks like and will understand why shape increases velocity over a certain speed.
Most important, engineers will be able to do the calculations versus cost of parts/alterations and will be easily able to see if redesigning a car is worth the investment or not.
On the other hand, Sally the art teacher doesn’t have a background in vehicle design and wouldn’t even know where to begin if she wanted to increase the gas mileage on her car.
This is where a diagram of car designs and a table of velocity vs. fuel efficiency calculations would come in handy.
With design examples and a table of gas mileage calculations, Sally could grasp a decent understanding of why an engineer would make alterations to her car. She could then do some research on her own with the knowledge and examples she has from the article to get a better understanding of the text.
The point is the article speaks to the target audience without dumbing it down and insulting intelligence. At the same time, Sally the art teacher is given enough info to get a basic understanding of the content and is able to continue her research to learn more.
Provide Links to Case Studies, Analytics, and Other Resources
Providing resources such as case studies and analytics is important for two reasons.
The first reason piggybacks on the point we just talked about—adding examples and additional information helps you to avoid oversimplifying content and offending your target audience.
When you provide additional resources that lay out specific stats, give visual examples, and provides extra information, it gives people who are not experts on the topic you are writing a about a chance to learn new things without sacrificing the intellectual nature of your content.
For example, environmental experts will know from previous knowledge and experience why it’s dangerous and scary that a polar ice cap is melting at .03 inches per year. A non-expert who reads that information might simply think that sounds silly or dramatic.
However, when you lay out a chart that shows that ice melting at .03 inches per year causes a 25% increase in land flooding, which causes 20% of the seal population to die every year, that information on why melting ice is scary suddenly makes sense to the non-expert.
It’s all about putting technical information into context.
The second reason facts, figures, studies, and analytics are important is because of analytic language distinctions.
Countries like Korea use analytic and objective language. This means they mostly use language that is fact driven.
Opinionated or subjective language is something that is not common in Korea. In fact, it’s actually often avoided.
Objective language is so defined in Korea that, when reading text from this region, you’ll notice it’s almost always written in third person.
Simply put, if you are writing for a Korean market, you don’t want to bring your personal opinion into your content. Any content you write should be founded on facts.
Here’s an example of how Korean ad content for pain killers differs from ad content in the United States.
Note how the Korean ad for pain killers maps out why their liquid gel capsules work fast with a diagram. You don’t have to understand Korean to walk through the chart and see the point they are making.
Clearly, liquid gels break down in the stomach faster than solid pills. This allows the medication to be absorbed into your system and work faster.
Now let’s look at two American ads for Advil…
How’s that for opinionated claims without any data, stats, charts, or diagrams to back it up?
Americans live in a country where language is much more subjective.
For this reason, we are able to convince people to buy products with content that simply states, “You’ll never find a better product” or “We are better than brand X.”
Sure, there’s always going to be that handful of people that want the stats behind why Advil is better. But for most of us, just hearing that this product is better than x,y, or z is enough!
In order to appease both reader-responsible and writer-responsible audiences, we suggest creating content that has a healthy mixture of opinion and fact.
It’s ok to say, “Our brand is the best of the market,” but once you make that claim, you need to have some data or case studies that will back it up.
Stay True to the Culture of Your Audience
Above all, when crafting content, it’s important to stay true to the culture of your audience.
If you’re selling surfboards in southern California, go ahead and throw a few “gnarly’s,” “righteous dude’s”or “slays” into your copy if you desire.
Who cares if the uptight business woman from the Midwest shakes her head at that kind of verbiage. She’s not your target audience.
If she’s too uptight to accept the southern Cali surfer scene lingo, she’s probably not too terribly interested in purchasing a surfboard. So why would you waste your time catering to her?
Writing successful copy begins with researching your target audience, whether it be learning how to write to capture the eye of teenagers or deciphering the Urdu language so you don’t offend a client in India.
To begin the process of truly understanding your audience, we suggest creating a customer avatar blueprint.
This blueprint will help you uncover everything from demographics to the goals and dreams of your audience.
Once you know this information, you can write content that will capture the attention of the person you are writing for.