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CultureShocks Blog

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The Best Languages to Target for International Marketing

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Having a marketing campaign translated into different languages is a great way to reach audiences who may not be well versed with the primary language of your campaign. However, choosing the right languages to translate your campaign into can be quite challenging, especially considering there are so many options out there. That’s why we’ve compiled a handy list of the top 10 languages to translate your campaign into, with the facts and figures on why these languages are your best bet:


1. Spanish


Around 427 million people across 31 countries speak Spanish, making it the second most widely spoken language worldwide! This isn’t surprising, considering that Spanish is the second most popular language in Europe and the fourth in the world. In the United States alone, there are already 36 million Spanish speakers. The Hispanic population in the US is projected to double by 2050, meaning that Hispanic people will make up 30% of the population in America. As a language for websites, Spanish makes up about 4.9% of online content. Ultimately, in terms of native speakers around the globe, Spanish precedes English too, making it a crucial language to translate your campaign into!


2. English


English is spoken in 106 countries, making it a very widespread language. There are 339 million English speakers, and 27% of Internet users prefer English. English is the most used language on the Internet by far, dominating with more than half (53.6%) of content languages for websites in English, followed by Russian (6.4%), German (5.6%) and Japanese (5.1%). E-commerce sales in 2015 were booming in English speaking countries with $349.06bn in the US, $93.8bn in the UK and $28.7bn in Canada.


3. Chinese


There are a total of 1.3 billion Chinese speakers in the world with Chinese spoken in about 35 countries, making it the most widely spoken language worldwide. It has a 2% usage of content language for websites, with about 674 million Internet users in China. The number of Chinese Internet users far outweighs Hindi speaking users (375 million), Spanish speaking Internet users (222 million) and Portuguese speaking users (117 million).  In 2015, China and the US were by far the world’s leading e-commerce markets with sales of $562bn and $349bn respectively, followed by the UK ($93bn), Japan ($79bn) and Germany ($73bn). China’s growth over the next five years will widen the gap between the two countries and will exceed $1 trillion in retail e-commerce sales by 2018. According to the National Bureau of Statistics of China, the country’s economy is 7 times larger today than it was 15 years ago. Chinese businesses are spreading all over the globe, and thus the spread of Chinese as a language is also far reaching. With its steadily growing economy, China is definitely not a country to be ignored.


4. Arabic


Arabic is spoken in 58 countries, by a total of 267 million people, making it the fourth most spoken language worldwide. Egypt and Iran make up the majority of Arabic users on the Internet, with 95.1 million users from these two countries alone. The Middle East and Africa are among the fastest growing regions in terms of Internet news, and 0.8% of the usage of content for websites is Arabic. As Gulf economies bring down their trade and investment barriers, the Middle East seems to be a promising destination for economic growth. In a report from the British Council, which lists the top 10 languages of the future, Arabic ranks as the second most important language of the future.


5. French


With a total of 75.8 million speakers in 53 countries, French is a very popular language today. In fact, it is estimated that around 100–200 million people also speak French as a second language. 4.1% of content on the Internet is French, and this number is increasing. In countries like Algeria, Morocco, Vietnam and Cambodia, where there is a low proficiency in English, French is particularly useful as a lingua franca.


A study by investment bank Natixis even suggests that, by 2050, French could be the most-spoken language in the world, ahead of English and even Mandarin.


6. German


German is spoken in 26 countries with a total of 76.9 million speakers and it’s the third most used language online. Among European countries, Germany has a very promising future. It is the largest single export market for British goods apart from the United States, and is Europe’s largest economy with a GDP of more than $3.9bn.


7. Portuguese


Even though Portuguese is spoken in only 12 countries, a very large number of people – 206 million – speak it fluently. Portuguese is 2.6% of content language for websites. In Brazil itself, there are at least 182 million Portuguese speakers. In the African continent, 13.7 million people speak Portuguese, and in Europe too, Portuguese speakers are widespread (and not just in Portugal). Portuguese is also gaining popularity in Asia due to the region’s great diplomatic and economic relations with Portugal and Lusophone countries. According to an estimate by UNESCO, Portuguese and Spanish are the most rapidly growing European languages after English.


8. Russian


Russian is spoken in 17 countries, with 103 million Internet users in Russia alone, not to mention the millions more in post-Soviet states where Russian is still widely spoken. It’s the second most used language online, displacing German. Russia is also famous for its great engineering minds and brilliant IT community, and is definitely growing in terms of global business reach and influence.


9. Japanese


Japanese is only spoken commonly in 2 countries, but the sheer numbers of people who speak it – 128 million – make it a language that should be considered for advertising campaigns. There are 114 million Internet users in Japan, having e-commerce sales in 2015 of $79.33bn; this is not surprising, considering that Japan is one of the most technologically advanced and connected nations in the world.


10. Hindi


Similar to Japanese, Hindi is only spoken commonly in 4 countries. However, due to the vast and steadily growing population, there are more than 260 million Hindi speakers worldwide. India is the second most populous country in the world and as a growing economic power and part of the BRICS countries, India is a great target market for any marketing campaign.


The list above should give a brief overview on which markets are experiencing tremendous growth, and which languages will benefit your campaign should you consider tapping into these markets. Remember that your own market research should come first, and your target audience should heavily influence what markets you look to break into. If you’re interested in effectively translating your marketing campaign and adapting your message to different markets, contact Textappeal, the leaders in marketing translation and transcreation.

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obama and putin cocacola crimea on how to avoid brand damage

How to Avoid Geopolitical Brand Damage

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Nobody wants to get caught in a fight between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, least of all if you’re the brand guardian of the most popular global carbonated soft drink on the planet. In December 30th a massive outrage erupted in Russia after the publication of a seemingly innocent map designed to celebrate the end of the New Year.

It’s no laughing matter to get caught in the middle of an argument between Vladimir Putin and Barack Obama, especially if you’re the brand guardian of the most popular carbonated soft drink on the planet. At the end of 2015 Coca-Cola published a seemingly innocent map depicting Crimea as part of Ukraine, sparking outrage amongst VK (Russia’s most popular social network) users.

cocacola without crimea on how to avoid brand damage l textappeal

Russia without Crimea: Russians offended

Russia’s bringing Crimean territory back into the motherland is highly popular with the local population. And while Coca-Cola’s link with Ukraine may please the American administration, it offended Russian nationals.

coca cola santa clause on how to avoid brand damage by textappeal

Is Santa an American provocateur?

VK was instantly saturated with fury against the iconic American brand, suddenly seen as an “Evil Imperialist” out to humiliate the Russian people. Could it be that Santa, the beloved figure popularised by Coca-Cola, was actually an American provocateur in disguise?

Although an innocent faux-pas, the map was all the more damaging as the brand was making a deliberate effort to tap into a local mindset via Russian cultural references.

cocacola with crimea on how to avoid brand damage

Crimea part of Russia: Ukrainians offended

In response to the VK community seething with outrage, Coca-Cola made a somewhat perplexing, 180-degree marketing translation turn. Instead of defusing the situation, Coca-Cola released a new version of the map that included Crimea and several other disputed territories within Russia’s border.

The move angered Ukrainians, who called for a boycott of Coke products. Following a barrage of angry tweets and images of Coca-Cola being flushed down toilets, the soft drink giant apologised and removed the offending map altogether.

This is far from an isolated incident. With frontiers quickly shifting in various parts of the world and cultural sensitivities running high, brands cannot afford to rest on long-held assumptions about national borders.

What to do?

how to avoid geopolitcal brand damage, textappeal

The CIA’s website is a good source for marketers to track geopolitical change

Microsoft has led the way by establishing a division that tracks geopolitical and cultural risk: all marketing executions are vetted by it, and its database of cultural issues to avoid is gradually enriched over time. Unfortunately this resource is not publicly available: the software giant sees it as a strategic asset.

The CIA’s website (www.cia.gov) is probably the best resource to stay up to date with geopolitical change. It provides some of the most accurate intelligence in the world, openly publishes a surprising amount of information, and is free!

Textappeal can help keep marketers and their agencies safe too, by systematically checking brand materials for cultural and geopolitical issues, validating executions for travel, and advising how to deal with cross-border dilemmas that may result in brand damage.

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How Local Language Social Listening Pays Off for Global Marketers: The Mysterious Case of the Refractory Market

  |   CultureShocks Blog

One day, a successful Client Services Director from a well-known international ad agency came to us and said that he was stumped.

The global campaign that his agency had designed for their biggest client was a huge success, except for one important market in Asia. Nobody understood why. The product was brilliant, the advertising captivating. There were no obvious cultural issues: in-depth local focus groups had demonstrated the story, and its benefits were clear and memorable. As the client brief had specified, an “integrated omnichannel roll-out” had reached “every possible customer touch-point in a consistent, engaging, relevant and holistic way”.

Alas, whatever the brand said about itself and wherever it may have touched, customers in that particular market were for some mysterious reason still ignoring it. What could possibly be wrong? More importantly, what could he do about it? His client would call soon, and he needed answers.

textappeal transcreation, transcreation agency, creative translation

We explained to him that we have a tradition at Textappeal. For one day, early in the month of January, the youngest member of our team is dressed in an orange robe and sent to a Buddhist monastery. The brief is simple: say nothing all day, and be attentive to everything that happens. The next morning over a frugal breakfast, we ask what they learned, in the hope of gaining deep insights for the future success of our business.

“So what insights have you gained?”  the agency exec asked, curious.

“Well,” answered our Lead Director of Languages, “we reviewed the last 12 years, and three insights stand out.” She proudly listed them:

“Silence is a good way to recover from a New Year hangover, second only to Alka-Seltzer.”

“The monks who eat rice one grain at a time are slimmer than the ones who don’t.”
“Life is suffering, especially when seated on a cold floor without central heating.”

The adman glared at us. “That’s the most ridiculous thing I’ve ever heard! How can that possibly be relevant to your business ­­– or mine?”
“Look,” he added, trying to be helpful, “I’m Irish, and we like to talk a lot. In fact, I was so talkative that my Mum would say to me: ‘Liam, you have two ears and one mouth, use them in proportion…’”
“But unfortunately I don’t know any Asian languages.”
Seizing the opportunity to emote but entirely missing the point, our American CEO interjected “Hey, I have Irish blood too!”
Suddenly our Greek multilingual Newsroom listening expert, who nobody had noticed until then, exclaimed “Eureka!”, took his clothes off and started running around the room naked. A bright but relatively discreet young man, he had decided that this was his way to get our attention. He announced: “The solution is simple, buddy. In that market, you need to talk about the sensations that your product creates, not its benefits.” (Actually the project took a week, and he was not naked, but let’s keep the story moving!)

bart, textappeal, creative translation, storytelling, transcreation
We all stared at him, trying hard to stay focused on his face. The adman said: “First of all, I don’t see how you could possibly know that, given that everyone here seems clueless. Secondly, please get dressed.” And with that, he left.
Two weeks later, we received a call. “I don’t know how you did it, but you people are geniuses! Especially that naked dude.”
“What happened?” we asked.
“Well, we didn’t know what to do so I followed your advice and had the copy rewritten. We replaced the product benefits with customer sensations. Guess what? Sales went through the roof. My client is over the moon!”

creative translation, success, transcreation agency london
“I told her about you and she wants you guys to adapt the next campaign in 70 different languages. Send me a quote, OK? And give me your very best price!”
Later, the team huddled around our Greek oracle in celebration. Dressed in an orange silk robe, he handed out cups of green tea spiked with 50 percent proof ouzo, and explained:
“While you people were chattering, I had the brand’s keyword universe translated by our local writer. I put the results into our listening technology, turned a few dials, and about 30 local language blog posts and Twitter feeds tumbled in.”

genius, global campaign, transcreation, creative translation
“Then I asked our two local brand experts to give me a lowdown. They ran a word frequency check, sampled various bits and reported what was happening. People out there talk a lot about the sensations that this kind of product provokes, but you don’t hear anyone chatting about ‘benefits’.”
“They also explained to me that the market has predominantly a Buddhist cultural sensitivity, and people there learn how to be attentive to their inner sensations from an early age. You know, they practice a kind of mindful meditation.”
By that time we were all a little dizzy. “You know what guys,” said our Languages Director, slightly tipsy, “if you don’t listen, you speak nonsense. But if you can make sense of what people are actually saying in different markets and cultures, you can speak to them a lot more effectively.”
A Senior Project Manager added: “That’s how we’re different at Textappeal: we try to understand the local differences in how people think, talk and behave before we adapt a message.” Our CEO concluded: “Listen with two ears, speak with one mouth, in that proportion – brilliant! Perfect for my New Year’s resolution too, don’t you think?”
With that he rushed off to catch up with a client that wanted to know why their global corporate Twitter feed had less followers and shares than the competition.
The Greek yelled after him: “Don’t use the Irish line, boss. The client is Japanese and is allergic to your American-style emoting!”
“What should I do?” shot back the CEO as the elevator door closed.

“Maybe listen a little more than you talk, Chief,” came the answer.
Textappeal’s provides insightful listening for leading brands in over 120 languages. Contact us to find out how we can help you.

meditation, textappeal, newsroom, listening

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asian social media sites

The Most Popular Asian Social Media Channels

  |   CultureShocks Blog

In less than a couple of decades, social media has become a global phenomenon. Membership growth dramatically increases year over year, and our most trusted platforms have become lifestyle mainstays. Today, nearly one third of the planet is active on social, yet many brands still struggle with cross-marketing, hitting target audiences, and other social media challenges. Due to the undeniable popularity, the importance of social media cannot be overstated.

The tricky part is this: Social media usage is quite different across all major global markets. For instance, while Facebook is the largest social network in America, it is nowhere near as powerful in other parts of the world.

As the undisputed leaders of technological advances, Asia is a digital destination that is impossible to ignore. If your brand is looking to make an impact in this crucial corner of the world, take heed of the social platforms that are currently at the top.



In this Asian economic powerhouse, popular western social sites like Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter are somewhat inaccessible. Instead, companies like Tencent and Baidu have developed the region’s leading platforms. In China, messaging app QQ is the dominating force with 860 million users, and the blogging platform QZone is next up with 653 million users. Both of these sites, as well as the third most popular social site in China, are all owned by Tencent.

Yet despite this fact, the most active social mobile app in China throughout 2015 was Weibo and their 222 million users; 100 million of which are daily users.



The landscape is different here as major western networks Facebook and Twitter are widely used, but are far from the top rankings despite social media localisation. Google+ is in fact more popular than either of the aforementioned sites. Facebook actually functions as more of professional site like LinkedIn for its near 17 million Japanese users as only 34% of the country’s internet users are under 35. The reigning champ for social media in this region of the globe is a site called Line, boasting more than 50 million users. Line is a messaging app, not a traditional social network, but the site motivates users to follow brands and act upon their interests, which makes this an alluring option for retailers.


South Korea

While places like the UK and India share the same fascination with multilingual social media sites Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and Google+, South Korea is another place with destinations that are basically unheard of in the western world. These folks are the world leaders in internet connectivity, and a site called Kakao Talk reigns supreme with more than 48 million monthly active users. This app provides tools like access to free calls, multimedia messaging, and in-app shopping.



In Singapore, western networks are the dominating force, most specifically WhatsApp, which reaches 46% of the country’s citizens. In fact, the region’s next four most popular networks (Facebook, Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and Google+) all hail from the west as well.


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cross-cultural transcreation

Nissan’s Golf “Makeover” Taps Into Japanese Thirst for Endurance

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Most golf enthusiasts look at a round of 18 on the links as a relaxing way to spend an afternoon. The hazards, aside from wickedly slicing a ball into sand trap or lake, are few. But what would it be like to play on a course that offered a little more edge; where the hazards are sand dunes and waterfalls and instead of a golf cart you are asked to tear around from tee to tee in a SUV crossover?

A recent advertising promotion by Nissan did just that, by challenging Japanese car consumers as well as those with an affinity for adventure. The “X-Treme Golf Cup” pitted three competitors (out of 300 applicants) to play what the campaign billed as “18 holes of the most difficult golf ever played.” The players faced larger-than-life obstacles, such as braving deep caves, dense forests, and sheer cliffs over 1,934 kilometers during a 96 hour time period. The tournament’s grand prize was Nissan’s new X-Trail Hybrid—the same vehicle the three participants used to navigate the course. Check out Nissan’s short film on the challenge below:

In the 1 minute video, Nissan captures the appeal of why each golfer enjoys participating in such an outlandish event. (You can watch an extended version of the video here.) The agency responsible for the campaign, TBWA Hakuhodo, made a savvy decision when they decided on the creative path. Match the sensibilities of a Nissan crossover vehicle with gaman (我慢)—a term which loosely translates as “endurance.”

Gaman is a unique Japanese mentality. Derived from Zen Buddhist thought, the concept has a lot to do with surviving hardship and showing stoic endurance through difficult times. A write-up in The Australian following the devastating 2011 earthquake why gaman is an important cultural idea, that helps Japanese overcome natural disasters or simply find enjoyment in games where feats of mental and physical endurance are highly prized.

From the business world to the playground, gaman (also known as gaman kurabe, or a “test of wills”) dictates a cultural desire to persevere at any cost and to not be undone by any sort of challenge, large or small. It’s a competitive spirit that emerges at the slightest hint of any sort of personal challenge.

Apply the idea of gaman to a marketing campaign directed at young Japanese consumers, and it’s easy to see why coming up with the idea of the X-Treme Golf Cup was a no-brainer. Mastering golf is no easy task in of itself. Mix it with a course designed to challenge a person’s abilities, and Nissan gets a subtle, storytelling-driven car campaign that makes the brand instantly synonymous with endurance, without a need for hard marketing. The company’s softer angle toward product placement means the emphasis is not only about the car, but also about the adventure. In a day and age where endurance is what separates Japanese automobiles from the competition, Nissan gives itself an enduring new edge.

For more on cross-cultural transcreation and social media solutions, get in touch with: Sergio.arboledas@textappeal.com.

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lost in translation, translation blunder, translation fauxpas

Lost In Translation Competition

  |   CultureShocks Blog


Welcome to our new Facebook competition, “Lost in Translation”. We’ll be giving away 6 insightful books for the funniest #LostInTranslation pictures or examples from around the world.

1.     Marketing Across Cultures – Fons Trompenaars.

2.     Lost in Translation – Charlie Croker.

3.     Through the Language Glass (Why the world looks different in other languages) – Guy Deutscher.

Most brands have suffered blunders that have affected their reputation. It is important to consider cultural values, rules of conduct, humour and slang when promoting a product abroad. What you need is to get your brand’s message across in a way that will resonate well in different cultural contexts. Transcreation is the way to preserve brand integrity and minimise the risk of miscommunication or brand erosion.

#LostInTranslation examples can be found everywhere. Here we show some classic mistakes:

lost in translation, translation blunder, translation fauxpas

lost in translation, translation blunder, translation fauxpas

lost in translation, translation blunder, translation fauxpas


We are sure that you’ve come across some examples on your travels or when surfing the internet. Share them with us for a chance to win!

Terms & Conditions:

The promoter is: Textappeal Ltd (company no. 04514203 )] whose registered office is at 88 Goswell Road EC1V 7DB.
Employees of Textappeal LTD or their family members or anyone else connected in any way with the competition or helping to set up the competition shall not be permitted to enter the competition.
There is no entry fee and no purchase necessary to enter this competition.
Closing date for entry will be 14/08/2015. After this date the no further entries to the competition will be permitted.No responsibility can be accepted for entries not received for whatever reason.

The rules of the competition and the prize for each winner are as follows:

Users can only post 1 example per day.
Votes can be collected until 14/08/2015 at 12:00pm.
The winner whose example get more votes will get 3 books:

  1. Marketing Across Cultures – Fons Trompenaars.
  2. Lost in Translation – Charlie Croker.
  3. Through the Language Glass (Why the world looks different in other languages) – Guy Deutscher.

The 2nd winner will get two books:

  1. Marketing Across Cultures – Fons Trompenaars.
  2. Through the Language Glass (Why the world looks different in other languages) – Guy Deutscher.

The 3rd winner will get 1 book:

  1. Marketing Across Cultures – Fons Trompenaars.

The promoter reserves the right to cancel or amend the competition and these terms and conditions without notice in the event of a catastrophe, war, civil or military disturbance, act of God or any actual or anticipated breach of any applicable law or regulation or any other event outside of the promoter’s control. Any changes to the competition will be notified to entrants as soon as possible by the promoter.

The promoter is not responsible for inaccurate prize details supplied to any entrant by any third party connected with this competition.

No cash alternative to the prizes will be offered. The prizes are not transferable. Prizes are subject to availability and we reserve the right to substitute any prize with another of equivalent value without giving notice.

Winners will be chosen as a result of a popular vote conducted via social media sites.
The winner will be notified by Facebook and/or email within 28 days of the closing date. If the winner cannot be contacted or do not claim the prize within 14 days of notification, we reserve the right to withdraw the prize from the winner and pick a replacement winner.
The promoter will send the prize by post mail within 10 days after the notification.
The promoter’s decision in respect of all matters to do with the competition will be final and no correspondence will be entered into.
By entering this competition, an entrant is indicating his/her agreement to be bound by these terms and conditions.
The competition and these terms and conditions will be governed by English law and any disputes will be subject to the exclusive jurisdiction of the courts of England.
The winner agrees to the use of his/her name and image in any publicity material. Any personal data relating to the winner or any other entrants will be used solely in accordance with current UK data protection legislation and will not be disclosed to a third party without the entrant’s prior consent.
Entry into the competition will be deemed as acceptance of these terms and conditions.

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#SMday, How will you celebrate it?

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Today is the #SMday (Social Media day) and the best way to celebrate it is with a Social Media lunch introduced by Loveurope‘s Marketing Manager Stephanie Melodia where all attendees learnt interesting facts about how Social Networks are changing our lives.

smday 2015


To make the day funnier we have recorded a report with some members of the team.


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