ULG's Language Services Blog

Six Signs That Your Brand Experiences Are Not Culturally Relevant

As businesses expand into new markets, they’re engaging with more multicultural consumers than ever before.  According to Collage Group, these consumers are more likely to support brands that are relevant to them, as demonstrated by the cultural authenticity and diversity of their brand experiences.   

Cultural intelligence -- the ability to understand the influence of culture on behavior and to use this knowledge to engage effectively with people from different cultural backgrounds -- is the key to constructing these relevant experiences.  

How do you know if your organization needs to improve its cultural intelligence? We’ve developed a quiz to gauge your level of cultural intelligence, but there are also some characteristic ways it can impact your business.  

Here are six signs that your current localization efforts are not creating the culturally relevant brand experiences your audience desires.

Your product is failing in your target market   

Sometimes a product simply doesn’t gain traction in another market, often because of a gap in cultural understanding.   

When Procter & Gamble launched Pampers in Japan, they originally used packaging featuring a stork delivering diapers, just as they did in the American market. However, Japanese consumers weren’t buying. Follow-up research revealed the reason: Japanese parents were confused by the stork imagery, which did not reflect their cultural traditions.  

After learning from their initial error, Procter & Gamble redesigned both their marketing and the product itself to better meet the needs of Japanese parents. Pampers is now one of the top diaper brands in Japan.  

There was no such happy ending for Walmart in Germany. The American retailer abandoned the German market completely after they discovered that their store experience was not aligned with how German consumers prefer to shop. 

Low customer engagement online 

If the local language version of your website isn’t getting results from your target market, you might have a cultural relevance problem.  

If you are getting visitors but they are not converting, your website may not be providing a relevant experience for them. You might ask whether your page design, page colors, or messaging is optimal for that culture. For example, Japanese websites often have flashy banners, lots of text, multiple columns, many small images, and an overall cluttered, crowded look — vastly different from the clean aesthetic North Americans are used to. If you aren’t getting much traffic, you might also have a problem with your SEO – is it local or did you just translate your keywords?  

You might also have a cultural relevance problem if your localized social media pages are so quiet you can hear a pin drop.  Is your target audience even on that channel? Do they prefer memes over videos?  

Since consumer expectations and preferences vary across cultures, it’s important to craft culturally relevant brand experiences to drive engagement.  

If you’re seeing low rates of customer engagement, consider it a sign to re-evaluate and adjust your approach using a cultural lens.  

Increased customer support calls 

If you notice an increased number of customer support calls coming in from one specific audience, this indicates a disconnect between their needs and your current approach. Something about your message or the delivery simply isn’t connecting, resulting in confusion and increased inquiries. Improve the way you communicate, and your customers will need less one-on-one support.   

Creating a culturally relevant support experience can also improve both your customer support KPIs and overall customer satisfaction.  

Customer attrition  

According to CSA Research, 75% of global consumers say that “they’re more likely to purchase the same brand again if customer care is in their language.” 

But the reverse is also true. When customers encounter brand experiences that don’t meet their expectations, they may not return.  If you’re seeing a lack of customer loyalty driving renewed contracts, then it might be because they connect with someone else’s brand better.  

Poor Customer Outcomes 

If an experience isn’t culturally relevant, then lives can be affected, especially in healthcare.  Customers can fail to receive the information they need about medicines or disease prevention, misunderstand insurance information, or have confusing and unclear communications with a doctor.  

This can manifest in low satisfaction scores, increased complaints, and problems with retention. For insurance plans, CMS STAR ratings can also drop, since member experience counts for 57% of the overall rating.  

For example, our team worked with a major health insurer experiencing low completion rates for Health Risk Assessments (HRAs) in hard-to-reach member populations. This impacted their ability to encourage preventative care to keep these members healthy, as well as their CMS STAR rating. After designing and implementing a culturally relevant call center experience and outreach strategies, their HRA completion rates shot up 23% in one month.  

This demonstrates how culturally adapting your outreach and customer care procedures can improve outcomes.  

In another example, our team designed a community engagement initiative targeting Spanish speakers to help a major health insurer better serve their customer. By partnering with local influencers, utilizing the preferred channels of their customers, and holding community events, we helped them improve healthcare insurance literacy, and educated them about the availability of low-cost plans.  

Low sales in the new market  

To quote Nataly Kelly of Born to Be Global, “Local go-to-market fit is just as important as local product-market fit.” If you’re not seeing the sales growth you expect in a particular market, the problem may be how your organization relates to the people that make up that market.  

Culturally irrelevant marketing and communications can cause misunderstandings and damage your audience’s trust in you.  This, in turn, can impact sales.  

To fix these problems, organizations must deepen their understanding of how culture drives engagement.  

How to boost cultural intelligence and design culturally relevant brand experiences with the Cultural Drivers of Engagement (CDE)  

The Cultural Drivers of Engagement are the factors within a culture that affect how a customer engages with a company, such as their language, demographics, belief system, and the way they research, shop and purchase. 

Organizations can build their internal cultural intelligence by learning about and applying the CDE and using them to evaluate and improve their brand experiences at every touchpoint.   

Translation and localization are steps on the path to culturally relevant experiences, but they can’t take you all the way. If you’re unaware of the Cultural Drivers of Engagement (CDE), you will fail to connect with your customers, even when you’re speaking their language.  

The CDE framework provides deeper insight into what motivates your target audience, so you can create experiences that connect. It can guide new localization efforts to success. And if you’re struggling in an existing market, it can help you pinpoint the root cause and correct your course. 

Our team has put together a guide to help you learn more about the CDE framework and how your organization can use it to drive community engagement. Download it for free here. For more hands-on assistance, book a consultation with one of our experts today.