ULG's Language Services Blog

Multilingual.com: The Hidden Costs of Culturally Irrelevant Content

Posted by Nicholas McMahon


Originally published on Multilingual.com


Multicultural consumers are gaining more buying power, and they expect businesses to communicate with them in a way that’s authentic and relevant. When content fails to resonate culturally, it can alienate consumers in a competitive global market. Our team of linguistic experts identified four ways that culturally irrelevant content can cost your brand, and the solutions to effectively engaging with diverse audiences. 

What is culturally relevant content? 

Creating culturally relevant content requires a deep understanding of the cultural nuances of the audience you aim to engage with. Both demographic and psychographic elements within a culture influence how consumers connect with your brand. We refer to these factors as the Cultural Drivers of Engagement (CDE).  

 The CDE include:  

  • Demographic characteristics such as age, gender, education, and marital status
  • Native language  
  • Values and beliefs   
  • Social structures  
  • Economic status    

These factors are interconnected, forming a web that influences your target audience’s decision making. When your team strategically connects the intersecting elements of the CDE that impacts your target consumers, you can create culturally relevant content that resonates with them and persuades them to act. 

Organizations that don’t understand these factors may see the following negative impacts on their business and their brand.  

Low Customer Engagement Online  

Consumer expectations and preferences vary across cultures. If the localized version of your website isn’t getting the results that you’d hoped for in that target market, the problem may be cultural. 

Simply translating the words used in the English version of your website is not always enough to connect with multilingual, multicultural audiences. You may also need to adjust items such as the images, design or layout of your website. 

For example: many Japanese consumers value information, and they prefer websites with text-heavy design, flashy banners, multiple columns, and many small images. Conversely, U.S. web visitors tend to prefer a simple, streamlined aesthetic.  

 If your website doesn’t reflect your audiences’ preferences, they’re less likely to engage with it.   

If you’re getting visitors but your conversion rates are low, evaluate your web content and strategy through a cultural lens and adjust if needed. If you don’t have the resources to do this on your own, partnering with a team of experts in international SEO and localization can help identify elements that may be causing friction. 

Increased Customer Support Calls  

If your company is receiving a disproportionate number of requests or repeat calls from customers in specific linguistic or cultural groups, that’s a sign that the content you have available is not serving that group well. Providing culturally relevant content in the appropriate languages can reduce the need for customers to contact you.  

 When they do call in, creating culturally tailored experiences for them can improve both customer support KPIs and customer satisfaction. For example, our Direct Connect program enables customers to return phone calls and immediately reach an agent who speaks their native language. We also support our clients by designing and implementing culturally-tailored interactive voice response (IVR) scripts and innovative call flows that make interpreting services easier and faster to access.  

We’ve found this enables multilingual consumers to access the information they are looking for and reduces frustration when they do need one-on-one assistance. 

Poor Customer Outcomes  

In some sectors, like healthcare, culturally irrelevant content impacts consumers’ lives directly.  

 Consumers may be unable to access vital information about their health, preventative care or medications if they can’t read the instructions or struggle to communicate with healthcare providers. They may not understand their insurance coverage and the benefits available to them or be unable to access insurance coverage at all. 

This results in poorer health outcomes for these groups, contributing to health inequities. It also results in low satisfaction scores, increased complaints and problems with retention for the organizations involved. For insurance providers, Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) STAR ratings can also drop, since member experience counts for 57% of the overall rating.  

Our team has successfully addressed these issues with a mix of tactics including culturally tailored marketing, working with local influencers, partnering with community groups, and in-person bilingual and bicultural support.  

This focus on relevance has helped our healthcare clients achieve the following:  

Low Sales in New Target Markets  

If you’re struggling to gain traction in a new market, the disconnect may be cultural. Pampers diapers initially struggled in the Japanese market. Post-launch research showed that the packaging, which featured a stork delivering diapers, didn’t resonate with Japanese parents because it did not reflect their cultural traditions.  

Procter & Gamble redesigned both the packaging and the product to better suit Japanese parents. Sales improved so much that Pampers is now one of the top diaper brands in Japan.   

Tailored strategies for multicultural, multilingual customers increase engagement and avoid the pitfalls of one-size-fits-all marketing strategies that don’t resonate.   

Raising cultural intelligence with AI  

Aligning your content strategy to resonate with diverse audiences is easier than ever thanks to the advent of artificial intelligence (AI). Many of our clients have also found success through an AI-driven approach. 

AI doesn’t replace human insight in marketing, it augments it by making cultural insights more accessible and actionable. This technology excels at processing data, and that means it can quickly unravel the intricate web of cultural drivers that influence consumer behavior. For example, AI analysis of in-language customer service support data can assist in identifying underlying patterns and inform the creation of a better customer experience. 

 We also utilize AI and Machine Translation technology to facilitate creating content that not only speaks the language of your audience but resonates with their values, traditions, and expectations. Our team’s current approach includes a human touch, as we believe a mix of technology and humans creates a strategic and balanced approach that truly connects with consumers. This shift from a one-size-fits-all approach to a more nuanced strategy means higher engagement, deeper connections, and a significant increase in market share. 

Turning cultural intelligence into action   

The future belongs to culturally intelligent brands that can take advantage of the latest technology to create content that resonates with their multicultural audience. If you’re not sure where your organization stands, we’ve developed a quiz to gauge your level of cultural intelligence.  

 To build your organization’s CDE prowess, we encourage you to learn more about these tools and use them to evaluate and improve the content your brand creates for your multilingual, multicultural audience.  

Our guide to the CDE framework and how you can use it to create culturally relevant content is available for download now