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Running a global brand has unique opportunities, and unique challenges. When a brand spans country lines, crosses oceans, and transcends language barriers, a brand manager has their work cut out for them. One of the biggest questions they have to answer is, how do you handle content marketing on a global scale? Content marketing can be one of the most effective tools in a brand marketing toolbox, but executing it successfully for such a large audience can be tricky. Tricky, but eminently achievable. Let’s get into it.
At this point, every brand marketer is quite familiar with the strategy of content marketing, the practice of expanding your business’s reach by creating and sharing valuable content. That content can take many different forms, from blog posts to physical magazines to newsletters to podcasts and beyond, but they’re all intended to bring new people to your brand.
It’s logical, then, that global content marketing is the practice of developing and sharing relevant, valuable content to an audience across different countries, with the goal of acquiring new customers globally. However, global content marketing is much more complex than simply taking the content marketing you’re doing in one country and copying it elsewhere.
In order to create content that resonates with a particular audience, content creators need to understand who that audience is. They often do this by creating different segments, or “customer personas,” and crafting content tailored to each. This can be simple enough if you’re looking at a relatively well-defined area: say, women in urban European cities. But when you’re trying to reach people all over the world, in all kinds of different cities and countries and environments, it gets trickier.
For global brands, content marketing requires creating and tailoring content to a much wider and more diverse public, and understanding how your audience differs from country to country. They need to adapt to the specific landscape of each location, while also remaining true to their core brand identity and supporting key business goals. Done right, it can result in a strategic approach that strengthens brand image around the globe and cultivates engaged, loyal customers worldwide.
With global content marketing, one of the biggest challenges is determining whether decisions should be made at the global level or the local level. While it would be nice if there were a simple answer to this question, it’s much more nuanced than that. A global, top-down approach can result in content that falls flat or even offends in certain markets; a hyper-local, individualized approach can undermine brand consistency and business goals. Truly successful global marketers understand that they cannot choose one path or another, but rather must implement a set of strategies and tactics that strike the right balance for success:
Just because you can’t copy/paste content strategy from one country to another doesn’t mean that each local team should operate independently. Your brand is, after all, one brand supporting one set of business goals. To marry these two seemingly competing factors, it’s important to get all global teams on the same page about the big things: company goals and KPIs, new launches, big campaigns or events, and so on. Teams around the world need to coordinate with one another, sharing editorial calendars to ensure that they support and synergize with one another and avoid any sort of conflict, contradiction, or inadvertent cannibalization. Having a robust internal communication strategy in place, as well as a well-oiled project and task management tool, makes this task easier.
Despite the word “global,” global content marketing doesn’t mean speaking to every single type of person in every corner of the world. Rather, it means that there are specific types of people in specific places worldwide that you’re targeting. To begin defining your global content marketing approach, you must know who — and where — those people are. You can learn this important information by diving into the analytics of your website and social media channels to see where in the world visitors are coming from, and determine from there which markets are worth investing in. Once you’ve nailed down the “where,” go a step further by understanding which sub-segments exist in each country. For instance, you can’t treat all of your Japanese customers as the same type of person; rather, develop personas for several different types of customers within each market worldwide. You can use analytics, surveys, interactive content, social listening, and interviews, among other techniques, to define these segments.
People in different countries, unsurprisingly, have different media consumption and communication behaviors. Once you know where your global audience is, take a look on a country-by-country level to determine which websites, social networks, and other digital channels people use where. There are in-depth reports that can shed insights on digital behavior and expectations in different countries, and you can also do your own research to understand which platforms succeed in which markets.
Part of the challenge of managing a global brand is adjusting your tone, voice, and message to different locations without compromising your brand identity. To do this successfully in content marketing, marketers need to have a solid understanding of the core of their brand — the vision, the values, the goals — and use that as a guidepost while they craft content that’s suited to the personality, habits, and expectations of their local audience.
If you’re a United States-based brand trying to reach a German market, you need to speak to that market in, well, German. That may seem obvious, but only about two-thirds of content marketers localize content in more than one language, and just 25% localize in more than five languages. Given that it would take 83 languages to reach 80% of all the people in the world, this is a pretty dismal showing. It’s also leaving a lot on the table: 94% of people say it weakens their impression of a brand if the brand’s content isn’t localized to their language, and 72% say they would be more likely to buy a product that speaks to them in their own language. People today demand authenticity and connection from their brands, and this simply cannot be achieved if you’re speaking a foreign language or sticking your messaging into a translation software. Of course, this doesn’t mean you need to have 83 different local content marketing teams, but it does mean that you need to invest in hiring people who speak the native tongue in all of your major markets.
Dive into your analytics to understand how well your global content marketing initiative is working, and adjust your strategy in real-time to optimize your content. Look at metrics like engagement, traffic, and conversions to get a sense of exactly what’s working and what isn’t, and make changes from there. What’s great about global content marketing is that, since you have different approaches in different local markets, you can take learnings from one country and apply it to another.
Content is king, as they say, and the rise of the Internet gives every brand the opportunity to be a global brand. That means that, if you master the art of global content marketing, your brand can truly be king of the world.
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