Addressing multicultural audiences is more than just translation

In May, SBS launched a new multilingual free-to-air news channel, SBS WorldWatch. The launch was spurred on by the fact that five million Australians speak a language other than English. For brands looking to improve their communication with culturally and linguistically diverse (CALD) audiences, the appeal of buying against these programs, and similar media, is clear.

Apart from multilingual TV channels like SBS WorldWatch, Australia also has about 200 print publications covering 47 communities, multicultural radio programs broadcast on more than 100 stations and 17 pay TV channels and streaming in seven languages ​​(for Chinese , Vietnamese, Filipino, Indian, Arabic, Italian and Greek communities).

As many brands begin to put more effort into marketing to CALD audiences, communicating with these audiences goes far beyond checking the “translation” box. Addressing audiences beyond the English language takes as much, if not more, effort than your communication written in English.

We’ve all heard horror stories about bad brand translations. In 2009, HSBC had to launch a $10 million rebranding campaign to undo the damage done when its slogan “Assume Nothing” was mistranslated to “Do Nothing” in various countries. Then there was Coors, who translated their slogan, “Turn It Loose,” into Spanish, where the phrase is a colloquial term for having diarrhea.


But successful multicultural marketing is about more than avoiding embarrassing translation errors. It’s not just the literal translations that brands need to get right when advertising in another language, but the whole context of the language and its surrounding culture.

Consider transcreation, which goes deeper and reflects more than just meaning, with carefully considered intent, style, tone, and context.

speak the right language

Even if you’ve already done some serious work on your multicultural marketing, it can be helpful to take a step back and analyze the specific languages ​​spoken by your chosen audience.

Understanding where they live can be the key to understanding their language. The Australian Bureau of Statistics website has a wealth of information from the national census, which has been analyzed by geographical areas.

Visit the ABS website and enter the name of the state, capital, suburb or even the electorate. The data page by region is useful, as well as the QuickStats search function. Brands can also contact ABS directly for assistance or to request custom data.

Other government agencies, such as the Home Office, collect and analyze data on people’s language preferences. Many local councils have done a detailed analysis of the languages ​​spoken in their community, which can be easily found by searching online.

Placing your campaign on the channels used by your chosen CALD target audience will increase your reach and ROI. Many migrants around the world use WhatsApp to communicate with relatives abroad, for example. If you’re targeting mainland Chinese audiences, consider Chinese social media.

E-commerce translation

E-commerce translation and localization are important factors to consider, especially if you’re looking to target foreign audiences. Representation matters a lot here – any models used should be authentic to the audiences you are targeting.

Consider how to frame your seasonal events and product description. You may need to use inclusive language when talking about Christmas offers in largely multicultural societies, for example. Moving to countries where a large portion of the population celebrates Diwali without including this thinking in your marketing strategy will mark your brand as an outsider. By addressing cultural needs such as translated content and multilingual staff, brands can quickly build loyalty among multicultural consumers.

While that may seem like a lot to consider, if you can get it right, the benefits will far outweigh the effort put in. Inclusion is a superpower that improves society as a whole through shared understanding, compassion, and connection. So whether you’re building a global business or tapping into a wider range of local customers, multicultural marketing is a must.

Mark Saba is the founder and CEO of LEXIGO

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