• Carlie Sitzman MA, CT

Culture in Marketing: How Culture Impacts Consumer Reviews



Once you have found trending marketing content that works in your home country, identifying trending topics worldwide is an excellent way to expand your target audience. It may be tempting to simply have the trending content from your home country translated into the local language. Taking this approach could be a huge mistake, however, since content is nothing without its cultural and sociological environment. Foreign trends may be the same, similar with minor adaptations, or completely different. You will have to be aware of the many subtle ways in which the environment and culture in the target country differ from your own corner of the world. Hiring a translator specialized in marketing to perform trending content research for the target country can give you a huge advantage here.


This article is the first in a five-part series discussing how to adapt trending content research for foreign audiences. I will write from the perspective of someone in the United States researching trending content for Germany. This week’s article addresses reading reviews online to identify trending topics worldwide.


When combined with a thorough understanding of the local culture and language, reading reviews can be just as effective in foreign countries as it is in the United States. This is where a professional translator with marketing expertise comes in. A good translator should be able to find relevant reviews, translate them into English, and explain the cultural context to you in an understandable way. The way consumers present their opinions in reviews often mirrors how they interact with others in person in the respective country. Let’s take a look at Germany vs. the United States to get a feel for how this works.


United States

Imagine there is a woman in an American electronics store staring contemplatively at a box containing a very expensive laptop. If a man walks by who already owns that laptop and loves it, there is a high likelihood of him chatting with the woman to tell her about it. He might tell her how much he loves the laptop and recommend it very highly to her. If he hates the laptop, he would probably simply walk past the woman and complain to customer service. It is the same online. It is not unusual for an American who loves a product to go online and write a somewhat profuse review about how great it is. On the flip side, Americans may also treat reviews as a default customer service desk for complaints.


Germany

Now imagine there is a woman in a German electronics store staring contemplatively at a box containing a very expensive laptop. If a man walks by who already owns that laptop and loves it, there is a high likelihood that he will simply walk past and leave her alone. People in Germany tend to be very reserved. They do not share their opinions freely with complete strangers. If pressed, they may tell you if something is good or bad, but passionate favorable personal testimonials are rare. If something is bad, however, they will have much more of a tendency to air their grievances publicly. I suspect the hope here is to publicly shame and humiliate the culprit so they will do better next time.


Aftermath

An American marketing team that does not have this cultural background and collects a slew of reviews from Germany saying that a product “Worked well.”; “Did what it was supposed to.”; or “Is a good product.” might think people in Germany were not all that happy with the product. This perception might be further skewed by the fact that the negative reviews sound extremely negative. In reality, the lukewarm positive reviews are the equivalent of the profuse personal recommendations you might see from American consumers. At the same time, German complaints might look disproportionately more strident to an American marketing team than the equivalent American complaints.


These are just a few of the cultural differences you might run into while doing business in Germany. Consulting the relevant experts and cultivating your own cultural awareness will ensure that everything runs smoothly! If you are still wondering how to interpret online reviews from your German customers, contact me for a free needs assessment.