The scene is a familiar one: A conversation is underway about a topic or issue in which you have minimal, if any, knowledge. You want to contribute, show you’re involved, give your audience the impression the discussion isn’t lost on you.
Unfortunately, it is. You nod and smile, but you’re not up to par on the topic, and you feel incompetent.

The same goes for businesses large and small, trying to zero in on the specific aspects that identify target markets. They’re in the space, trying to engage in the topic, but just can’t connect due to lack of competence.

In the world of global communications, finding success in the realm of cultural adaptation is paramount. The scenarios don’t have to be grand; a simple word choice could be the difference between skyrocketing profits or potentially offending an entire demographic.

Hit The Mark or Lose Your Bottom Line

When the physical and mental well-being of patients or customers is at stake, businesses need to pay close attention to the clarity and relevance of the communication. Being competent in the knowledge, the emotion, and the culture of the audience will make all the difference in hitting the mark or losing the bottom line.

Take for instance CQ fluency’s assistance for a healthcare company with a need to translate materials from English to Spanish. Easy, right?

Not so fast.

The client’s English version used an acronym to create visual type connecting a word with a phrase. See it:

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Now, to push the same campaign into the Spanish-speaking market, there were two clear challenges: acronyms are seldom used in Spanish; and translation for the word “desirable” brought with it a sexual connotation in the foreign tongue. Not exactly the message an organization wants to convey when speaking about a physical illness.

Enter a host of Spanish-speaking linguists and copywriters, and a list of word choices to properly convey the message and keep the visual aspect intact was created.

For the English-only readers, “Agradable” means “pleasant,” and the new material art shows a boy and his grandmother spending time together. See it:

Had the company went on its way with a simple translation based on letters rather than meaning and emotion, an entire market of Spanish-speaking customers (the target audience, mind you) would not have only been lost, but likely offended by the pharmaceutical company.

Focus on the Market, Not the Product

There are two focal points when culturally adapting marketing materials, including:

  1. What is most appealing to a given ethnic population.
  2. What could potentially be offensive to that population.

The translated materials shown above hit the mark on both points. How important is it to be competent in the multicultural landscape? It’s a matter of dollars and sense.

The current multicultural market in the United States is comprised of more than 110 million people, nearly a quarter of which are considered “limited” in their understanding of the English language. Adding to the breadth of the market, 149 foreign languages are spoken in the United States.

Break it down further and you’ll see that each culture has its own health barriers; illnesses and diseases may be more prevalent in specific demographics, making clear, targeted healthcare communications that much more important when delivered.

For instance, American Latinos – natives of Latin America and their descendants now living in the United States – suffer from higher rates of diabetes and are nearly twice as likely to die from the disease than their non-Hispanic, white counterparts.
Mexican-American women tend to be overweight at almost twice the rate of non-Hispanic white women. In addition to those prevalent issues, the Hispanic and Latino community is less likely to seek and receive treatment to maintain healthy vitals due to lack of awareness of symptoms.

Know The Market, Win The Day

Let’s go back to the conversation with your peers and how your lack of knowledge on the topic limited your participation. What if you were competent on the issue; knew that one informed comment could change the entire scenario? That’s the difference between a business that knows its market and one that’s just taking up space without delivering solutions. Don’t just nod and smile; engage and interact. Know the market, win the day.