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Sunday, 3 May 2015

The grand return of German in marketing

Over the past 5 years I've noticed a clear increase in the demand for German. In basically everything: website translations, SEO, set-up of paid advertising, you name it. 

Nothing new under the sun: businesses go where the market is thought to be. 

Lately though I do notice something new: enthusiasm.

The demand for the translation is not always just for strategic reasons, but also for liking the language. 

Or for feeling connected to those who speak it. 

Sure, both are related. We tend to see a culture or country that is economically strong in a more positive light in other domains too. And for sure an Angela Merkel has topped up the existing 'perception of the brand' from mere Reliability... with Likeability.

As all great Brands know: nothing can make you successful as being loved. Do not push but pull

The main expression that springs to mind though is: Cultural Determination. 

Or: our opinions and feelings are only the average of those around us. And fluctuate. 

In this, a language is absolutely no different from the rise and fall of a celebrity or a trend or a song in the pop charts: all things go through a wave of being seen as hip/cool/beautiful/trendy/great to the opposite - and, sometimes, back again.

Today, yes, even 12-year olds here in Brussels might still say that 'German is an ugly language'. But they no longer connect it to 70 years of movies reducing it to one trademark only. The negative reputation is slowly fading. It might be the very last tiny waves on the beach of collective prejudices

People born before WW2 never thought or think of it as being 'ugly'. On the contrary, for them it often was and still is the language of Europe's great composers, finest poets and most influential thinkers. A European nonagenarian can drop expressions in German, just as a teenager does in English. 'Fingerspitzengef√ľhl' they will say, or 'ins blauen hinein', savoring the sweet confirmation that this establishes them as being cultured. Or plugged in with society. 

It's funny that it's never a 'small' language that is named 'beautiful': only ever one of a very large country or very dominant culture. To the victor go the spoils: the attention goes to the beauty of that language, over the heads of that of any other. Its marketing is better.

For sure a language can be spoken beautifully or poorly. Some languages come with a very strong emphasis on the importance of speaking well, in other languages that's less the case. 

If the operas had been written in Finnish, we would all go: "What a beautiful language, how... musical"! Large sections of any society would be 'Finophile'. Others would scratch their heads and have to admit: "True, sauna... that's a nice word". Next thing you know we might focus on the beautiful sounds - and the language is on our radar. 

Sure, being liberated by the Finnish would hugely help. Their prime minister motivating Europe during dark nights. Their tall, brave soldiers distributing chewing gum. The Halo Effect kicks in and in a matter of 2 generations it will be the lingua franca of Europe. 

Where was I? O yes, the German language.

Very, very slowly - and for sure in some 10-20 years completely - we are once again entering a world in which the German shepherd does not have to be renamed in 'Alsatian', a royal family such as the British one doesn't have to change their name overnight for it sounding too German... and it can simply be the great language of Goethe again, of van Beethoven and the Lorelei. 

That in itself is a historic step.
It's how history actually works. Not by grand deeds on specific dates, but as a very, very slow river that takes a century to arrive in a very, very calm sea under a blue, sunny sky. 


You'd think that nothing has happened, but someting has. 

All together now: 

"Wundersch√∂n"! 

Bernardus



Friday, 1 May 2015

What website languages to use by 2025?

Ever since 2008 my inbox keeps flashing the words 'German', 'Dutch', 'Danish', 'Norwegian' at me.

As well as requests for Advertising in Germany, Holland and all Scandinavian countries. 

But that's today. What about the future?  Worldwide: personally I predict the return of the importance of the languages of our neighbouring countries. For the pendulum always swings back (in this case from mondialisation to deepening of own culture).

For Europe, the GlobalEurope Anticipation Bulletin, not just any source, predicts: 

1. A great comeback of German 2. Increase of importance of Russian 3. And, for communication outside of Europe, Spanish

They do indeed seem to be safe bets. Just safe bets obviously don't often result in much return, if any, so as small business owner you want to investigate and improve the chances.

Better it is...

To definitely first perform research around you
To people who represent your typical or future target market (not friends or relatives or whatever online forum). 

For example: I love working with web designers from India. But if I need a website for Brussels, the web designer just needs to come from there too: it's a Must that he/she lives and breathes the cultural opinions regarding quality, reliability, Golden Ratio, what constitutes a trust maker or breaker - etc.

Most communication is unspoken, it's already part of the fabric of a segment of society.

Still better it is...

To be clever.
Predictions as the one above create more competition. Such a serious prediction is read by tens of thousands, who talk about it to others, which quickly spreads over millions of articles... so rest assured that by 2025 everyone might target exactly the same languages/markets again.

Just as half of Europe is targeting Scandinavia in Google Adwords today - making that the cost per click is extremely expensive.

It's never the popularity of the language that makes a translation or knowledge of a language beneficial to you: it's the niche as well as being ahead of others.

Being ahead of others is a very clear advantage. It were the first who went onto YouTube, the first who started with a mobile website, that were able to increase their market share.

And being clever is that other pillar of all online marketing. Far better it is to target a language spoken in a country that, say, represents only 2% of the world population but stands for 4% of its GDP - and not 0.1% of the world can translate back or to this language. Etc.

I read the story about a Briton who learned Dutch. Yes, a Briton who learned Dutch. Take a moment to ponder about that. And wonder if you would have guessed that it also makes him more successful and more in demand than thousands of others who also offer more language combinations. For maybe only 1% of the market will demand a native speaker for the end language - but he's got that market completely to himself.

Even better it is...

It ain't what you do, it's the way that you do it!

It might be far better to target one extra language, than a 100 of them. For whatever the sport, the field of study, the craftsmanship or anything else in life: you have to be the best to win. Or at the very least better than others.

Marketing is all about emotional connection.

You won't connect with any website visitor with poor translations, only a bit with insipid ones, only averagely if the seriousness or cultural knowledge is average, and so on. You want to really connect on a very high level with (possibly) the ideal segment of the highest level of your target market.

Why even learn a language or translate a website - if we all speak English anyway? Well, did you ever try to get a mass audience on the dance floor? Or make them change from sitting there having a good time - to sing along and having a great time? What is that one moment that they do so? They can like or even love a whole evening in any language - but it's only a song in the own language that creates a shudder: 

Language is not merely a communication tool: it comes with a very strong emotional connection: it's a communicational knife slicing through the rational brain straight to the limbic system and beyond.

Any person addressing any other person in his or her own language, has a very strong advantage: the potential for an emotional click. In marketing: an increase in likeability, memorability, reliability, conversion. 


And it's not about whether or not there's a connection: but its quality. The quality of your connection or profitability will only be as good as the quality of the language used.

After all, it's enthusiasm that connects and sells, quality sells, reliability sells - not any order of any alphabet. 

Bernardus