On the face of it, you might think the process of localising your UK website and marketing materials for the US market would be a walk in the park. Change an ‘s’ into a ‘z’ here and there, remove the odd ‘u’ and you’re done, right? If only life were that easy.
Just watching an American television programme, reading an American newspaper or listening to the way they pronounce the words route as ‘rout’ and buoy as ‘boo-ee’, and you’ll soon understand there are far greater differences at play.
Localisation is the process of adapting a product or content to meet the language, cultural and other requirements of a specific locale or target market. So clearly, the translation of your copy into American-English is certainly a key step in the process; but Americanising your brand is actually a much more complicated task.
These are some of the key differences at play…
- Americans are warm-hearted and less inclined to swear
The social news and entertainment website Buzzfeed has taken the internet by storm in the past couple of years. As a publisher of huge amounts of content on both sides of the Atlantic, it has found that some material which works well in the US dies a death in the UK. Typically, the heart warming stories that are designed to restore your faith in humanity go down a storm in the US, but fall flat with the stony-hearted UK audience. Buzzfeed also cranks up the coarse language in the UK because apparently we all love a good swear!
- Americans respond well to the hard-sell
If you’ve ever watched an American television commercial, you’ll probably have been shocked by the simplicity and brazenness of the message. In the UK, advertisers have to create a story to advertise their products, almost to the extent that they’re not advertising at all. The product is introduced almost as an afterthought, slipped in apologetically at the end of the ad so as not to pique the sensibilities of the British public.
A British ad:
If you want to make any sort of headway in the American market, you’d be best served leaving your British sensibilities at home. Most US advertisements, websites and marketing materials rely on the hard-sell. The product is displayed front and centre with benefits hurled at the buyer. Techniques such as comparative tests with competitors are also common.
An American ad:
Talk their language
Although there are doubtless similarities between British and American culture, localising the terms you use in your copy, for example changing words like trousers to pants and bespoke to custom-made, can help the audience relate to your content. Talking the audience’s language is a key element of communicating with, and engaging your audience, so don’t use words that won’t chime with your readership.
This extends to cultural references which might not necessarily apply to the US market. For example, while talking about the Superbowl and waffles might not wash over here, the cup final and a good pie probably won’t mean much to them. Focusing on unfamiliar events, such as the recent floods in Cumbria, would also be a missed opportunity to align your brand with the zeitgeist in America.
How can we help?
You might think that an automated translation tool that ‘translates’ your UK copy into American-English is enough to break into the US market, but you really are missing a trick. The localisation and transcreation service at Linguistica International can help you tap into the cultural zeitgeist and strike an emotional chord with your readership. Our talented copywriters can even write original American copy to help you transcend those cultural and linguistic barriers.