With 70% of global GDP growth predicted to come from emerging markets by 2025 according to research from Thomson Reuters, businesses both large and small are increasingly focusing their resources on international expansion. Indeed, a recent SDL study found that one in 10 businesses are looking to expand their marketing activities into countries including China, Brazil and India.

Of course, these are not small markets – with over 1 billion people in China alone, the task ahead is mammoth. And it’s made no easier when considering the lack of connectivity – only 66% of people in Brazil are connected to the Internet. In China, the figure is just half of the population (52%) and in India, it’s a mere third (35%).

With this in mind, how do marketers navigate these differences to achieve cut-through?

Make the most of online assets

If internet access is limited in emerging markets, ensuring that information is easy to find, digest and most importantly, share via word of mouth is essential to spreading brand messages and increasing conversions.

For example, according to Mintel, over half (51%) of Chinese consumers agree that reviews are important to them when choosing where to shop for imported products online. However, our Market Reach Calculator found that two thirds (64%) of companies do not translate their reviews – a clear opportunity missed.

Meanwhile, digital advertising and marketing agency Agencia Click suggests that 2.6 million Brazilians have a blog that they update daily. Yet fewer than half (48%) of companies translate their blog content for foreign audiences.

Not all assets will be as important to each market, but it’s vital that marketers don’t immediately dismiss content translation before considering their target audience.

It’s also worth noting that many emerging markets have leapfrogged desktop connectivity to go straight to mobile data. Having responsive designs for all assets – from websites, to email – will help proliferate your brand further, while also keeping translation costs down by minimising the amount of content required.

Hyper-localise – one size does not fit all

You’d be forgiven for considering China, Brazil or India as individual markets – but marketers do this at their peril. The reality is that, given their immense size both in terms of landmass and population, these countries actually represent multiple smaller markets, split by cultural and linguistic differences.

In China, for example, the country is split into ‘tiered’ cities, speaking one of five main dialects. Beijing in the North is predominantly Mandarin, while Guangzhou in the South speaks Cantonese. Shanghai in the East has Shanghainese, which sits within the Wu dialect.

India operates a similar tiered city system, and has an incredible 23 official languages – and many, many more dialects.

Given this diversity, marketers will likely reap more rewards if they focus their efforts geographically on clusters of cities instead of spreading resources too thinly to cover the entire country. If they can attain a substantial market share in one region, their success will reach a tipping point that starts a virtuous cycle.

Test your messages

While it’s important to maintain a brand image and tone of voice across borders, not everything translates – you may well find that messages that delivered strong results in developed markets fail in emerging markets because they don’t take note of differences in values.

A great example is Acer China who tested a slogan ‘Simplify my life’ as part of a campaign emphasising how affordable their PCs were. It didn’t resonate. After further exploration, it became clear that the focus on price was arousing suspicion among Chinese consumers that the products might not perform reliably. Normally considered a big-ticket purchase, PC durability was far more important than being cheap. The brand changed their strategy and quickly doubled their market share.

Marketing to emerging markets is no easy feat, with numerous cultural and linguistic differences to take into account to ensure your campaigns fly instead of dive. But the businesses that take the time to understand these intricacies and invest in localised strategies will ultimately be the ones who get ahead of the curve and reap the rewards.


By Robert Gorby, vice president of SMB Business at SDL

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