How emotion-driven multilingual marketing campaigns improved our brand growth in 2021

How emotion-driven multilingual marketing campaigns improved our brand growth in 2021

September 23, 2021

By Ofer Tirosh

How emotion-driven multilingual marketing campaigns improved our brand growth in 2021


In such a bustling and often chaotic marketing environment, when we are deluged with advertisements on a moment-by-moment basis wherever we are, how can you make sure your brand stands out?

A great way is by tapping into a major component of the consumer’s attention span and purchasing decision-making — their feelings.

People feel. As much as we wish we didn’t, say after a painful breakup or during a terrifying rollercoaster ride, we can’t help but experience emotions. It’s part of our nature.

This is one of the reasons emotional marketing works so universally.

Out of 1,400 successful advertising campaigns, those with purely emotional content performed about twice as well (31% vs. 16%) as those with only rational content.

Emotional marketing can be summed up as heart over mind. It helps people decide with their feelings, which has been proven to have more influence on buying than their intellect.

So what is emotional marketing?

Put simply, emotional marketing is advertising and promotion of a brand, a service, or products that are focused on encouraging the audience to notice, like, remember, share, and buy, based primarily on their gut feelings. 

“The very first reaction to any emotional marketing campaign is almost always the strongest and the longest lasting for our client’s customers,” said Ofer Tirosh, CEO of Tomedes, experts in localization services. “What may be construed as a funny video parody in the U.S., may translate badly into Asian culture and cause outrage on social media. So in planning for any cross-border international campaign, it is really important companies do their research into the local language, customs, and culture, to really get to understand the unique personality of their audience.”

In a well-thought-out and positive campaign, the ability to touch feelings at the basic human level can build a very positive, lasting, and loyal relationship with your customers. On the flip-side, it is hard to always get it right, and if seen as inappropriate, distasteful, or insincere, it can leave your brand open to unwelcome negative scrutiny.

We will show you some good and bad examples, to help you consider the differences in translation and culture for successful engagement. We go on to explore the seven ‘commonly shared emotions’, and how local cultural research is the key to using these emotions to connect with diverse audiences.


The good, the bad, and the unintentionally funny in marketing and translation

Make them laugh, for more shares, make them cry and they’ll buy, make them surprised, and they’ll stay loyal, and make them angry and you’ll go viral. These are the truisms that should feed into solid strategies for on-point emotional marketing and storytelling.

We’ll look at some good examples of advertising that worked for their brands.

Always #Likeagirl 

Always is a company best known for selling feminine products. In a flash of marketing genius, they turned the age-old insult ‘like a girl’ on its head, by launching an entire campaign celebrating all the achievements of women in the world. The campaign was a positive success, won a lot of hearts, ...and new customers.

World Wide Fund for Nature.

The WWF doesn’t pull any (gut) punches when it comes to campaigning about the negative effects of climate change, deforestation, or industrial damage to the natural world. They’re famous for evoking anger, fear, or awe, with their images and content, and have been very successful in calling their audience to action.

Apt and clever targeting of customers’ feelings is very effective as long as the meaning and intent aren’t lost in translation. Here are a couple of examples where a completely unintended emotion (and blushes for the translators) were provoked.

Even multinational giants, with millions of dollars to spend on their brands and messaging, can make unintentionally offensive mistakes in translation.

Take KFC, the international fast-food giant. Most of us associate their brand with their famous slogan “Finger-lickin’ good!”.

When opening up in Asia, KFC clearly didn’t work with the right translators for the China market. When translated into Chinese the slogan took on the sinister meaning “Eat your fingers off!”, which isn’t very appetizing. KFC did learn the lessons of the translation faux pas, and have since fully localized their services for Chinese languages, with no fingers being reported lost.

The state of California Milk Processor Board had an incredibly successful campaign in North America with the simple question “Got Milk?”. The campaign was expanded south of the border to Mexico, with a near calamitous effect. The literal Spanish translation for “Got milk?” is “¿Tienes leche?”, which reads as “Are you lactating?”. Red faces all around.

These examples show us how critical high-quality marketing translations that reflect and respect your local customer’s culture can be the difference between your brand going viral, versus your content getting ignored, or lost in translation.


Aren’t our emotions universal? How do they vary between different languages and cultures?

The science of the human condition contains many classifications for our feelings, and this only gets more complex and detailed when we factor in cross-cultural nuances. It is often hard to pin down what we mean by universal emotions. The American psychologist Paul Ekman determined that there are seven basic emotions that are common to us all.

These are anger, contempt, disgust, fear, happiness, sadness, and surprise.

How our ubiquitous emotions apply in different cultures varies according to local factors, education, religion, linguistics, and culture. It is how to make emotional campaigns work for these regional variations that marketers really need to understand. Research needs to be conducted on a country-by-country basis with the help of local linguist experts to convert general opinions into something specific that can be used for the basis of marketing. Brands should consider, and address, the deeper motivations of their customers—and always keep in mind these stimuli do change across borders and with different cultures.

As an example, In Japan, where emotions are suppressed in favor of rationality, and logic, raw reactions to stimuli are frowned upon. It is less popular to appeal to individualism and aspiration, as to an extent being different, and deviance from the larger societal group is met with resistance. That isn’t to say that emotional marketing isn’t effective in Japan, and a series of successful life insurance adverts proved it certainly can be. They showed a typical Salary Man through his working life from his twenties to his eighties, focusing on the long-term rewards of investing in life insurance.


Research is the key to successful outcomes for a multilingual global emotional marketing campaign

The best practice is to research these nuances to determine how emotions differ in terms of intensity, appraisal, experience, and display in each culture.

Emotion can be a powerful way to engage a global market; however, emotional displays may not resonate in every culture, so research is always key.

Know your customers. Understanding your audience, and what interests them to like, share, and buy is vital for any type of marketing. Even more so for emotional marketing. If you treat everyone as carbon copies, how will you reach across generations, borders, and engage with new groups and trends? How will you know how to make these diverse groups feel that your brand includes them, and can make a difference in their lives?

Tell a good story. Storytelling is the best way to connect and share ideas, goals, and outcomes with your customers. Whether through the prism of sadness, anger, passion, or excitement, stories are easily relatable across cultures and languages.

Set the mood with color. This might seem obvious, but color has more influence on our feelings than you may think. Color, emotion, and psychology are closely tied … in more ways than one. Red is associated with passion, danger, action, energy, and love. Yellow with sunshine, joy, happiness, and intellect. Green symbolizes nature, health, growth, harmony, and fertility. 

Inclusivity creates community. Being part of a cause keeps people invested in your brand and your marketing for longer. It also inspires loyalty and a feeling of camaraderie, acceptance, and excitement for upcoming product news. A great example of this is Apple Events, where customers feel part of a movement.

In summation, your consumers are human beings with profound emotions and complex personal stories. Our ability to recognize emotions in others and experience empathy is what connects us all as a species, regardless of language or cultural differences. 

If your marketers can grasp this concept, and tap into emotions to make people laugh, cry, whoop, and ooh and ahh, then they have a great strategy for driving advertising, and rapidly growing your brand, and likewise increasing your sales.


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