marketing localization lewis modelIt’s a simple notion: The better you get to know your audiences, the more effective your marketing localization efforts will be. However, as you expand into exciting new territories, this is easier said than done. How can you be sure you’re making the right impression? How can you craft your campaigns to yield the best results?

You want your brand welcomed into new markets with open arms. A crucial ingredient in achieving this is making sure your campaigns reflect the cultural values and communication styles that each audience prefers – and that starts with your source content. It is important to understand the cultures you are trying to reach because the tone you set in the original content will set the stage for your translated content.

Let’s look at one recently created (and widely lauded) framework for understanding intercultural communication—the Lewis Model—and how it can help you put your best foot forward as you take your marketing messages global.

The Lewis Model: What is it and what does it mean for marketing localization?

British language expert, Richard Lewis, recently developed the Lewis Model to promote harmony through understanding across cultures. His model classifies cultures into three categories—linear-active, multi-active and reactive—laying out their values and communication preferences.

While it’s still fairly new in its adoption, many experts are saying that it’s spot on in its findings, although the characteristics of each group are generally true, but not universally so.

Linear-active cultures

This cultural group includes the likes of countries such as Germany, Switzerland and Austria. These individuals are typically logical thinkers, who like to stick to the facts. They are swayed primarily by written words verses spoken opinions or hearsay. If it isn’t written down or documented, it may be difficult for them to find it true. When tasked with projects, they often plan ahead and take on each aspect step by step. Polite, yet direct, these individuals often listen just as much as they talk.

Multi-active cultures

Multi-active cultures are generally warm, emotional and talkative. A few examples of cultures that fall into this group are Italians, Latin Americans and the Spanish. These people put a larger emphasis on feelings compared to other cultural groups and may favor these emotions over facts when arguing. To this degree, spoken word is very important to them. They are often very people-oriented and tend to believe things based on what they’re told by the people they trust. They can be described as a lively group who do many things at once, planning their priorities not according to time schedule but to relative thrill.

Reactive cultures

Cultures in this group value courtesy and respect at the highest level. They tend to be polite and will listen quietly and calmly to arguments—reacting carefully to the other side’s proposals. Arguments are usually based on general principles. They, too, are very people-oriented and statements are regarded as promises. This group includes the Chinese, Japanese and Vietnamese, among others.

Setting the tone for new markets

What does this mean for your marketing localization initiatives? This model can help you understand what tone is best to communicate more effectively with different cultural groups. Knowing some of these expectations can assist your content creators with positioning marketing copy for effective translation or even help them to decide which type of content to produce for a given region.

The tone of your message sets the stage for your marketing localization efforts—is your message witty, sarcastic, heartwarming, sincere? A given approach won’t always work in every culture. It’s critical that you get it right. You don’t want to turn anyone off, or worse yet, truly offend someone—doing so could mean harming your brand’s reputation.

The Lewis Model gives a good guideline for which tone will resonate best with certain cultural audiences. Since reactive cultures are people-oriented and value courtesy to a high degree, you might aim for a tone that’s conveys respect. Contrast that with linear-active cultures, which prefer a more direct tone. For this group, you may want to avoid flowery, poetic wording and just stick to the facts. This is the opposite for multi-active cultures, like Latin American and Italian audiences, where a direct tone may not resonate well at all. Since they are very talkative and emotional, the tone should reflect that effusiveness.

Aligning your approach for each locale

What this boils down to is that when considering the tone of your marketing content, there are different ways to convey the message—and which way you choose should be determined based on the culture you are targeting. For example, your core message could be delivered as:

  1. Our product kills 99 percent of germs.
  2. No product kills more germs than ours!
  3. An image of a mom disinfecting her home with the words “super mom” on the page.

So which example fits best for each culture? Because linear-active cultures prefer direct facts and value the written word, they may respond better to a startling statistic backed up by proof—which makes the first example the best option. This could go unnoticed with multi-active groups, since they value spoken words more and put an emphasis on emotion-driven content. In this case, they may respond better to a campaign that appeals to their emotions more strongly—like in the third example. Reactive groups may respond better to the second example because they believe that statements are promises. Just be sure that your product can deliver on those promises, or you may risk harming your reputation.

Designing with culture in mind

Research shows different cultures may also have unique design preferences. The cultural communication preferences laid out in the Lewis Model lends some good advice for design decisions as well.

For example, images and videos have the innate ability to evoke emotion. You may want to include them in your marketing localization efforts for reactive and multi-active cultures. This may mean including more people in your videos and images as opposed to product shots.

Because linear-active cultures prefer easy-to-digest, well-organized information, you might consider using some infographics to visually organize your content. Just make sure that your images don’t take away from the main points or facts. This group will more likely favor a greater volume of text to images. Essentially, they want to get the information they need as fast as possible—so it’s important that your design is structured in this way.

Do your research and adapt accordingly

Every market around the globe is unique. Studying cultural differences and preferences like the ones laid out in the Lewis Model can help you better understand new international audiences as you strive to develop source content that will make the right impression once translated for these markets.

Want to learn more about catering campaigns to global audiences? Check out this article, “Global marketing campaigns: Is your approach personalized for each locale?

Have you heard of the Lewis Model? What do you think of the findings? Would you use it for your marketing localization initiatives? Let us know! And as always, if you have any questions, feel free to reach out!