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What McDonald’s can show us about global internet marketing

Like Coca-Cola and Google, the words Big Mac are recognisable in much of the world. The fast food giant is often held up as a symbol of globalisation and the spread of Western culture.  But the brand’s marketing isn’t as homogenous as you might think.

Love it or hate it, the company’s advertising and websites are good examples of how to localise messages for different parts of the world.

Global internet marketing doesn’t just mean translating the language. Different cultures have different preferences in terms of color, design, images and amount of information per page. Adapting your website, and taking these into account, can ensure it creates the right impression.

For example, Scandinavian and northern European cultures tend to prefer more minimalist, text-based designs. In contrast, in China and India, websites tend to be brighter, bolder and contain more banners, pop-ups and videos.

These two examples show how the same message is conveyed with very different adverts. Switzerland, like other Western countries, is sometimes regarded as a more individualistic culture. The Swiss website portrays a woman listening to music on her own, in muted colors, with the phrase “I’m lovin’ it”.

The brightly-colored Indian siteis very different, showing a father and son dashing through a supermarket. India is often seen as a more “collectivist” culture, where family is hugely important.

Another factor to think about in global internet marketing is the amount of information and graphics on a page. This Chinese site might appear “crowded” to Western viewers. In fact, a study by the Korea Advanced Institute of Science and Technology found Chinese and Korean users tended to take in more information than American users when scanning a webpage in 25 seconds. They also registered more “areas of interest” and were less likely to use a sequential viewing pattern.

Design expert Elizabeth Wurtz compares “high context” and “low context” cultures in her study of international web design.  “Low context” cultures such as the UK, Germany or United States tend to prefer more text-heavy sites, with fewer, simpler graphics. “High-context” cultures, such as Japan often rely on the user interpreting images, or exploring the site to discover the information they’re looking for.

This doesn’t mean your website design needs a complete rethink for a new market, but it’s worth bearing in mind. It’s a little like adapting the same basic menu to suit different tastes!

Do you have a favourite example of a website or advert from another country? We’d love to see it! Or find out more about localisation and global internet marketing.

Christian Arno, Founder and President, Lingo24

Christian Arno is Founder and President of Lingo24. He started the company in 2001 after graduating from Oxford University with a degree in languages. He has won numerous awards including HSBC Business Thinking and International Trade Awards (2010), and TAUS Excellence Award (2012) for innovative technology. He contributes to leading industry publications and has been featured on the BBC, in the Financial Times and other media around the world.

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