opinion

Boundaries of Language in Advertising

Juicy Jay

The second of two parts on Peru. The first part appeared in XBIZ World’s August issue.

“While planning our trip we worried about the obvious risks — altitude sickness, food and water. What wasn't planned was being on the Inca Trail with a broken foot. A rescue call went out and I was carried by hand over two mountain passes in two days into Machu Picchu on a stretcher (see Part 1 in last month's issue of XBIZ World about digital withdrawal).

By understanding individual countries and cultures, it allows us to become better at marketing.

We arrived by bus to Agua Calientes after being evacuated from the mountains. That small town just outside Machu Picchu was pretty much what you'd expect from a tourist town — overpriced drinks, local delicacies, and lots of tourist shit to buy. The medical clinic sent a wheelchair, but our fluent Spanish-speaking people were still hiking the trail and would not arrive until the next day. That's when our communication problems started, and fundamental lessons were learned about marketing and advertising in foreign countries.

Understand the Culture and the People You Are Marketing to

Travel to any country in the world and you're bound to find cultural differences in very everyday things and Peru is no exception. They have their standard alcoholic drink, the "Pisco Sour" which tastes a lot like a margarita. There is an annual celebration called Corpus Christie, when the locals celebrate by eating roasted guinea pig. And of course, commonplace food choices that are exotic by our standards, including alpaca, which is cholesterol free. While the country is beautiful, basic driving laws like speed limits, choosing a lane, and driving on your side of the road seemed to be more of a suggestion. I'll never forget the TV show like a knock off of American Gladiators. One of the challenges required the teams to push a button, hidden deep in a pile of cactus. The winning team performed a happy sexy dance each time they were the first to push the button. Most of the commercial breaks were for cellular networks and mobile phones, perhaps because the culture can be so disconnected with people still living in remote villages with a need to be connected. Needless to say, Peru is different.

Understanding the Limitations for Purchases

There are many local businesses and tiny shops run by people who work hard and make a sustainable living. On the Inca trails you’ll see donkeys carrying bottles of alcohol, and in towns like Agua Calientes, you’ll see men hauling oversized loads of everything imaginable. Hard work prevails and “porting” is a lucrative business. Many people are very good at making due with what they have. It did not strike me as a country very interested in online porn, despite the statistics at JuicyAds, the sexy advertising network I founded 10 years ago.

Not surprisingly, there are a lot of people surfing porn in Peru, but they don’t rank in the list of high usage countries in recent studies. People seem like they have more important things to do. In 2013, Peru was facing a ban on porn, for the protection of children. Regardless of this, the culture can be hard to sell to (as with many countries in South America) unless you have something they really want or need. A lot of places do not accept credit card.

Speak to Them in Their Own Language

The translation of language is an art, and translation companies exist (at a profit) despite Google Translate being available for free. I'll never forget sitting in our hotel room with the two medics poking at my broken foot, without our friends who were fluent in Spanish. We were being told I needed to get on a train to Cusco, the nearest city with an X-ray machine. In broken Spanish my wife explained to them repeatedly that we would get X-rays in the U.S. in a few days, but we really needed crutches because I was a stubborn tourist. She left that last part out. What finally worked was connecting to the hotel's intermittent Wi-Fi and translating "we want crutches" from English to Spanish. The following day we rejoined the group for a two-hour personal tour of Machu Picchu, on what were probably the only pair of crutches in that town. My friends that was a lot of stairs but totally worth it.

A mobile phone (and Google Translate) is what transcended the barriers and it illustrates my primary point. Advertisers and affiliates often purchase traffic from countries with no regard for the local language or culture. Marketing with English banners won't cut it in Peru and it won't cut it in a lot of other countries, either. Talking to people in their language is the key factor to advertising in any foreign country, and it’s unlikely they are going to bother to translate things. Even worse — if your banners are language targeted and the landing page or offer is in another language, you've paid for a click that is unlikely to convert. Speaking their language through the entire sale process should be the basic first step of any foreign marketing campaign in order to improve conversion ratios. Catering to cultural nuances will further your efforts and profit.

Beyond Language and Text

Sure, there are going to be a lot of people who can read and understand what they are clicking on, and in some ways providing banners in a certain language is a way of hacking Language targeting in any country. Which brings me to marketing beyond language and culture, with the universal language of pictures. Telling a story with your banner (with or without text) is fundamental to driving clicks and sales, like commercials where you don't know what they're selling until the end. The story and imagery still conveys the message and still triggers interest, so its important not to rely on your text alone.

Porn is a visual product. Just a few days after we arrived back from Peru, we hopped on a plane for Italy and visited Pompeii, the famous city buried by a catastrophic eruption of Mount Vesuvius. As a port city on the Mediterranean hundreds of years ago, people came from all around with every language imaginable, and the city had dozens and dozens of brothels. The brothels used the universal language of pictures for the men to order the sex acts they wanted, like a menu. They found a way to buy and sell without language being a barrier at all.

By understanding individual countries and cultures, it allows us to become better at marketing and at the end of the day, making more money from countries that are undervalued in the current marketplace. Peru may not be the next hot market, but it doesn't matter which country you're advertising to. You'll improve your ratios if you understand that country and you're leaving money on the table until you do. The next affiliate gold rush belongs to the person who finds the next hot product (or existing product) and combines it with the right marketing to turn it into a fortune. Will it be you?

Juicy Jay is the CEO and founder of JuicyAds, the Sexy Advertising Network. You can follow Jay on Twitter @juicyads, visit JuicyAds.com, or like on Facebook.com/juicyads.

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