Language Usage in Global Membership Marketing

Harold Schiffman hfsclpp at
Wed Jul 16 13:58:12 UTC 2008

Language Usage in Global Membership Marketing

Perhaps the single biggest challenge with global membership marketing
is the language barrier. There are 256 languages in the world with
over 1,000,000 speakers[1]. On top of the variety of languages there
are also dialects and variations associated with many languages. A
visiting French exchange student just this weekend told me that he had
a very difficult time understanding the French spoken in Quebec. So
how does an organization move forward in this area? One tact that
successful organizations have followed is to get started with the
language in which member benefits are now provided.

In order to start global membership marketing, one group that I work
with decided to reach out to countries with high proportions of
primary and secondary English speakers like Australia, Canada,
England, Hong Kong, Ireland, New Zealand, and Singapore. To date,
using American English, the promotions have generated very positive
response rates and very few complaints.  The basic language philosophy
is to market using the same language and dialect in which the actual
membership product will be delivered. If a recipient struggles with
the American English marketing materials, then they will not be very
likely to be able to use the membership materials.

Reaching English speakers across the globe actually presents a fairly
large market opportunity. For example, more people speak English in
India, Nigeria, Germany, or the Philippines than in Canada.[2] Another
organization that has relied primarily on English is Toastmasters.
Toastmasters "now have nearly 226,000 members in 11,500 clubs in 92
countries." However, they do not support the translation of their
materials until a large enough membership base has developed in a
language group. The translation policy is clearly outlined in their
organizations procedures.[3]

What do you think is the right approach to language in global
membership marketing? Language issues can elicit very emotional and
heartfelt reactions. I am curious how you deal with these challenges.


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