Anyone who has expanded their business to an international market knows the importance of familiarizing themselves with the local customs and business culture beforehand. The same goes for international email marketing – to successfully be an ambassador of your brand’s brilliance via email, you must first research the area you are entering and the segment you’re targeting to send messages appealing to international audiences.
In this follow-up to our previous introductory article, we will delve deeper into the types of content that are successful and suitable for sending to mailboxes of various regions across the globe. With which content and images can you successfully convey the spirit of your brand across borders?
What to Consider Content-Wise in International Email Marketing
In an era of global commerce, understanding the cultural nuances of international audiences is crucial for effective marketing. Let’s delve into aspects that should be considered when creating content for different regions of the world.
1. Intensity of Selling and Language Used
Let’s look at some various language styles for approaching clients.
Direct vs. Indirect
The directness and intensity of selling vary across cultures. A direct and straightforward approach is typically preferred in regions such as the U.S., Western Europe, or Australia. They are usually accustomed to direct selling techniques with clear, persuasive, and action-oriented messages (be sure to create a clear and compelling CTA). On the other hand, in many East Asian or Middle Eastern cultures, selling is often more subtle and relationship-focused, requiring time to build trust and connection. Here, a more indirect and nuanced approach is often more effective, with an emphasis on suggestion rather than overt persuasion.
Formal vs. Informal
The formality of language can also impact reception. In Germany or Switzerland, for example, more formal and technical language may be appreciated due to their cultural emphasis on precision and expertise. In contrast, in countries like Brazil or Spain, a more casual and friendly tone might resonate better due to their cultural emphasis on personal relationships and sociability. Here too, of course, you have to consider the target group you are talking to, for example, the differences between B2B vs. B2C email marketing.
Level of emotionality
The balance between emotion and logic in marketing messaging can vary across cultures. In countries like Italy or Mexico, emotional appeals, personal stories, or vibrant visuals can be very effective. However, in more reserved cultures, like those in Scandinavia, focusing on facts, logic, and product features may be more successful.
Remember, though, as much as you focus on the generalized characteristics of the region you’re sending your marketing emails to, you need to consider specific demographics. A generalization is called a generalization for a reason. For example, what works for Baby Boomers and Millennials generations, may not work for Gen Z, and these age groups also have their own separate segments in terms of interests and views.
2. Depicting People – Cultural Customs
The depiction of people in your marketing content should respect and reflect cultural customs. This includes considering social norms, behaviors, and even local dress codes. What’s seen as friendly and casual in Western cultures might be perceived as disrespectful in more conservative societies. For example, respecting traditional dress codes and social norms in the Middle East is crucial. Always be sure to represent diversity accurately.
In the US and Western Europe, it’s beneficial to portray a wide variety of individuals regarding race, ethnicity, and age. In tech or entrepreneurial contexts for the US, a self-made individual showcasing success through hard work can resonate due to the American Dream narrative. For example, in Germany, work culture has been known for its efficiency and expertise, so showing professionals in their field can be effective.
3. Individualism vs. Collectivism
When creating marketing messages, understanding whether your target audience’s cultural orientation tends towards individualism or collectivism can significantly shape your strategy.
Western societies like the U.S. or Australia value individualism, so emphasizing personal achievement, independence, and uniqueness can be effective since individual choice and freedom are highly valued.
In Europe, there are slight differences in this regard. For example, Northern and Western European countries (like the UK, Netherlands, and Scandinavian countries) often lean towards individualism. In contrast, Southern and Eastern European countries (such as Spain, Greece, or Slavic countries) tend to exhibit more collectivist traits.
On the other hand, East Asian cultures (e.g., Japan, China), as well as Latin American and African cultures, tend to lean towards collectivism, so messages highlighting community and group success can resonate better. For example, in Japan, which values harmony and respect, showing people working as a team or contributing to a group can be effective.
4. Holidays and Religion
Holidays and other important times of the year should be respected and taken into account, yet may also be strategically used in your marketing. For example, during Ramadan in Muslim-majority countries, consumption patterns significantly shift, and promotional messages should reflect that. Likewise, understanding key shopping periods, like Christmas in the West or Diwali in India, can optimize your campaign timings. On the other hand, the Easter period is associated with lower sales volumes in cultures with a strong Christian influence today.
Some examples of active periods are New Year (Shōgatsu) and Golden Week in Japan and Dia de las Madres (Mother’s Day) in Latin America. In Africa, you should consider the specific country to know whether activity increases during Ramadan and Eid or during Christmas.
To cater to the changes in customer behavior, create campaigns that align with the season’s customs, traditions, and specific demands. However, it is important to note that many businesses create an abundance of campaigns during high periods, and the mailboxes may be overflooded with quite similar messages. Remember to strike a balance between sales and the meaning of the specific holiday in your campaigns, and avoid holiday kitsch in your email marketing.
5. Time and Frequency of Sending
Let’s look at the overall density of email sending worldwide according to the Statista analysis of data from 2023. The United States leads the list with almost 10 billion emails daily, followed by the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, India, and Japan with 8.3 billion. Of course, the population density must be taken into account, but the data does give some indication of where there are more mailbox users.
Time of Day
The time of day and frequency of sending marketing messages requires careful consideration. For example, sending promotional emails in the evening could be effective in countries where the culture embraces later meal times (for example, Spain, Argentina, Italy, Greece, Turkey, and Brazil). Spain is particularly known for very late meal times, with dinner sometimes starting as late as 10 pm. On the contrary, in the U.S., where the workday typically starts early, dinnertime is earlier, and most activity in the mailbox happens in the first half of the day, morning may be the best time for sending your message.
Factors like workweek norms and consumer habits can influence the optimal day to send marketing emails. For instance, in many Western countries like the United States and the UK, midweek days (Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday) are often preferred for marketing emails. In contrast, in Middle Eastern countries, where the workweek typically starts on Sunday and ends on Thursday, the best days might shift accordingly.
The general golden rule is to schedule your communication for days when people are typically more active at work and leave room for rest for both yourself and the recipients for days off work.
The acceptable sending frequency varies across cultures. Societies like Japan may perceive too-frequent marketing communication as intrusive, while it might be more acceptable in other cultures. Check out the following quick list of different sending frequencies per country.
- More frequent: United States, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, UK, Belgium, Netherlands, Southern Europe, The Baltics, Brazil, South Africa – These countries and regions have a strong digital economy, and consumers are generally accustomed to regular email marketing. While there’s no universally accepted frequency, many companies send weekly or even daily emails. As always, the key is providing valuable content to maintain audience engagement.
- Less frequent: Japan, China, Germany, South Korea, Switzerland, Finland, Slavic, and Arabic countries – in these cultures, consumers tend to appreciate a less intrusive approach and prioritize quality and relevance of content over quantity. They may perceive too frequent marketing communication as intrusive or, in some cases, even disrespectful. A bi-weekly or even monthly frequency might be more acceptable, but ensuring the content is relevant and valuable is essential.
Always make sure to take into account the specific consumer types, behaviors, and preferences within each country.
Visuals in International Email Marketing
In addition to words, we all know that the biggest brand impression maker and potential purchase influencer is the visuals we use. When selecting visual language and images for your marketing, it’s important to consider your target audience’s unique characteristics. If you use segmentation, you can also use different visuals for different groups.
Additionally, when expanding your marketing efforts internationally, it’s wise to consider the specific region you’re targeting. If you’re already involved in international email marketing or considering taking the plunge, check the following quick overview of countries or regions and get inspired for what visual content you could use in your marketing emails.
The United Kingdom
In the UK, email marketing can be up to 128% more effective than paid social media and display advertising for driving sales, so you have to craft your emails wisely. The British appreciate professionalism and quality. This means any photos or graphics you use should be high-resolution and aesthetically pleasing. Avoid using overly flashy or gaudy images, and instead opt for a polished, clean look.
Using images that reflect everyday life in the UK can be effective. This might include pictures of familiar scenes, landmarks, or people representing the UK population’s diversity. The British are known for their dry humor, so witty, clever visuals or puns can often be effective in catching their attention.
The United States
The US has a diverse population – using imagery that reflects this diversity is preferable. The American culture appreciates positivity, so uplifting, hopeful imagery can be effective. American consumers often look up to successful entrepreneurs, self-made individuals, and celebrities. Individual achievement and freedom are valued, so featuring people who embody these values can be effective. The “work hard, play hard” mentality is still esteemed, but self-reflection, well-being, and time to recover from the everyday hectics are just as important. In general, the presentation of your content depends on how it fits with your product or service type.
Bold, bright colors usually do well in the US market. In the US (and also the whole Western world), red often signifies energy, excitement, or danger, while blue suggests trust and reliability. Green is associated with nature and environmental friendliness, and yellow with happiness and optimism. White suggests simplicity and purity, while black can signify luxury or sophistication.
Japanese design often features simplicity and minimalism, aligning with the concept of “Ma” (negative space). Therefore, overly complex or cluttered designs may not resonate well. Nature and calming natural landscapes are recurring themes in Japanese aesthetics. On the other hand, childlike and anime-inspired imagery is also popular there. Thus, you should first and foremost consider how your chosen style fits the product or service you are advertising and the other demographic characteristics of its potential buyers.
Although, as a standard practice in email marketing, we recommend avoiding very long paragraphs of text and remembering to decorate with a sufficient amount of images, we have to point out a unique difference in the case of Japan. Namely, the Japanese subscriber is comfortable with longer text blocks and prefers having lots of information about a product or service presented at once. Take this into account when tailoring the text-to-image ratio of your marketing emails for this region.
India is known for its vibrant colors, so using a bright, colorful palette can be effective. Similar to East Asia, red is considered auspicious in India and is often associated with weddings and prosperity. Green represents life and fertility, while white is usually linked to purity but also mourning. Emotional storytelling can be highly effective. Consider using images that tell a story or evoke strong emotions, whether that’s joy, excitement, nostalgia, or a sense of community. In India, emotions play a significant role in decision-making, and images that stir emotions can be impactful.
Consumer behavior may be influenced by images related to cultural celebrations (like Diwali, Holi, Eid, Pongal, etc.), which can create a sense of familiarity and engagement. These images might show people celebrating these occasions, traditional decorations, or festive foods. As for using cultural and religious symbolism both here and in any other culture, it is necessary to conduct thorough research and get some tips and insights from locals.
An emphasis on family, friendship, and social gathering is also important, as Spanish culture values these aspects deeply. Spaniards generally appreciate a vibrant and warm color scheme, reflecting the country’s sunny climate, rich history, and lively traditions.
As for the product presentation, Spanish consumers appreciate transparency and quality. They want to know how the product will benefit them, its origin, quality, and sustainability. Rather than a hard sell, provide clear and honest information about the product’s features, how it’s made, and how it fits into their lifestyle. Incorporating elements of storytelling, which is a big part of Spanish culture, can further engage the audience. Whether it’s the story of how the product was made or how it can be a part of their daily life, a well-crafted narrative can stir emotions and inspire purchases.
German culture appreciates efficiency and directness, so clear, straightforward imagery can be effective. Also, since quality and craftsmanship are highly appreciated here, ensure your emails’ visuals are professional, high-resolution, and well-designed. German society stands out in being quite environmentally conscious, so imagery that shows sustainability and highlights the eco-friendly aspects of your product or service might resonate well with German audiences.
Italy is renowned for its good living (“La Dolce Vita”), and Italians appreciate high quality and aesthetic appeal in all aspects of life – marketing materials included. Their vigor is reflected in their preference for warm, vibrant colors. The color red, often associated with passion and excitement, can be effective. However, also consider the context and your product when choosing colors.
Including images that reflect Italian culture and lifestyle can be beneficial. This might include imagery of iconic Italian architecture, food, fashion, or scenic landscapes. And don’t forget family – visuals showing people enjoying life together, family gatherings, or social events can be particularly effective. Thus, use images that tell a story or convey strong emotions – whether it’s the joy of a shared meal, the excitement of a soccer match, the satisfaction of arriving at an event in style, or the tranquility of a Mediterranean landscape.
French culture is often associated with elegance, refinement, and a strong sense of tradition. These consumers appreciate high-quality, artisanal products. Imagery that conveys craftsmanship and attention to detail can resonate well. The French appreciate intellectual and emotional depth. Use visuals that tell a compelling story or evoke strong emotions. This could be the romance of a Parisian street or the tranquility of the French countryside. You may aim for both the high-fashion or charming chic approach – just think about a scene that makes the consumer want to know more about the backstory.
France has a long history of philosophical thought. Your marketing might subtly reflect themes of liberty and equality or tap into a love for intellectual debate and discourse. Including some French text or phrases in your imagery might also be beneficial, as the French have a strong appreciation for their language.
Belgium & The Netherlands
Consumers in both countries appreciate high-quality visuals and a clean, professional look. Ensure your images and graphics are sharp, high-resolution, and well-composed. Both countries’ consumers also appreciate modest and restrained color palettes. For instance, the Dutch are known for their ‘Dutch Design,’ which often incorporates minimalist aesthetics and muted colors. While there’s no strict rule, avoiding overly bright or clashing colors is typically best. Both Belgian and Dutch societies place a high value on environmental sustainability. Images that convey eco-friendliness and sustainability can be particularly impactful.
Scandinavian design is known for its simplicity, minimalism, and functionality. Clean lines, muted colors, and practical, simple layouts would likely be effective. The idea of “hygge” (comfort and coziness) in Denmark, “lagom” (balance and moderation) in Sweden, and “sisu” (resilience and determination) in Finland are cultural concepts that might influence your choices in email marketing design.
This region deeply connects to nature and is committed to sustainable living. Use images that depict natural landscapes, outdoor activities, or environmentally friendly products. Highlighting your brand’s sustainability efforts can also create a strong connection with this audience. Scandinavians value social equality, trust, and fairness. Although they’re individualistic at heart, you should avoid ostentatious displays of wealth or status and focus on inclusivity and community. Instead of overly promotional visuals, show real-life situations and genuine people, and provide an honest reflection about your products or services.
Balkan countries have a rich history and diverse cultural influences. Incorporating traditional patterns, symbols, or landmarks can work well. This region has a history marked by change and challenges, fostering a strong sense of resilience and spirit. Visuals that convey perseverance, strength, or determination can resonate with this audience.
People in the Balkans are known for their hospitality and warmth, and social connections and family are central to Balkan cultures. Visuals that evoke a sense of community, family, or welcome can be effective. Due to the region’s diversity, it’s essential to research each country to understand its specific cultural nuances and preferences.
Social connections and family are essential in this region. Try showing people enjoying products or services in a group or family setting. For example, a family enjoying dinner together, a local festive setting, or a workspace where colleagues look more like friends. Use vibrant, warm colors to reflect the lively culture of this region and resonate with audiences.
Consumers often appreciate community leaders, successful athletes, and celebrities – particularly those who have used their success to benefit their communities. Sports, dance, and movement are generally praised; for instance, they have a great passion for football (soccer). Depending on your campaign, incorporating these themes in your images or overall content could work. Of course, it’s important to note that every country in this region has a unique background and personality. Therefore, it’s crucial to take this into account when choosing content and thoroughly examining the local customer base.
Australia’s laid-back lifestyle, along with its beautiful landscapes and wildlife, can be effectively used in your visuals targeted to consumers in the land down under. They have a strong sense of mateship, so images reflecting inclusivity, community activities, or friendly gatherings are a good choice.
Australians appreciate authenticity, so using real-life people in natural settings rather than overly stylized images can be more effective. Portraying outdoor lifestyles, reflecting the country’s love for sports and outdoor activities, can also resonate. The country’s strong beach and surf culture could also be leveraged in campaigns, especially for younger demographics.
Slavic societies traditionally value strong familial ties and community connections. The cultures are diverse, so specific research on each country’s unique cultural aspects is needed here as well. Traditional Slavic motifs, patterns, and folklore can be incorporated into your visuals, for example, the intricate embroidery patterns in Ukraine known as Vyshyvanka. Much of Slavic culture is connected with nature, especially forests, so natural imagery will be appreciated.
Each Slavic nation has a deep sense of history and national pride. Imagery speaking to this quality could work (if used respectfully). If you want a lighter approach, Slavic humor often involves irony and sarcasm. Understanding the nuances can help create more engaging content. When it comes to the attributes of products, quality and durability are highly valued in products, seeing them as an investment. Highlighting these aspects can be effective rather than just focusing on price.
Respectful use of Arabic calligraphy can appeal to these audiences. Showing respected figures in society, like successful business people, can inspire trust and respect. Be sure to learn more about the balance of tradition and progress in the particular country. For example, UAE has a mix of traditional and ultra-modern aesthetics. Balancing these two can be a good approach. Of course, also consider cultural dress standards. Suppose you’re selling a women’s fashion or beauty products line. In this case, adding images of women in conservative yet stylish attire can appeal to female consumers in regions like Saudi Arabia or the UAE.
Regarding colors, green is highly respected, as it is considered the traditional color of Islam. Red can signify danger or caution, and white purity and peace. In some Arabic cultures, blue represents safety and protection.
Africa is a vast continent comprising 54 countries, each with its own unique cultural nuances. It’s crucial to research and understand the specific country or region you’re targeting.
For example, the local Arabic and Berber influence affects the North African region, which could inspire the use of Arabic calligraphy or traditional Berber design patterns. Desert colors, such as shades of gold, orange, and blue, can often resonate well with audiences in this region.
West African cultures are known for their vibrant textiles, so using bold, colorful patterns can be visually appealing. Given the region’s growing tech and startup scene, images reflecting entrepreneurial spirit and innovation can be powerful.
East Africa’s rich wildlife, particularly the “Big Five” animals (lion, leopard, rhinoceros, elephant, and Cape buffalo), can be appealing to this segment. Also, some of the most legendary long-distance runners originate from this region, so visuals related to athletics and resilience could resonate.
Finally, in addition to using images reflecting community life, music, and dance, imagery reflecting multiculturalism can resonate well with Southern Africa, especially in countries like South Africa with its “Rainbow Nation.”
Analysis is Key
Remember, these are general international email marketing suggestions and not definitive rules. The effectiveness of these contextual and visual strategies may vary based on your specific audience, campaign goals, and the product or service you are marketing.
Always perform thorough market research. Analyzing your target audience, being aware of regional and demographic differences within countries, and adapting your strategy to these nuances is essential. It is always advisable to consult local people or cultural experts and be mindful of current issues in a particular country or region. This approach ensures respectful and effective communication and can significantly boost global engagement and sales. Of course, it’s crucial to ensure that your international emails comply with local laws and regulations, particularly regarding data privacy and consumer protection, such as GDPR in Europe.
International Email Marketing: In Conclusion
When expanding your marketing efforts beyond your home country, it’s important to consider the culture of your target audience. Do not cross the line with your content when your emails cross these country borders. Be sure to consider the local culture, customs, and etiquette rules when you approach this new audience.
Analyze and consult with experts to write the most effective and appropriate messages. At the same time, consider the characteristics of your specific target group and the characteristics of different generations.
Going international with your email marketing is an adventure of its own. When it’s done right, you will win over a totally new audience and clientele. The Smaily team wishes you happy marketing travels and fruitful email campaigns!