Lessons from Ben & Jerry's: The Scoop on Multilingual Blogging
by Alyssa Paris
Here is a list of questions to help you decide if
multilingual blogging is for you:
- Do you
have a corporate blog in English?
- Is your
website translated into other languages?
- Do many
of your website visitors speak a language other than English?
- Are you
looking to dialogue with a target audience outside of the U.S.?
- Are you
present in international markets?
If you answered yes to any of these, multilingual blogging is
in your future.
Let's look at a company who decided to take up multilingual
blogging to support their international product launch: Ben & Jerry's. What?
Ben & Jerry's went international? Their ice cream seems so totally American — a cursory glance at their flavors leaves you wondering who would understand,
say, Phish Food and Chunky Monkey outside of the States. Yet they have
successfully marketed their line of ice creams in Asian-Pacific and European
markets, with localized websites to support their presence in each.
And for the cherry on the sundae: in tandem with their
European product launch, Ben & Jerry's created a blog specifically for the
French market. A mini brand website, Ben & Jerry's French blog
is not only totally local in flavor — it is also modern in feel,
complete with multimedia to heighten fans' sensorial experience of their
content. Like every successful marketing tool, the blog supports the business
objectives for this specific language market by providing locale-sensitive
content that is:
posts explain the origins of Ben & Jerry's zany flavors
recipes and games make the fan experience fun and encourage them to spend more
time on the website
the format favors an on-going conversation about all things ice cream in
French, removing barriers to communicating with fans
emphasizes localness with promotions such as "Free Cone Day" in select cities
and new offers such as member cards: "la carte bonus"
Demonstrating a local presence in a market can be done
through a tastefully localized website, but a local-language blog like Ben
& Jerry's clearly takes this a step further. The marketing benefits
obtained are the same as for your English-language blog:
Building community around your products
Improving your search engine rankings
Circulating your content in the social media space
Establishing thought leadership in your area of
Extending your branding
Giving your corporation a human face
Bottom line — if Ben
& Jerry's did it, you can too. Their platform (consisting of separate
sites for each language market) is just one option — there are several ways to integrate
multilingual blogging into your marketing efforts. Our advice would be to begin
with the approach that offers the least resistance to your company.
If your website has
already been localized (or if you have separate translated sites for each language
market), then multilingual blog integration into your current frameworks
should be straightforward. Your sites have already been built and optimized for
foreign language characters. Navigation and interface have been designed for
the particular needs of your local users. A blog would therefore be a natural
next step in promoting your localized website(s). You have a few options. You
Work with a language vendor to translate your
broader-audience English blog posts (turnaround time would have to be quick)
Use your in-country staff to create local posts
Hire in-country subject matter experts in your
field to contribute specialized content
Enable your blog to be translated on demand by
your readers with Google translate, WordPress plugins, etc. (see Kia's
corporate blog for an example)
The latter option is certainly the least expensive, but it
comes with risks — if you want consistent branding, high-quality translations and
accountability in your corporate communications, opt for the first, second and/or
third options. Some combination of these may prove to be ideal for your company — you (or more specifically your marketing department) can select English blog
posts with global appeal and have them professionally translated while working
with a local writer and your in-country staff to fill in the gaps through
locale-specific content. With this hybrid solution, your focus remains
consistent across countries and yet your content is always relevant in each
If you answered "yes"
to our initial questions above but have yet to localize your website, you have
a few options.
If on a tight budget, you could begin by
integrating some foreign language posts into your current blog (there are many
plugins that enable this, such as qtranslate).
If you know you will tackle website localization
in the near future, you could also begin with a multilingual blog as a teaser
to lead up to the release of your international websites and product launches. Since
there is a lot of research that precedes launching a full international
operation, from regulations and labor laws to corporate taxes and competitive
analyses, a local-language blog is a low-risk and high-benefit first step to
creating an initial presence in these new markets. It can also serve as a tool
(in conjunction with social media) allowing you to work on your local branding,
test out marketing techniques, collect feedback from potential customers, poll
your public and finally establish who your target audience is.
No matter where you
are at in the localization process, if your customers are multilingual, your
corporate communications should be as well. Blogging is one form of social
engagement with your fans, clients and customers, but as you have learned with
your corporate blog in English, it is most effective when part of a
comprehensive social media plan. In short, if you make your blog multilingual
in flavor, you may also want to indulge in some Facebook and Twitter activities,
or whatever the most popular social media platforms are for your target
audience. If writing for Brazilian Portuguese speakers, for example, you'll
want to promote your blog on Orkut. If marketing to China, you'll no doubt use
Sina Weibo for a Twitterish experience Chinese-style. Social media outlets are
the ideal venue for maximizing the reach of each blog post and making your
content go viral. You'll notice that Ben & Jerry's got this right too. They
have Facebook pages in Spanish, German, Greek, Hebrew and Czech, among other
languages, and their site is localized for 27 different language markets.
Once you begin
blogging and tweeting in your main target languages, whether with a language
vendor or directly in conjunction with in-country writers, the last element to
consider is monitoring. You'll want to stay on top of blog comments and be
responsive. After all, blogging and micro-blogging (i.e. Twitter) are
considered forms of dialogue, meaning two-way communications. You'll need to
follow what your constituents are saying to and about you. Comprehensive social
media monitoring will give you a perspective on how your company and products
are being perceived across cultures, and how effectively you are connecting
with your new audiences.
That's the scoop on multilingual blogging. Contact Acclaro
for more information on how we can help you create multilingual content for
your international blogs and monitor your social media endeavors across language