One of my roles in product marketing is to generate product-based messaging to highlight the value proposition of our enterprise software, and to enable sales to position, articulate and sell the product. In doing so, something that has become clearer to me over the last few months, as I have absorbed experiences from a number of product announcements and launches, is how differently English-language speakers and readers use the language. (Note: this article is limited to English, I don’t have experience in translating).
In my previous roles in enterprise software marketing and sales, I was the person at the end of chain, delivering the message. Most of that time I was working for US-based companies, and there were many occasions when I was frustrated by the lack of understanding by corporate marketing of how things worked where I was. Now, I am at the other end, near the start of the chain, which means that I have to be aware of global implications of what we produce.
To understand how to approach cross-cultural communication, the concept of “high and low context” can be helpful (I am indebted to my brother-in-law for telling me about it; he has had to deal with the issuing working in mines around the world). “High context” societies don’t require verbally explicit communication, and have a more internalised understanding of the message. “Low context” societies require everything to be spelt out explicitly in the communication, there is very little implicit understanding. The other side of high and low context is that people tend to mistrust or look down on those in a different context society.
I have struggled to find sources about high and low context in a product marketing situation. There are a number of good sites – Hutch Carpenter’s , also here and here – but none seem to have discussed the issue any time recently.
What I have learnt is that messaging works best if we send draft material to various people in offices around the world for their comments before we finalise our collateral. By the way, I never saw this happen at either JD Edwards or Microsoft Dynamics – I they have a similar process I was not aware of it.
If you have had experience developing product collateral for high and low context societies, I would be interested in your comments.