Businesses are trying to extend their markets and audiences by tapping into new regions with products and services. One of the main things in this process is creating an attractive visual (for ads, websites, software, etc.) But spending tons of hours creating the perfect images, photos, and design and not considering cultural particulars is a big failure that businesses may experience. While these images will be designed to entice customers into purchasing a product, the image will instead be offensive or hilarious, preventing customers from taking the company seriously. Many visuals with solid emotional connotations in one country, such as a soaring bald eagle, will have unexpected reactions in other cultures. This question also applies abstract symbols, colors, and even the arrangement of people on a page.

Cultural differences

The two primary world cultural directions - Eastern and Western have differences that will not be understandable to people outside. One of the main distinguishing factors between Eastern and Western societies is the extent to which each society prefers individualism or collectivism. Individualistic cultures sometimes do not understand the importance of which collectivistic cultures value the group. Advertisements are more likely to be compelling when they show people together or express a value that the product would have for the group. Another significant factor when crafting International marketing materials is the different cultural prejudices. There are differences in how cultures value gender equality, diversity, and religion.


Every culture has its symbols, and businesses often use them to improve brand recognition since people are more likely to remember visual images than business names. However, this can become problematic when seemingly innocent logos resemble symbols that have unintended meanings. For example, some religious significance and the accidental use of these symbols in a business logo can be unintentionally offensive. On another side - there exists a list of symbols that came from one culture to another and became famous, an example, yin yang.


Another problem lies with the use of gestures. The thumbs-up sign is a common signal in advertisements that indicates approval. However, in Sicily, the thumbs-up sign has a sexual connotation. Other cultures may not have any meaning for others and will instead seem confusing. The same thing is working with a head nod. One of the famous examples is Bulgaria. In this country, people nod their heads up and down when in denial and right and left when agreeing. An equally interesting gesture is the twist of a finger at the temple. In Eastern Europe, it means that people doubt the mental abilities of another person, then in other countries, it may be different. For example, in Holland, it has the opposite sense - the interlocutor will think you are gifted and you are pointing to your mind.

Sound designation

Sometimes you need to write the sound made by something or somebody. An example is when we want to add to the image the sound of the doorbell or some animals (if we are talking about the visual content for children or a product targeted at families with kids), we need to keep in mind that there are also cultural differences. For example, the dog's woof-woof in English will be wan-wan in Japan, meong-meong in Korea, or guk-guk in Indonesia.

Overcoming cultural misunderstandings

The only way around these problems is to think through a strategy for expanding into a new market. After strategy creation and audience analysis, you will clearly understand how the people live in the country, their values, and their cultural peculiarities. Additionally, one of the best practices is hiring a local expert to approve your visual content. Failing to understand the impact of cultural understanding on a marketing strategy can be very expensive for businesses, as Disneyland saw in China. In response to their slumping attendance, Disneyland Hong Kong provided more traditional New Year's meals and had Mickey and Minnie Mouse dress up in traditional Chinese clothing. These methods have been mainly unsuccessful. The failure of these efforts to wow Chinese crowds helps emphasize why a failure to study an international culture can lead to financial disaster.

Consider using image banks

Fortunately, some tools can help businesses create culturally acceptable images for marketing purposes. Numerous image banks allow companies to purchase culturally acceptable images or use them as models for the images they would use for their websites.

The cherry on top

Before creating quality visual content, you must study the audience thoroughly. The first step to dealing with this challenge successfully is to dive into your potential customers' cultural nuances, habits, and norms. Talk with people, hire consultants and native speakers, and when you are ready for localization - come to Lingohub to strengthen your success. Book a quick demo and learn more about how Lingohub can support your business.

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