Is Language an Important Factor in an Explosive Viral Strategy?

In his book The Lean Startup, Eric Ries argues that for any viral strategy to work, the viral coefficient has to be greater than one. Or to put it simply, for each person that uses your products, you want to automatically trigger at least one additional person to become a user. The higher the viral coefficient is, the more successful your viral marketing strategy becomes. Once you have a successful viral strategy in place, the challenge becomes not to limit its explosive potential growth.

Today, viral marketing continues to gain credibility in creating engines of growth locally and globally for a multitude of startups and larger organizations. Viral tactics however are not a recent phenomenon!

In the early 16th century, Martin Luther nailed his Disputation on the Power and Efficiency of Indulgences on the door of a church in Germany. Written in Latin, the 95 Thesis were initially debated mainly among scholars in academic circles. It is interesting to note that not till they were translated into German and distributed in pamphlets that the message turned viral and spread within days across Germany and  within weeks across Europe. The Vatican’s defense, although massive, arrived in impeccable Latin pamphlets only. Luther’s work in German spread like wildfire while the counterargument in Latin fizzled.

A more recent example of a successful viral strategy that we had a connection with was implemented by WebDialogs in 2007. With two other established players in the market, competition was fierce, and WebDialogs was struggling to gain market share. Its small marketing team then struck a deal with Skype allowing any Skype user to download a free copy of a pared-down version of its software and use it to share his or her computer screen with all of his or her Skype contacts. Before WebDialogs released the new software, its marketing staff astutely asked us to localize it into 20 languages. Then they simultaneously released it worldwide with a smart upsell strategy. And Voilà! Within a few weeks, WebDialogs acquired more users than it had amassed since its inception and within months was acquired by IBM.

Proper use of language has been instrumental in the success of global viral marketing strategies for centuries! With the advent of the internet, social media and instant communications across the globe, having a multilingual marketing strategy is even more vital. It is not hard to see the value of language in the above examples, yet many companies today still fret over establishing a sensible translation and localization budget that can allow them to scale globally.

Translation and localization are enablers. Their absence will hinder your global marketing strategies, possibly triggering that awful fizzled outcome! But don’t just look for a translation agency that only offers translation services; look for a partner that can also help you achieve your global vision!

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