darts with German and American flags on them

Content marketing is an art because “one size fits all” is not fitting everyone, especially when it comes to different industries, products, target groups and cultures. If we compare the American and the German marketing, for example, we see how information and tonality are defined by regional standards.

Else Gellinek, translator at NYA Communications writes that there are distinct differences in German and American marketing assets. For the purpose of this blog entry, I’d like to concentrate on content and tonality and not the translation-issues. What advantages do these different styles have and where could they profit from a glance over the pond?

Tonality – formal vs. casual

According to Gellinek, German marketing texts are more formal and less personal. As a German myself, I concur, especially when it comes to customer communication. One of the main reasons is the use of “Sie” (you) and “Du” (you) to address people. The former is formal and especially used for people you don’t know, older people or people of a higher hierarchy. “Du” is being used more casually for friends, family, colleagues and close acquaintances (and also children).

Given that it doesn’t matter in English who you’re talking to because you can always use “you”, there’s less insecurity regarding the “right” approach. German companies, on the other hand, have to decide whether to “Duzen” or “Siezen” their customers, especially when it comes to marketing automation. True to “better safe than sorry”, most decide upon the “Sie” which makes everything sound more formal.

Form – visual vs. text

American marketing tends to use more visual means to communicate a message. For example with the still popular use of infographics and generally colorful graphics and images in American advertising whereas German marketing tends to be more text-based (even our infographics tend to feature more text).

In a way, this also has to do with German marketing being more clear about the advertisement’s intent. There’s not as many puns, metaphors and symbols being used than in American (or even British) marketing.

Content

Formal language might be a disadvantage when it comes to engaging the customer but one of the strengths of German marketing is its information. Gellinek writes that German marketing content often deals with the features and functionalities and tends to pack more information into its texts opposed to American marketing.

One might assume that German marketing therefore is less prone to the clichéd “marketing blah blah” but a more thorough inspection of the type of information used in American and German marketing shows a different conclusion.

In his article “Marketing in the US vs. Marketing in Germany“, Florian Auckenthaler compares case studies and eventually evaluates how much and which „cues“ (product information) marketing messages contain.

American advertising uses equally 0-3, 4-6 or more than seven cues whereas German advertising prefers 4-6 cues (58%) and seldom uses more than seven (only 12%).

Additionally, Auckenthaler notes the themes of the preferred cues:

  • German Marketing: performance, safety, nutrition, senses (but usually not taste)
  • American Marketing: table of contents, packaging, design, form, taste, usage as well as customer satisfaction

American marketing: experience is front and center

And this is where I have to address the weakness of German marketing: it leaves out the customer experience. Especially packaging, design and customer satisfaction are there to enhance the experience, aside from the actual product.

A good example from my own shopping experiences are the descriptions of food on the packaging. German descriptions are usually incredibly pragmatic and sometimes unintentionally hilarious. American descriptions, however, usually also cover taste, texture and other senses and therefore make the description alone attractive.

There’s a chocolate covered spelt-snack at a German drug-store-chain that is described with the term: “extrudate” which is the process of creating puffed wheat or rice-products (like cereal or cheese puffs). Whereas it might be a true description of the product technically, the description of the manufacturing process might not the best way to sell it to the hungry customer.

German marketing: wind of change

I want to end this entry on a positive note. The “American way of marketing” is slowly being adapted into the German marketing. Not only American brands on the German market but also German brands are focusing more and more on the experience. A classic German chocolate bar, for example, described itself as “milk chocolate with peanuts” for decades. Recently, though, it has changed its product description to “milk chocolate with crunchy roasted peanuts”. It’s a small step but it shows that German companies slowly realize how important the experience a customer might have with the product is for marketing purposes.

Due to globalization and thus more competition, there’s not the one unique product anymore that no one else offers. Instead, fashion, electronics, software and food are available in unprecedented masses, variations and at all prices.

To differentiate yourself from the competition, you need to be able to offer more than a good product – you have to offer a great experience, too.

Marketing excellence means to understand your customers and offer them customer centric, relevant and individual content. Our experts gladly inform you about strategies, technologies and methods to plan, execute and send your content to your target customers.

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