Did you know there are 7,151 languages in the world today? With so many different ways to communicate, it’s especially important to tailor your marketing and packaging to your target markets. 

Many markets have strict regulations around what language(s) your labelling and packaging are in. For example, in Canada, unless you are selling only within a limited area considered adjacent to the municipality where the product was manufactured, you are required by the Canadian Food Inspection Agency (CFIA) to use both English and French. Here are some of the CFIA requirements for how each language is used and displayed. Even with inter-provincial trade, labelling and packing requirements may vary depending on the province.

When entering a new market such as the United States, you may not be required to remove the French from your labels, but it will stand out. That’s because only 0.003% of the population speaks the language. If you’ve ever come across American products such as chocolate bars at gas stations or convenience stores, you’ll notice that they immediately pop out due to the differences in design, and lack of French. In markets where there is a strong ‘buy local’ or ‘buy domestic’ mentality, not blending in with local branding and labelling could potentially hurt sales.

There may also be differing regulations with respect to sizing, spacing, and placement of specific features. As a result, it’s generally not advisable to use your Canadian labels in the US, and vice-versa. Doing research on your target market will help you identify its language and labelling requirements. 

Website and Customer Service Considerations

Another factor to consider isn’t only your packaging, but also your website and customer service resources. Ensure that your website and appropriate staff have the language skills required for those markets. While English may be the dominant language of business globally, using the local market’s language will make it easier to build business relationships and provide adequate support for consumers.

A common workaround for smaller operations, or those with a diverse market base, is to contract out the development of a multi-lingual, or language-specific website. You can use in-market resources such as agents to conduct business operations on your behalf, in the local language. One resource that can further assist and bolster the work of in-market partners is Global Affairs Canada’s Trade Commissioner Service. They can assist export-ready companies with participation at trade shows, provide key contacts, and help you host and facilitate meetings. Another great resource is Trade and Invest BC, which can connect you with British Columbia’s Trade Representatives in markets around the world.

Languages are important. It is key for your international success that your message doesn’t get lost in translation! We always recommend tailoring your marketing to your audience. From packaging and labelling requirements to translating your website and customer service, there is a lot to think about when entering a new market. 

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Need help preparing to export your product or service? Reach out to us and talk to an Export Advisor today about how the Export Navigator program can assist you on your exporting journey. From accessing resources to receiving expert guidance, Export Navigator can help you reach your export goals.