US to UK: How Cultural Differences Impact Your Content Strategy

Your US business has achieved success and you are weighing up where in the world to launch your product or service next. Most likely the UK is high on your list. There is a huge pool of people to connect with. We largely align on many societal, political and economic values and there is no language barrier, which makes communicating the benefits of what you have to offer a lot easier than in other territories. Or does it? 

While it can be argued our similarities are stronger than ever thanks to the impact technology has had in terms of globalisation over the past few decades, we must not assume that this, combined with our shared language automatically means we share a common culture. This viewpoint could make or break your success in the UK.  

A study on advertisements, commissioned by the University of Southern California, found that compared with 31% of emotional content, only 16% of rational advertisements performed well. This suggests that one of the fundamental concepts you should be taking into consideration when producing a blog, press release, video, social media post or any other form of content, is its relatability. 

  • Does your content build a meaningful connection with your audience?
  • Do you know what they need to trust your brand? 
  • Are you authentic in your delivery? 
  • What pain point does your product solve for someone who might be 4,000+ miles away? 

Here are some of the most common differences to acknowledge when producing content for an overseas audience: 

Keep Calm and Tone Down Your Call to Action

Us Brits are famed for our ‘stiff upper lip’ and our quiet nature is commonly referred to in popular culture. These sentiments are echoed in the kind of content we connect with too. When comparing advertisements and marketing materials to that of our neighbours, it can be argued that the UK prefers a subtle approach. The product tends to be the secondary element in comparison to the content whether it be informative, educational or comical. Be aware that this can make it difficult to communicate your brand’s advantages over your competitors’, so get creative but think strategically too. 

You’ll note that many companies in America are likely to go for a hard sell and are more explicit in championing products and services. A number of factors determine the reasons for this, including the difference in legislation. The UK has stricter advertising regulations than its US counterparts. Additionally, the UK’s audience is much smaller and less diverse than America’s, which means its scope for creating and distributing content that resonates with a wider audience is greater. This means, without having to take a more generic route it’s marketers have a better opportunity to appeal to consumers en masse. 

TIP: Study the advertisement guidelines before commissioning new material. With the relatively recent spike in the popularity of influencers pushing products these laws have only become more stringent over past years and change on a regular basis, so it is crucial to keep up. 

Good Old British Sense of Humour

As mentioned, we are often noted for our formal attitude, but we still like to laugh. Given that the content we expect is less on the sales side it is important to outshine your competition, so if you are going with comic effect, it should stand out. Some of the best content produced by brands here in the UK takes a humorous approach. Think innocent, Monzo, KFC UK. All have loyal followings thanks to the quality of their brand’s authentic hilarity. 

With this in mind, it is worth taking this approach if your product communications can warrant a little humour. It will be well received by Brits as long as the nuances of our humour are taken into account, which can be complex business! 

Our idea of fun is somewhat different to what our friends over the pond consider to be. Like its advertising, the UK’s sense of humour is a little less literal. Typically, it is a lot dryer, darker and more sarcastic than what you may be used to presenting an American audience with. Classically pessimistic, our humour follows suit. We are mocking, self-deprecating, satirical and macabre. We’ll deliver a cutting line with a straight face and it can often be difficult to determine whether it is a joke or not! 

TIP: Study other brands that use humour. Use resources like British books, adverts, films and immerse yourself in the culture. Get chatting to your potential customers and see what makes them tick. Social listening is an amazing tool for this.  Get online and see what Brits are talking and laughing about, just please don’t take offence! 

Fame is Fleeting 

As the home of Hollywood and the city of dreams you expect to see celebrities endorsing the latest drink, face cream, innovative piece of tech or otherwise. However, our relationship with celebrities here in the UK can be quite different

Celebrity appearances in your US company’s literature, ads and the like is great practice for making your content memorable and your products desirable. The amount of money spent on advertisements with famous faces echoes this reasoning and therefore is significantly large in America. However, this success hasn’t been replicated in Britain, and again, our cynicism plays a major role in this. 

Consumers in the UK are less likely to believe that the likes of Beyonce and Britney Spears drink full-fat Pepsi on a regular basis and therefore prefer their content to be based around characters than can sympathise with, or celebrities who are lesser known and capable of mocking themselves.

TIP: It is worth considering opting for influencer endorsement as you make your move. Influencer marketing continues to grow in popularity because those who are namechecking the product are more relatable than big A-listers. They also have the platform to demonstrate the products in action, in a ‘real-life’ setting. It is their job! 

Celebrate Good Times

National Days can be a great way to garner inspiration for your new content as long as it is useful to your reader. In fact, when used correctly they can provide a fantastic source when you are putting your content calendar together. 

However, it is important to know which awareness days resonate with your target audience. Not only according to their preferences, but location too. In the western world you may think that our celebratory seasons are much the same. We share Christmas and Easter, of course. Yet while worth a mention for your American fans living in the UK, it is important to be careful not to overdo it when it comes to your messaging around Thanksgiving, Independence Day and Labor Day for fear of alienating your audience and hampering the connection you have been working so hard to establish! 

TIP: Create different social media accounts for different regions and create tailored press releases for each international publication, this way you can localise your content and resonate with your audience on a more granular level. This will certainly help you to differentiate between identities and ensure that your audience feels accommodated consistently. 

These are just some of the differences to be aware of when tackling a new target market.There are many more including spellings and turns of phrase too.  While we are close in values we have very different lived experiences, it is vital your communications respect that because in marketing authenticity is everything! 

Learn more about launching your US brand in the UK. Alternatively, get in touch with one of the team to discuss making your jump across the pond a marketing success.

For more exclusive news and tips from Digital Glue, head to our insights page.

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