4 Tips for Being Culturally Aware with Your Brand Message

Thanks to the internet, brands today have a much wider reach. 

Take certain types of service providers, for example. They can work with clients from anywhere in the world! As long as there’s a working internet connection – and connect with people from countries thousands of kilometers away from them. This hyper-connectedness and breaking of borders have made being culturally aware all the more important for brands and businesses that truly want to succeed.

How so? Because, if they’re not careful with what they do or how they say things, the slightest slip-up can break the trust that audiences and consumers have deposited in them. And once that trust is gone, it’s very difficult to get it back.

And while this might feel and sound a tad too overwhelming, there’s no need to start worrying – we’ve gotchu!

If you’re planning on starting (or growing) your business, and are looking for ways to make sure your brand message is aligned with today’s global panorama, keep reading! 

We’re taking a look at some of our favorite tips for being culturally aware and responsible with your brand message – so you can continue growing as smoothly as possible with a global audience 💫

What do we mean “being culturally aware”?

The term “cultural awareness” is often used to refer to someone’s “understanding of the differences between themselves and people from other countries or other backgrounds.”

In other words, the term takes into account both an element of self-awareness (knowing yourself and how your culture impacts the way you do certain things, speak a certain way, etc.) and of recognition (knowing that there are people from other cultures out there who might behave, speak, feel differently about certain things, etc).

In a way, being culturally aware is knowing how to navigate these nuances (between “I-other”) accordingly so you can effectively and appropriately – that is, with no negative repercussions or offense – engage with people across cultures.

Cultural awareness & branding

When it comes to running a business, cultural awareness is an extremely powerful tool that can help you establish meaningful and authentic relationships with clients/audiences across the board.

Easier said than done, right?

READ MORE: What is Liberatory and Culturally Competent Marketing?

There have been instances in the past where brands like Puma (with a very unsuccessful UAE flag shoe launch) and Tesco (with their bacon-flavored Pringle sale…on Ramadan) failed to show up in terms of cultural awareness and sensitivity.

Expanding a business to a global audience means putting in tons of work in terms of cultural awareness.

There’s a never-ending list of questions you need to ask yourself before putting something – whether that’s a blog, social media post, video, email, etc. – out there:

  • What phrases or words might this new global community find offensive?
  • How can I approach more difficult topics of gender, age, socioeconomic status, etc.?
  • Can anything I say be taken out of context?
  • Do the colors I’m using have a different meaning in a certain country?

So, before you start creating content that might miss the mark, it’s worth taking a few steps back to look at the foundation of your business and where it all begins: your brand message.

4 of our favorite tips for being culturally aware with your brand message

Cultivating a culturally competent brand message is a great way to ensure that the content you’ll produce later on will remain within these same parameters of being culturally aware, respectful, and globally inclusive.

And how can you do that? Luckily, we’ve got a few tricks up our sleeve that has the basics covered 😉

Below are four of our favorite tips for crafting a powerful, culturally aware brand message! 

01. Open the doors to inclusion & diversity within your community 

As a brand or business looking to branch out into the global market, you should be ready to create a welcoming environment that celebrates diversity and feels inclusive to all.

As such, the different components of your brand message should take into consideration that your audience won’t all:

  • Look the same 
  • Speak the same language
  • Be impacted by the same experiences
  • Share the same traditions

 Doing a deep dive into these elements – which we call the “ethnographies” of your ideal client – will help you align your brand message to your audience because you’ll have a much easier time knowing how their culture impacts the way they consume certain products and pieces of content.

READ MORE: How to Implement Inclusive Marketing in Your Content Strategy

Knowing this will, in turn, help you understand what they…

  • Might find offensive
  • Can consider inspiration
  • Will find motivational (and drive them to complete a purchase)
  • Might be willing to share with others in their community

02. Be mindful of the language you use

Our second tip for being more culturally aware with your brand message is to be mindful of the language you use.

Certain sayings or idioms might seem harmless but are actually rooted in historically offensive – racist, classist, misogynist – connotations.

 As such, it’s extremely important that you watch the words and phrases you use. This, in order to avoid miscommunication that might lead to a bigger misunderstanding.

This same level of care and attention should also be applied to the use of gender-neutral language – and representation – in your communications. 

That way you can avoid creating a situation in which your audience feels discriminated against because of the assumption that a single gender is “the norm”.

03. See your audience as humans, not avatars

Our third tip is a sort-of-combination of the first two, but feels important to highlight on its own.

When it comes to your brand message, it’s essential to see and understand your audience as humans outside of the screen – not just “ideal clients” or “avatars”.

These are people with dreams, fears, hopes, stories, and backgrounds that impact and direct everything they do – online and offline. From where they shop to what they watch on TV, how much money they spend a month, how much they invest in their education, they’re constantly changing and evolving and so are their habits.

READ MORE: Is All Copywriting Manipulative?

By stepping outside of the conventional marketing ideal that people are simply “personas”, you’ll have the opportunity to establish a deeper connection and build a community within a community.

04. Avoid recurring to stereotypes

This one speaks for itself 🤐 but it’s always worth mentioning that playing into stereotypes will likely bring more harm than good.

We’ve seen it done by brands like Axe and Carl’s Jr. in the past, where they use women and women’s bodies as a commodity. 

Or by brands like Aunt Jemima and Uncle Ben’s, who have been recently called out for their racially-charged and stereotypical logos.

This usually calls for trouble (and a very expensive rebranding process).

So, we’ll say it flat out: avoid stereotypes. Don’t be tempted to make a joke out of something that might seem “ha ha” at the time, but that can be easily misinterpreted by someone else. 

Let’s wrap things up!

Being culturally aware and designing a culturally appropriate business seems like a monumental task, but once you get the ball rolling…things generally fall into place.

This is especially true when you’ve crafted a powerful brand message that takes into account the global community that you’ll enter once your business goes live online.

When it comes to crafting a brand message that’ll help you and your business with being more culturally aware, we recommend that you:
01. Celebrate inclusion & diversity within your community 
02. Are mindful of the language you use
03. See your audience as humans, not avatars
04. Avoid recurring to harmful stereotypes

Most importantly, though, there’s no shame in not knowing and simply ASKING! If you’re struggling to create an open, brave, and welcoming space for your community as a whole, reach out to them and ask them about the different ways in which you can improve. 

People often feel respected and appreciated when others take the time to enquire about them instead of just assuming – and marketing is no different. It’s a never-ending learning process (for everyone involved)!

Do you have any more tips about being more culturally aware in business? Drop them in the comments below!


Enjoyed this post? You might like these, too:
3 Brand Message Strategy Tips for a Great Client Experience
How Developing A Brand Voice Can Help Your Business Succeed
5 Reasons Why A Liberatory & Culturally Competent Marketing Strategy Can Boost Your Business
Figuring Out When It’s Time to Rebrand Your Company

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