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Developing bilingual marketing campaigns that connect

Language is fundamental to who we are as humans.

It’s how we communicate and, in many cases, a signifier of who we are and the communities of which we are members.

That’s why it’s essential for marketers to, whenever possible, communicate in their target audience’s language whenever possible.

But developing marketing campaigns that connect with audiences in more than one language means going beyond some last-second translations.

A bilingual campaign needs to be built from the ground up.

Here’s how you can develop effective bilingual marketing campaigns that connects with your audience.

Why bilingualism matters

Bilingualism in marketing matters for one simple reason: It matters to your audience.

If you are trying to reach an audience but are unwilling to communicate with them on their terms, your campaign isn’t likely to be effective.

It’s particularly important in Canada, where close to 10 million Canadians are able to speak in French.

If you’re not thinking in more than one language, your campaigns aren’t going to connect in the way you want them to.

What to consider when creating bilingual marketing campaigns

Here are the main areas you need to focus on if you want to communicate with audiences in more than one language.

What’s your budget split?

Bilingual marketing campaigns frequently require you to split your budget into the two different languages you want to reach.

Let’s say you’ve got a budget of $30,000.

You might want to split that so $20,000 goes to the English campaign and $10,000 goes to the French campaign.

Why is this important?

Because a best practice for most ad platforms is to create separate campaigns for each of the languages you’re targeting.

That means getting the percentages right here is key.

To continue with the example above: The percentage of French speakers is going to be different depending on the area to which you are marketing.

In the Canadian province of New Brunswick, for example, 33.2 per cent of the population speaks French at home. That’s well above the 4.7 per cent of the population that speaks French at home in Ontario.

By considering where your target audience is, you can begin to consider what the budget breakdown should be.

Don’t just translate – build from the ground up

The temptation with bilingual marketing campaigns is to simply build a campaign as you ordinarily would in one language, then translate.

As Banfield’s Aurélie Barbe notes, this isn’t sufficient.


Because each language has its idiosyncrasies and differences.

They aren’t just carbon copies of one another or word-for-word translations, and because a fun play one words in one language will likely fall completely flat in the other.

To build an effective bilingual marketing campaign, you need to consider different languages as entirely distinct audiences.

What types of phones do they have?

What distinct phrases do they use?

How formal is the language?

These are questions you can’t address simply by translating words from one language to another.

But they are essential for building bilingual marketing campaigns that connect.

Focus on the tactical – not just the strategic

Strategy is important when it comes to developing bilingual marketing campaigns.

But so are tactics.

That’s because building a campaign in more than one language requires several tactical decisions that affect how your audience experiences it – particularly if you’re running online or social ads.

For example: Will you create separate campaigns for each language? Or would you rather just create a campaign in both languages then use English and French language ads for it?

It might seem like a small his decision. But this will have implications for whether or not you will need to set up separate targeting and split your budget across numerous campaigns.


Communicating with your audience in their language is essential for any successful marketing campaign.

How will you choose to reach them?

Mark Brownlee is a digital marketing strategist in Ottawa, Canada.

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