October 6

WYODC CONFIDENTIAL #33: Kicka$$ Copy for Foreign Audiences


Hey Sup! 

I wanna give a shoutout to Shi En for inspiring this issue of WYODC Confidential.

Shi En is a member of Inner Sanctum and Holy Grail Copywriting. 

Lately, he’s working on an investing funnel for the Thailand market. 

First off, I’m writing this issue because at some point, you might decide to write to a foreign market. Depending on where you’re based.

I’m based in Singapore and we have a tiny market of 5+ million people of both locals and foreigners combined. This is why early on in my copywriting career, I explored writing for the US market.

I think writing copy for foreigners is a great skill to have especially if your local market is limited. 

Here are some guidelines I find useful when it comes to writing copy for foreigners.

1. Relevance.  While it’s important to learn about the culture of the market you’re working with, I think that the #1 most important thing is to find out more about what’s relevant for them at the moment.

You can search the news or interview people to find out about what people care about. 

Alternatively, you can look up their thought leaders on Youtube to find out what generally your audience cares about. 

Youtube is a gold mine because you can measure what people care about based on how trending it is… or how many views it gets. 

For Thailand, I guess most Thais do not like their King. (You can read it up… the Thai King has a pretty bad reputation.) They’re frustrated at why the King can live his life in luxury and enjoy himself while not contributing to the growth of the country. 

2. Language. If you’re writing English copy to non-English markets (say Thailand, China or Indonesia)… it’s important you find out what percentage of foreigners are English-savvy.

In Singapore and Malaysia, we are pretty familiar with using English but of course, this doesn’t necessarily apply across other countries like Indonesia, Thailand or Vietnam. 

This is important because you’ll make a huge mistake running the entire funnel in the wrong language and they won’t be able to understand most of it.

Eventually, they might even have this objection: “Do I have to be good in English for this program to work for me?” 

If your audience isn’t fluent with English, then it’s a good idea to run the entire campaign in their native language. 

3. Culture. It’s not enough to know about the culture of your market. 

You need to be able to understand the differences between the culture of the foreigners you’re writing to and your local culture. 

More importantly, you have to be able to accept their culture so your copy will sound more natural. 

Culture is defined as the invisible social ideas and norms of a particular society or civilization. 

The issue is that if you’re only studying their culture…(Through watching their news, movies or content) 

You might feel that their culture is very different from yours… but you won’t be able to ascertain what the differences are until you compare them with your culture. 

It’s also important that we understand and accept their culture and the way they think or act… 

If not it’s extremely difficult to write copy if you think that your target market is weird… and they are different from you.

Those are my top three tips when it comes to writing copy for a foreign market.

In addition, I got Kenneth to share his perspectives on this too… 

Kenneth feels that the most important thing to keep in mind when writing to foreigners is that you have to uncover their MH/FI.

And that’s Miserable Home. Fantasy Island.

You have to uncover what are their biggest struggles and deepest desires. 

Because every nationalities’ MH/FI is different. 

Different sets of locals think differently. Their wants and needs are very different.

For example, living in Singapore, I think that getting good grades is a huge thing. (Which is why the private tuition industry is a billion-dollar industry.

While you may argue that this is generally true across Asian societies like Korea and China… 

One thing that’s different is Singaporeans generally take our first national exams far earlier (~12 years old). 

While Korea has their CSAT (College Scholastic Ability Test) and China has NCEE (National College Entrance Examination)… these exams are only taken at the Pre-University level. 

This means we’d arguably have to take on more stress when we are younger. 

Which is slightly different from other Asian societies. 

What makes Singapore such a competitive country is that we’re subtly conditioned from young to keep up with society’s expectations by doing well in exams and getting into good schools.

Then getting into a good university and then good jobs. 

Singaporeans hate it but they still partake in this societal dynamic because of FOLO (Fear of Losing Out)

That’s in a nutshell the context of Singapore’s MH/FI.

Now, I get that it’s tough to thoroughly experience another country’s culture… you need to have a basic understanding of their MH/FI before you start writing.

What do they like… 

What do they hate… 

And why… 

That’s all I have today 🙂 




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