As Angela Benoit pointed out in her delightful presentation "Breaking the Mold: Throwing Out Translation for an Intimate Look at Source Material" at the 57th Annual ATA Conference, customers within the same industry in different countries might be motivated to purchase based on completely different sets of reasons. Therefore, marketing copy might have to be adapted to make sure that it resonates with a foreign target group.
Curious about the real estate industry implications, I looked at the copy on 30 About pages of Russian developers catering to medium-to-upscale market segments, and some of the common themes were quite surprising.
Top 3 most-mentioned features
- Customer orientation
- Company experience (expertise)
- Staff experience
- Time on market
- Awards and ratings
Quality is mentioned in virtually all texts, despite the fact that one might reasonably expect consumers to take it for granted
Possible explanation: during the Soviet era, quality was not, in fact, taken for granted, and continues to be a feature worthy of being repeatedly highlighted.
From thought leadership to using (Western) advanced technologies, this is the second-most-common theme of an About page
Possible explanation: likely related to repeated mentions of the quality. Innovative methodology or technologies mean not using the old (and shoddy) ones.
From working together with property buyers on their projects to taking into account the needs of modern customers
Possible explanation: customer service definitely was not a priority in the Soviet times, and is not a universally accepted notion, especially in the social services sector; or in the services sector, for that matter. Therefore, property buyers need an additional reassurance that their voice will be heard and their preferences will be taken into account.
Good character of a brand, completed projects, taking seriously customers feedback and relevant norms and regulations
Regrettably, missing targets and deadlines is not an uncommon occurrence in Russia, as well as ignoring safety procedures and industry norms and regulations.
While such compliance might be assumed for a foreign brand, Russian developers tend to highlight their trustworthiness (although again, it is hard to imagine a company proudly declaring own flakiness on an "About" page),
Good price-quality ratio, good financing terms or any similar mentions signifying "good deal"
Everyone likes a good deal. It should be mentioned, however, that luxury segment brands did not put a lot of stress on this aspect, instead highlighting the unique features of the properties and their exclusivity.
Building responsibly, passing properties on to children or working on the common goal of creating a good future for the children
The concept of heritage neatly ties in quality, family and stability, presenting properties as worthy of passing on to your heirs - an attractive proposition, especially in economically and politically turbulent times. Responsibility towards the future generations is closer to the "good character" of a brand, but also implies a sense of continuity as opposed to the short-term goal-setting with all of its negative qualities.
Company experience (expertise)
Generic statements about company experience and know-how
In "About" copy of Russian developers they are generally backed up by a combination of references to the staff experience, mentions of awards and/or ratings and portfolio descriptions.
Most commonly used adjectives used to describe staff are "professional", "experienced" or "specialist"
In short, Russian customers, as anywhere else, want to know that they are in good hands.
Time on market
Virtually all companies mention the year when they started operating on the market
Given the ups and downs of Russian economy over the years, it is not surprising that companies highlight the start date in the copy and their ability to withstand economic challenges. Would a foreign brand benefit from mentioning it on their "About" page? If this is what Russian customers want to know, it certainly would not hurt.
Awards and ratings
From property awards to portfolio and company size
As everywhere, social proof is important.
Listing properties, showcasing the most distinctive or successful ones, highlighting the range of offers
An underlying message tends to be "we are not a one-off developer operation, you can trust us to be here for you" (no C.M.O.T. Dibbler's real(-ish) estate, in other words).
Many developers specifically mention not missing deadlines. Ever
Again, one of the features that could be assumed to be taken for granted, but has been mentioned by several Russian developers.
A leading mention when describing properties
As before, one would expect comfort to be a given, but it is mentioned on more than half of the "About" pages, so one might assume that an additional reassurance is required for Russian customers.
Is in the eye of the beholder, but not on the Russian market
Mentioning "beautiful properties" might be considered superfluous (what is "beautiful", specifically?), but based on the Soviet and post-Soviet history of (fairly ugly) mass construction, many Russian buyers need to hear that their property will not be designed in the same style. Of course, using property images might serve the same purpose.
Using safe materials, close to (or surrounded by) natural landscapes
Less prominent in minds of Russian customers, but deserved separate mentions in several cases.
Efficient use of space, maximizing utility of every square foot
Makes sense for apartment descriptions, less common as a mention for developers of townhouses or single-family houses.
Technologies, know-how and design
Highlighting memorable and unrivaled features of a property never hurts.
Infrastructure of development projects
Planning safe large-scale developments, ensuring safety in smaller developments. Is less about privacy, more about physical safety of owners and their children.
When working on an "About" page targeting Russian-speaking audience, consider creating copy that would generate trust and highlight the features that the Russian property buyers care about the most: your company's trustworthiness and willingness to go above and beyond to satisfy, as well as comfort and beauty of your properties.
Ekaterina Howard, Pinwheel Translations
English to Russian and German to Russian translator working with real estate developers and agencies that target Russian-speaking property buyers.