It Matters How and to Whom You Call to – CTA Buttons Language Comparison

Written by Polona Golob

January 13, 2017

Many articles have been written about the psychology behind Call to Action (CTA) buttons. Current research included everything from color analysis to the style of language comparisons of CTA buttons. However, fewer content is devoted to a direct language comparison across different nations and cultures.

At GFluence we are interested in international campaigns gone bad or at those which “hit the spot“. Through an in depth analysis of cultural factors influencing the success of global marketing strategies we love to show you what international SEO is really about. We took a detailed look at one Amazon, one Facebook and one Uber CTA button and compared it’s message in different language variations.

Amazon Prime Trial CTA Button

Amazon offers a special membership called Amazon Prime, which offers customers various kinds of benefits from special discount deals to fast free shipping. To attract new members Amazon encourages shoppers to try the 30-day free of charge Amazon Prime trial. And of course, to catch people’s attention the invitation is presented in a form of the classic orange colored Amazon CTA button.

The table bellow shows the Amazon Prime trial CTA button in five different languages each followed by the English translation.

Source: GFluence

In English You Have to Say it All, But Be Short

US consumer are picky consumers, due to the vast possibilities of internet retail and an overall good personal income. That’s why it is important to catch the shoppers attention quickly and in the most efficient way as possible. The CTA message: “Start your 30-day Prime free trial” does exactly that. The word “Start” neatly invites the shopper, while the usage of imperative also engages him or her in the action. The rest of the message leaves no ambiguities explaining the duration of the “Prime” trail and, most importantly – that it is for free.

Spanish is for the Intimate

Though the Spanish version of the button still emphasizes that the trial is for free, it leaves out two important explanatory elements – which trial (Prime) and it’s duration (30-days). On the other hand, a very interesting shift happens in the usage of the language.

With introducing the possessive adjective “my” the entire CTA message becomes more personalized. “Start my free trial period” suggests that the shopper is almost entitled to the trial and that there’s no reason why not to try it, since it is for free. The Spanish version of the call is extremely friendly and creates an intimate atmosphere for the shopper.

The Cordial German

There is only one difference between the English and the German Amazon Prime CTA trial button. The German one does not include the word “free”. Reason? Germany remains as one of the wealthiest European countries, where consumers usually do not have to constrain themselves to a budget. Though Germans are one of the most price oriented consumers in Europe, it seems that Amazon has decided to target its audience differently. Bluntly expressing that something is for “free” can from a German point of view be considered as too distasteful.

No Need to Complicate in Japanese

Similar to the US consumer the Japanese wish to be informed about everything and at the same time they do not desire for the message to be sugar-coded. A shopper from Japan will appreciate it most if you explain to him the plain and simple truth. At the same time he or she is smart and does not require unnecessary explanations.

That is why the Japanese version of the CTA button: “Try 30 day free trial”, is more than sufficient. A very important note is the exchange of the verb “Start” with “Try”. From an Eastern point of view it is impolite to impose something on the customer. The modification is needed so that the message is still inviting, but not sounding as if it is posing an obligation.

The Chinese Need an Explanation

Though we remain in Asia, the use of language in Simplified Chinese suddenly becomes much more playful again. Today’s Chinese consumer is heavily influenced by the Western ways and the CTA message: “Try it now for 30 days free of charge”, sounds similar to the English version, but with a Chinese twist.

“Try it now” is still less imposing on the shopper than the verb “Start”, but the word “now” manages to create a sense of urgency. This is supported by the fact that the trial is “free of charge” with explicitly stating the time limit. In comparison to the Japanese version, here marketing professionals allowed themselves bigger freedom when creating the content.

Facebook’s “Sign Up” Button

Facebook is the world’s largest social network with 1.79 billion monthly active users and has a 16% year by year membership increase. The strategy how to attract new people to join Facebook remains on of the company’s main objectives. The table bellow shows Facebook’s “Sign Up” button in the same five languages we analyzed before.

Source: GFluence

An Invitation to Join From the West

The English, Spanish and German version of the CTA button include a more personal note. The English continues with it’s active and engaging style as “Sign Up” sounds much more exciting than “Register”. But there is no need to play around in German as long as you are following etiquette and addressing the shopper directly.

The Spanish version, yet again, proves to be it’s own special story. From the language comparison table you can recognize that the Spanish version is the only CTA message, which does not include variations of the word “registration”, but says: “Finish-up”. This is a smart, playful and friendly way to invite people to join Facebook meanwhile communicating their philosophy that it’s about connecting and sharing.

For all three language versions Facebook decided to use imperative so that potential members are being addressed directly, meanwhile also creating a hint of urgency in the back of their heads.

Make it Blunt in the East

Things start to get much less personal when we move to the East. The love of the Japanese for precision is neatly shown in Facebook encouraging new members to join by simply stating “Account registration”. To make it even more simple for the Chinese the CTA message only says: “Registration”.

You’ve probably noticed that in both versions the imperative has disappeared. Facebook replaced it with the usage of nouns. This again shows the importance of more subtle etiquette that is used in the East in comparison to Western manners.

How Uber Lures You to Become a Driver

Founded in 2009, today Uber has come a long way from being a startup to becoming the leading pioneer of shared economy in the world. Though still waiting to turn profit, the numbers in growing bookings and expanding services to more than 650 cities promise a bright future. Is there a connection between Uber’s losses and their marketing strategy?

Uber’s multilingual website is very peculiar, not what you’d be used to. After arriving on their website I needed some time to figure out how to change the language. The site is location-sensitive meaning it detects from where you are accessing it. In my case it was Prague. No matter what location you set, you might always get directed to the English version. To get a desired language, e.g. Spanish when you’ve set Madrid as the location, you need to change it yourself.

Going through the different website language versions and translating the CTAs a question popped into my mind – Are they simply translating this?

Source: GFluence

It’s More Than Just a Job, You Know …

The key to the secret is the international English version “Become a driver”. It’s simple and straightforward, yet just enough inviting. We’ve spoken how Americans have a high driven career mentality. Uber is an American company and together with Airbnb a pioneer of the sharing economy system. When using the verb “to become” you’re communicating that being an Uber driver means much more than just a job. You create an identity around the occupation.

One for All and All for One?

We don’t know what’s really going through the minds of Uber’s marketing team. When you’re doing multicultural marketing you want to make sure you’re creating a consistent brand image all around the globe.

In Uber’s case they’ve decided that the original English slogan is universal enough to simply translate it into the local language of the targeted market. From a linguistic point of view all these translation from the above table: Portuguese, French, Czech and Russian are done properly. Each carries the exact same message and tone as the original.

But is that enough? Brazilians are known to have a very personal approach when doing business and are an extremely friendly and upbeat nation. With the French you have to be careful how you phrase words, so that what you are selling is really true. Choosing to put the words in imperative in all the four versions is a risky choice. Slavic languages consider the usage of imperative as impolite. A native speaker of either Czech or Russian will use the imperative when giving out orders to other people.

OK, So You Do Know What Localization Means

The Japanese, Spanish and German version are a story of their own. It seems as if the local marketing teams have greater freedom. The Japanese CTA button brilliantly follows all the standard local rules: blunt without any sugarcoating. What could be more clear than the word “register”? Oh, and what for? Simple, to be a “driver”.

The most advanced CTAs are undoubtedly the Spanish and the German versions. Local marketing teams have gone one step further from the original English CTA. Being an Uber driver is much more than just a job it is also being a part of the new uprising sharing economy system. When you communicate the opportunity of “partnership” to another person it carries a totally different meaning.

Because the Spanish version is international, marketing specialist chose the most common and universal word which will carry the same meaning for any Spanish speaker across the globe – “register”. The German version is a brilliant fusion of the original CTA with an important twist. Like Americans, Germans are also career-driven and work is an important part of a person’s identity. But being an economic global force Germans also don’t cut themselves short. If you plan to convince the German people in your vision you have to promise them something in return. Promising people that they’ll “become a driver” doesn’t really sound that great to German ears. But, when you say you’ll become “partners”, it brings a totally new dimension to the offer.

Are you getting all possible search hits from every corner of the world? Get in touch with us, we’d be happy to become your International SEO champion and tell the world about your brand.

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