What are the Differences between English and German marketing language?

differenze marketing usa germania

What are the Differences between English and German marketing language?

Marketing language differences: diversifying the messaging approach in German and English is the key to success.


When translating from one language to another you sometimes forget that not only the grammar might be different. But also the approach to especially marketing texts can be very tricky as well as marketing language differences are several. Localization is just as big as a part of the translation process as translating itself. Finding the right voice and making it seem like it was originally written and meant to be for that language.

Moreover, there are not many frameworks out there regarding marketing language differences that help you specifically in the field, what differences there are and how to approach them on websites specifically. German and English are without a doubt two major languages that have a huge impact on the general market. You will want to make sure that your website speaks to the customer as good as it possibly can and as a translator you want to give your customer the best work you can do.

Indeed, search engine optimization is very important for websites. So working in the translation industry you should have at least a basic understanding on how to optimize translations for websites perfectly. Many different factors fall into the optimization and there are many different areas that can be optimized. Knowing what to do is not always easy but in this article you will find all the answers you need in one place.

A comparison of US and German marketing language

English is one of the most influential languages in the world, especially online. In fact, it’s the native language of a whopping 370 minion people and is also used by 740 million non-native speakers, which means that around 20% of the world’s population speaks English to some degree. Conversely, German is spoken by more than 130 million people and is the most widely spoken language in the European Union. Germany’s “.de” is the second-largest country top-level domain out there, following China’s “.cn”. It is a huge market, and addressing it properly means that you are taking care of millions of potential customers.

Despite the fact that the English and German languages share the same roots, the two countries themselves are very different. If you are already putting effort into reaching German customers, you will want to make sure to approach them in a way that is the most natural and appealing to them.

Differences Between the English and German Messaging Approach

If you start by looking at the cultural differences between the two countries, their language approach will begin to make more sense. Americans tend to be proud of their rather informal culture. Germans tend to be punctual and like to get straight to the point. Indeed, this reflects in the way they express themselves: they have the concept of addressing someone in a formal manner built right into their language. While English always uses “you,” German differentiates between “du” and the formal option “Sie.” In addition to the formal pronoun, surnames are used to maintain a professional distance at work. There is also asemi-formal” option of addressing someone. In this case, you would use “Sie,” but instead of using their surname, you would use their first name.

One size really does not fit all and research confirms that German B2C companies prefer to use an informal voice and be less personal in general, while B2B companies prefer a formal tone over an informal one. Choosing what voice to use in Germany depends on your audience and figuring that out might not always be easy. 

In the US, on the other hand, there is a fine line between formal and informal English, so it is really easy to switch between tones as they don’t have dedicated pronouns or declinations to make phrases sound specifically formal. The frequency of German modal verbs, compared to the frequency of modal verbs used in English, is higher on German websites and confirms this theory, as they are used to express politeness. Each country’s customs and behavior in day-to-day life, translate directly into how companies choose to address their customers online.

Business or Customer: What Should You Focus On?

They also have a different approach in terms of what they focus on. American websites lay their focus on the vendor. Not only do they shift their focus toward them, but they also often choose to directly include the word “business” as an overall keyword, rather than addressing why their product or service is great for new customers. American websites like to use a lot of adjectives to describe features.This language is used to create a feeling and make it sound as incredible as possible, even if that means skipping features that may be harder to process.

German websites, on the other hand, tend to get straight to the point. They concentrate on the actual features and the paragraphs tend to list more of them directly rather than caring about all the ways you could describe them. The focus in Germany lies on current or potential customers and also on trusting the company. Less descriptive phrases are used as well, and the focus is on the actual key points. Rather than creating a feeling, they try to build trust.

The US focuses on the growth of the business, while the German website focuses on trustEven though English uses more descriptive words in marketing, the paragraphs are shorter than their German equivalents. This is due in part to the sheer length of german words, as well as how sentences in German are structured. When creating a website in the US, put an emphasis on the vendor, while if you want to reach a German target audience, focus on the advantages for the customers and keep it simple by sticking to the key points.

Meta Description & Title Tags: First Impressions Count

Let’s now have a look at more specific parts of websites and how language is put into practice. Let’s start with the first thing you would encounter before even entering a website. What someone will most likely do is search for a website they want to visit or search for a question with the help of a search engine. They will come across the so-called title tag and meta description — the little title and description of the website that you click on and that is displayed by the search engine. These are the first things a potential customer will see to help determine whether or not they click on the website.

If title tags and meta descriptions have only been translated, it leads to texts that are too long and are thus cut off by search engines. This doesn’t necessarily relate to how companies choose to use languages in a certain way, but rather is an unfortunate translation mistake. When they are not just translated though, the findings do not come as a surprise at this point. The US sticks to fun slogans like “Keep ‘em smiling” while in German they used “Immer zufriedene Kunden,” which means “Always satisfied customers” — rather practical and straight to the point. By now, I think we can all grasp the common theme.

Header and Paragraphs: Characteristics and Peculiarities

On the websites, headings are rather short and fun in English, while they also tend to add subheadings that are a little longer and actually involve a description. On the opposite end, a longer descriptive heading is preferred in German, and subheadings are also a rarer occurrence compared to in the US. Germans rather pack a lot of information right into the heading and renounce slogans.

This is just an example among marketing language differences. And what is very noticeable is that a lot of numbers are used in English too. Typically speaking, US websites are overall very bold in what they claim and love to use actual numbers to catch your eye. German websites either crop out numbers completely or instead use adjectives to describe the same thing, as that seems more professional to their German customers.

Call to Action: How Forward Is Too Forward?

In marketing, it’s all about advancing the customer to the next step of the buying phase. Call to actions are often displayed as little buttons, which you can see on basically any website

On Salesforce, for example, there are two versions of a pop-up window for the United States. The first version is pretty big and says “Need help?”. It has a picture of a sales associate and looks like a chat window. The second version is a little more toned-down, with an additional picture added to button: “Let’s Chat.”

In the German version there is rather a small CTA button that says: “Kontakt.” One might think that this is due to not having a chat function available in Germany, but upon further inspection the chat icon does pop up. It has an image of an associate whom you can chat with, but overall isn’t as big and prominent. The first version of the CTA in Germany did not lead me to a chat function, but to a contact form.

There is also a difference in the phrases used and the word choices are not a surprise. The US sticks to “Need Help?” and “Let’s Chat” while Germany is very straight to the point: “Kontakt.” And, the only difference is that in German, it is longer and therefore does not completely fit into the button displayed and was cut off. The main takeaway is that Germany generally sticks to one or two nouns and is straight to the point, while the US likes to use an imperative phrase if a certain CTA allows that.

Use of  Videos and Images: marketing language differences Germany vs. USA

Graphics, images, videos and icons can be found more in the United States. German pages, on the other hand, tend to have a fairly minimal design. They often have a white background instead of a colored one and there is a contrast in the use of banner images as well. In the US, they static images that fit with the overall idea of having a website that is more interactive and also visibly appealing.

The images themselves tend to be more generic or even boring, while the US counts on colors instead. Where the US would place colorful graphics with numbers and just a short description, Germany wouldn’t place a graphic but rather go for aheading and a bulleted list with more data and facts. Just like images, videos are also less common in the German market.

Articles are often provided instead of counting on the more visual approach. And even if a video is offered, a lot of times it is not translated or dubbed. Of course there are logistics involved, but in many cases, not even subtitles are provided. To find a video on a German website, you might have to search a little longer. As they are often embedded on the site with the article, while in the US they often show you a CTA button that leads to the video instead. On American websites, there is a more visual approach that fits the theme of a more informal communication, as well as slogans that they like to use for headings, instead of more formal, informative text.


FAQ, Pricing and Contact details

FAQ is an important part of every website. It helps customers to receive quick and easy answers and prevents customer service being flooded with easy-to-answer questions. Looking at the different approaches in each country, most of the questions and answers are the same in both countries. There can be a few more extra questions in Germany, which are often location- or region-related. As frequently mentioned before, the answers in German can be more extensive and more detail-oriented than the US equivalents. 

For the pricing section, the case is very similar. In Germany, the prices are declared right there and then, while the US often tries to market with a 20% off discount or that 20+ apps are included. The focus is rather on the amazing value rather than displaying the price right away. In Germany more details concerning what is included may be present right from the start when the price is advertised. The classic “name,” “surname,” “job,” “title,” on German websites, they may ask for the “company,” what “position” they have, and the “language.” 

On the US website, it reads, “Sign up now to start your free sales trial” while in German “Start your personal free sales trial. Please fill in the form to start your free trial. Our team will contact you to make the most of your test version”.


Takeaway: Marketing Language differences in the USA and in Germany

Finding the right voice and style to bring customers together in the United States and Germany  is very important and there are several factors to consider when doing so as well as marketing language differences. Increasing globalization will leave its marks on the messaging approach used in the respective language. It is expected that, in the following years, the German marketing approach will adapt and become even more like the American one, making it easier for companies to approach both potential customers equally and with less effort.

Until then, it is important to pay attention to the current market and possible fluctuations. Language is only one aspect of a website. A marketing strategy, and having a good translator who is experienced in translations of marketing language differences, can be a big benefit for companies to be able to localize their website accordingly. Another aspect is the design of the website, which in addition to making all the resources available to everyone in the correct language and having a great knowledge of the target audience, is vital for success.

The article has ben written by Mila-Theres Wendland for Pagination.com

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