Speaking Our Language

Sunday, November 07, 2021

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Doing business with our friends in the United Kingdom is a pleasure for many reasons, one of which is that we share a common language. That makes things easier, and we Americans love a British accent.

When it comes to marketing, however, communication styles can be quite distinct (in British terms) or really different (as Americans would say) - and that can make all the difference in the success (or failure) of a campaign.

The following are just a few subtle and not-so-subtle distinctions in marketing strategies to American vs. British audiences. 


  • Message length
    • American - messages are shorter and more direct with a clear call to action. They are developed with immediacy in mind, moving customers to quick decisions in just seconds.
    • British - these messages are lengthier and more detailed with a more vague call to action. These are messages to ponder rather than pounce on.
  • Power of Persuasion
    • American - the overall message is more assertive, emphasizing urgency and information to influence opinion.  This approach speaks directly to the audience with a clear and concise message designed to get the point across quickly. It may include product demonstrations and comparisons to competitors if necessary.
    • British - a softer sell approach that is more polite and quiet and allows the audience to form their own opinions. It tells a story or narrative that is more subtle in content and delivery.
  • Tone of voice
    • American - tends to communicate strength and optimism with a bold message that is engaging and rapport-building. The language is less formal and easier to understand for the sake of speed and convenience (the audience doesn’t have to guess at the message; it is more aggressive in nature).
    • British - more subtle and understated with a formality that is appealing in the U.K. but too much work for a U.S. audience that wants immediate gratification.


  • Testimonial-based marketing – This is an area of overlap and an important component for campaigns in both America and the U.K. The difference is the level of focus and priority.
    • American - testimonials are both important and helpful in the overall strategy but not a focal point. They are part of the overall strategy.
    • British - testimonials are is essential to help support the consumer’s buying decision.
  • Celebrity Endorsements
    • American - Americans love their celebrities, and this tactic is used very effectively for consumer brands and political campaigns.
    • British - while this is used occasionally, it is not the norm.
  • Language differences – This seems obvious but needs to be pointed out. While there are more similarities, there are important differences that need to be accounted for.
    • Spelling - certain words are spelled distinctly in the U.K. from the U.S. markets. A couple of examples include “specialize” vs. “specialise” or color vs. colour. 
    • Word choice - The American word for “football” is used in the U.K. to mean “soccer,” and the word “geezer” means a tough guy in England but an old guy in the U.S.
    • Use of acronyms
      • American - communications to an American audience often incorporate common acronyms to make a point.
      • British – Britains tend to spell things out.


  • Diversity in imagery
    • American - With America being a true melting pot, marketers are sensitive to diversity issues and feature images of different races.
  • Websites
    • American websites - tend to be more sleek and modern with simple navigation to help users find what they’re looking for quickly. Simple designs that are uncluttered and engaging images that capture the attention.

Making cultural adjustments always come with their challenges. Hopefully, the tips included here will help ease the transition for U.K. companies entering the

U.S. marketplace. 

For more information on communications in the U.S. and the Irvine Gateway program, contact Lisa Thomas.

Lisa ThomasLisa Thomas of Main Street Marketing Partners is a member of the Greater Irvine Chamber Board of Directors and is the incoming chair of the Irvine Forward Foundation. She joined the Chamber in 2016 and has served as chair of the Marketing and Communications Committee as well as a member of various other committees including the Foreign Direct Investment Committee and Women of Influence planning committee.

As the Founder of Main Street Marketing Partners, Thomas helps small businesses get noticed and realize tangible growth with branding and marketing initiatives. As she says, “We work at the intersection of sales and marketing, where messaging must be relevant to reach your ideal customer.” Services include brand messaging and strategy, branding workshops, digital marketing, websites for small businesses, and traditional marketing. 

Before launching Main Street Marketing Partners, Thomas was the managing director for Taylor Digital, where she led the agency to a 30% growth in revenue, spearheading strategic partnerships and the brand identity of the agency within the community.  

In addition to the Greater Irvine Chamber, Thomas serves as the marketing chair for DeviceAlliance and board member for Leadership Tomorrow, International Association of Business Communicators, Team Kids, and BERT Inc. 




Category: Irvine Gateway, Foreign Direct Investment, Communications, U.S., U.K., Economic Development