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Once upon a time, taking a company global required a massive investment of time and resources. Brand awareness and product placement meant boots on the ground, and without a dedicated group of marketers and salespeople willing to relocate long-term, any attempt at opening new cultural doors would inevitably fail. These barriers to entry ensured only major corporations could successfully create an international presence.
Advances in technology and the rise of social media have transformed the globalization process. Thanks to the internet, businesses of every size can enter the world market with just a few mouse clicks. However, there are pitfalls that accompany this easy access to international consumers. Some organizations neglect the planning process, which is critical to ensuring that existing brand materials like advertising copy and product names are adjusted appropriately for other languages and cultures.
Plenty of companies learn the hard way that existing business and product names aren’t necessarily a good fit for international markets. For example, when Puffs facial tissues went to Germany, vital research was neglected. Had the company been better prepared, marketers would have chosen an alternate name, since “puff” is slang for “brothel” in German.
Brand names aren’t the only issue in taking products to new markets. Seemingly benign packaging choices can have unexpected consequences for sales numbers. For example, Gerber tried marketing baby food in Ethiopia using its traditional cute baby graphics on the label. Ethiopian shoppers were horrified. Sadly, Gerber skipped cultural research and learned too late that due to high levels of illiteracy in the country, Ethiopian food products typically have pictures of the package’s contents on the outside.
Creating a successful global presence takes more than simple verbatim translation into the local language. Understanding local customs, color associations and nuances of language are key to ensuring the intended message comes across properly.
The most effective method of localizing marketing is a process known as transcreation — a combination of translation and content creation. Instead of merely translating existing content to the target country’s language in a word-by-word or phrase-by-phrase manner, transcreation experts create new content that communicates the relevant message in a culturally appropriate way. Cultural consulting services are available to aid in a better understanding of the market you are targeting in order to create marketing collateral that resonates with that locale.
This process extends to the entire branding strategy, taking cultural norms into consideration. For example, a yellow-themed site that seems cheery to Americans isn’t appropriate in many countries. Most of Latin America associates yellow with death and mourning, while Asian countries often consider this color sacred, reserving it primarily for rulers and royalty. Successfully launching a company onto the national stage means understanding these details and making adjustments that go deeper than basic translation of content.
Bringing a collection of native linguists and cultural experts on staff for every new market is not practical. Fortunately, there are cultural consulting services that specialize in transcreation. These professionals turn your existing branding materials and marketing content into a complete package that is culturally appropriate to the targeted consumers.
Remember, global marketing comes with many potential pitfalls, as organizations of all sizes have learned through trial and error. The wrong color choice or an unfortunate turn of phrase can have unintended consequences in unfamiliar communities. Choosing an expert consultant to handle transcreation leaves nothing to chance — and frees you up to focus on developing your company’s next big innovation.