There’s nothing more exciting than the possibility of reaching tens of millions all over the world with an ad campaign. In reality, the chances are that, apart from some global phenomenon, most ads appeal to certain demographics and not others. Venturing into the international marketplace requires a strong local knowledge base as well as an understanding of local cultural sensitivities in order to ensure a strong foundation for your undertaking. We’ve identified a few things to keep in mind as you begin to pursue or think about international marketing for your brand: Crossing the barrier Cultural awareness should be applied in every aspect of marketing – selling, advertising, design and promotion. It covers language, lifestyle and behavioral patterns of people in the country of interest. Of course the company should print in the local language, but that’s not where the language barrier ends. Companies should be aware of what their brand names will do to their company image on foreign shores: Hyundai is pronounced by Koreans as “hi-yun-day” but when it comes to producing ads in the U.S., it’s pronounced, “Hun-day.” Pantene is pronounced in the U.K. as “Pan-TEN” but in the U.S. it’s pronounced as, “Pan-TEEN.” The changes make it easier for people in the U.S. to pronounce the name, which is an important step to popularizing a brand. It’s in the details It’s not just the language used in labeling or media to promote your company and its products. It’s how the ad is created that can make the difference. For instance, a car manufacturer should ensure that its ads take note of the position of the driver’s seat. An ad showing a left-sided driving vehicle would not work in a country where the driver sits on the right-hand side. Commercials should also be sensitive when using dialogues and slogans. There are quite a few instances when phrase or slogan translations were a source of embarrassment for a brand: Pepsi’s “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” campaign was translated to “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead” in Chinese. Which is eerie and most definitely shouldn’t occur from consuming a carbonated beverage. A Krispy Kreme U.K. store advertised a promotion called “KKK Wednesday,” which was intended to stand for “Krispy Kreme Klub,” but is of course more infamously associated with the Klu Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group. The American Dairy Association’s huge success with its campaign, “Got Milk?” prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention that the Spanish translation read, “Are you lactating?” With the possibility of mistakes that could happen in translation, why bother translating to the local language at all? Well, according to BBC, 70 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product that is sold in their local language. As a business leader, it’s critical that you encourage and educate your team to learn how to operate effectively within unfamiliar cultural parameters. In seeking to develop an advanced level of cultural awareness, there are several key factors to consider, including: Communication Outstanding communication skills are valuable in any employee and at any organizational level. They’re even more important when dealing across cultures. Subtle differences in how people communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, can make a difference. With a thorough understanding of the local culture and a skilled translator, it’s possible to be an effective communicator in any country. Flexibility When doing business internationally, you may face situations, in which you are not in control or don’t have all the answers. Be patient with yourself as well as with business partners and potential customers. Keep the focus on the big picture. Self-awareness It’s not easy to absorb and understand everything that is happening around you in cross-cultural business settings. At such times, it can be beneficial to tap into your self-awareness skills. Ask yourself why you feel this way and what you think of the situation and adjust your responses or actions accordingly. The bottom line? Do your homework before entering a new market and then make a continued effort to learn and understand the local culture and customs. You will soon find that this extra work will give you a competitive edge. t are key success factors? We would love to hear from you!

Digital Marketing

Cultural Sensitivity for A Competitive Edge

Blog Author

Abigail Balbach
March 3, 2015

There’s nothing more exciting than the possibility of reaching tens of millions all over the world with an ad campaign. In reality, the chances are that, apart from some global phenomenon, most ads appeal to certain demographics and not others.

Venturing into the international marketplace requires a strong local knowledge base as well as an understanding of local cultural sensitivities in order to ensure a strong foundation for your undertaking.

We’ve identified a few things to keep in mind as you begin to pursue or think about international marketing for your brand:

  • Crossing the barrier
    Cultural awareness should be applied in every aspect of marketing – selling, advertising, design and promotion. It covers language, lifestyle and behavioral patterns of people in the country of interest. Of course the company should print in the local language, but that’s not where the language barrier ends.

Companies should be aware of what their brand names will do to their company image on foreign shores:

  • Hyundai is pronounced by Koreans as “hi-yun-day” but when it comes to producing ads in the U.S., it’s pronounced, “Hun-day.”
  • Pantene is pronounced in the U.K. as “Pan-TEN” but in the U.S. it’s pronounced as, “Pan-TEEN.”

The changes make it easier for people in the U.S. to pronounce the name, which is an important step to popularizing a brand.

  • It’s in the details
    It’s not just the language used in labeling or media to promote your company and its products. It’s how the ad is created that can make the difference. For instance, a car manufacturer should ensure that its ads take note of the position of the driver’s seat. An ad showing a left-sided driving vehicle would not work in a country where the driver sits on the right-hand side. Commercials should also be sensitive when using dialogues and slogans.

There are quite a few instances when phrase or slogan translations were a source of embarrassment for a brand:

  • Pepsi’s “Come Alive with the Pepsi Generation” campaign was translated to “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead” in Chinese. Which is eerie and most definitely shouldn’t occur from consuming a carbonated beverage.
  • A Krispy Kreme U.K. store advertised a promotion called “KKK Wednesday,” which was intended to stand for “Krispy Kreme Klub,” but is of course more infamously associated with the Klu Klux Klan, a white supremacist hate group.
  • The American Dairy Association’s huge success with its campaign, “Got Milk?” prompted them to expand advertising to Mexico. It was soon brought to their attention that the Spanish translation read, “Are you lactating?”

With the possibility of mistakes that could happen in translation, why bother translating to the local language at all? Well, according to BBC, 70 percent of consumers are more likely to buy a product that is sold in their local language.

As a business leader, it’s critical that you encourage and educate your team to learn how to operate effectively within unfamiliar cultural parameters. In seeking to develop an advanced level of cultural awareness, there are several key factors to consider, including:

  • Communication
    Outstanding communication skills are valuable in any employee and at any organizational level. They’re even more important when dealing across cultures. Subtle differences in how people communicate, both verbally and non-verbally, can make a difference. With a thorough understanding of the local culture and a skilled translator, it’s possible to be an effective communicator in any country.
  • Flexibility
    When doing business internationally, you may face situations, in which you are not in control or don’t have all the answers. Be patient with yourself as well as with business partners and potential customers. Keep the focus on the big picture.
  • Self-awareness
    It’s not easy to absorb and understand everything that is happening around you in cross-cultural business settings. At such times, it can be beneficial to tap into your self-awareness skills. Ask yourself why you feel this way and what you think of the situation and adjust your responses or actions accordingly.

The bottom line? Do your homework before entering a new market and then make a continued effort to learn and understand the local culture and customs. You will soon find that this extra work will give you a competitive edge.

t are key success factors? We would love to hear from you!