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How to make sure you convey your marketing message across cultures

The biggest and most common mistake companies who are starting to go global make in their marketing communications is believing that by simply translating their current marketing copy it will win customers in the new foreign market. Even though they made an important investment to create the campaign for their current market, including carrying out quantitative and qualitative market research on their logos, tag lines, packaging designs, product concept, competitors and demographics, many companies don`t realize that it takes the same amount of effort to convey that message in a new language.

Everything about your brand, and your brand experience will require that your communication program endure significant fine tuning. Unless you concurrently studied the culture of your new market while developing the main campaign, you are probably looking at an adaptation that will require the same level of work as the original one. Major global brands work around the clock studying their target market from country to country, looking for universal truths that they can use to assist them in developing an umbrella concept that will work worldwide. If you are not fortunate enough to work with an agency with these types of resources, then it is especially important to employ the strategies listed below.

1. There must be a stakeholder at the home office that will work with a stakeholder in the new country. The local stake holder is responsable for ensuring the perfect transition from the home office campaign to the local market campaign, and as such is probably a near native speaker of the source language and a native speaker of the target language. In general, Marketing projects commonly require a process known as Transcreation. This process ensures that every aspect of the message conveys the message to your new market in a way that will impact them as it did in your home market. So there is much more involved than simply carrying out a literal translation, which can, and often is, a disaster. A simple example of a lack of cultural consciousness can be found with the launch of the Chevrolet Nova in Mexico. A huge success in the United States, Chevrolet decided to launch the same car in Mexico, completely unaware that in Spanish “Nova” would be interpreted as “no va” meaning something that doesn’t go anywhere! Car sales were a flop and it was withdrawn from the market. It was later relaunched as the Chevy SS (Super Sport), which overtime became “Chevy”.

2. Transcreation is a different process. It is unlike translating legal documents, medical affidavits, or technical papers, where exact and precise word-for-word work is done. Many changes to may be required, including colors, and layouts, to localize according to cultural norms. All of which is necessary to present your product in a market that is unfamiliar with your brand. It will take numerous iterations, and potentially a team of linguists working together to achieve your goal.

3. Once you have your local stakeholder, and a linguistic team in place, provide them with your original communication brief. This is the best way to make sure that everyone understands the concepts, and brand experience to be transmitted. Make sure that you have local market research regarding the socioeconomic demographics of your target market, as well as an exhaustive analysis of the competitive brands, including positioning, pricing and packaging. All of this information is necessary to localize your message.

3. Test, test, test. Focus groups are the best way to measure if your localization has achieved its goal. Does it produce the same reaction? Does the target audience provide feedback that confirms they have heard and seen the message you were sending?.

4. Time and Resources. The transcreation process will take longer than the development of the original campaign. Remember that this is a new market, where you are launching a brand and product that was originally created for someone else, with different needs or different tastes. to be successful, you need to get it right the first time. A lot of tweaking may be required. It is possible that the word count will not respond to the conversion-contraction percent that a standard translation has. Expect to invest in proportionally what the home office spent (relative to exchange rates) It takes money to pool the right resources and reach your market objective. It wasn’t free for the home office either…

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