Category Archives: Transcultural Marketing

Websites Going International

 

Coca-Cola_China

Coca-Cola_China

I’ve been thinking about this for a while now, since I see my company venturing into foreign markets, and also because I often read about other companies entering international markets. I think it’s exciting, I love this stuff! For companies, it’s the next thing to do.

I was triggered to write this post from a discussion forum at Forrester Reasearch that I’m part of.  Jim Deitzel from Newell Rubbermaid was interested in knowing our opinions on how to go about setting up a website in different languages. This was a great discussion, and these are my thoughts on it… (I added a few thoughts from my old post)

Besides the critical language and currency support that website must have in order to go international, for an ecommerce retailer, going international should not just mean ‘translating’ (although I argue ‘adapting’ is better) a website into multiples languages, so ‘we speak the same language they do’. It should mean going a step further and creating a website and an experience that is consistent with what the target market perceives as relevant, meaningful and persuasive.

‘Think global and act local’ applies here too. No one market has the same drivers, and no brand has the same image and ‘feel’ in every market. But when it happens, that markets and brands are similar enough to each other, a same strategy is likely to work for both. So it seems to be the case with Oral-B, which has similar websites in the US and United Kingdom with minor adjustments: www.oralb.com/en-US and www.oralb.com/en-UK.

When countries and brands differ drastically, then it’s appropriate to also create unique websites and experiences that closely match the expectation and mindset of that particular new market. Such is the case with Pepsi in the US and France: www.pepsiworld.fr and www.pepsiusa.com; Coca-Cola in the US: www.coca-cola.com/index.jsp; Brazil: www.cocacola.com.br/pt-br/index.jsp; Danmark: www.coca-cola.dk; and China: www.icoke.cn; and Clairol in the US: www.clairol.com/index.jsp; Canada: www.clairol.ca/en_ca/default.jsp?hf=true; Australia: www.clairol.com.au; and Ireland: www.clairol.ie.

It seems there isn’t just one way of going international. Ultimately, market conditions, brand variables and brand’s strategic objectives in that market determine whether a brand pursues a distinctive effort or a standardized one across markets. ‘Best practices’ exist, and while I don’t presume to know all, I agree with one in particular. When going international, think in that language, emerge in that culture, and don’t translate!  In transcultural marketing, I learned that ‘adaptation’ is a better term to use than ‘translation’.

Why adaptation and not translation? Because the experience must be comparable from one context and language to the other, and translation – which is taking words from one language and finding comparable words in another language – misses that completely. In other words, when you translate from one language to the other, the underlying “conceptual anchor” (meaning) is lost. In addition, translation imposes the concepts of one language on the other arbitrarily, whereas adaptation looks at each language conceptually independent from another, on their own merits, the only truly valid alternative for decision purposes.

Technically, the researcher must assess (functional equivalence) whether a given concept or behavior serves the same function from country to country (or market to market); he/she must also determine (conceptual equivalence) whether these same concepts or behavior occur in different countries (or markets) and whether they are expressed is similar ways; and finally, he/she must examine whether the same classification scheme of objects can be used across countries (category equivalence). Without being too technical, the easiest example I always use to explain this is with the word ‘rice’. It performs the same function in any culture, as food, and it’s also categorized as food item. But it has slightly different concepts, and many times eaten in different ways, depending on the culture.

To Americans ‘rice’ is a small cup of pre-cooked, boiled Uncle Ben’s white rice served as an accompaniment to a narrow range of foods. To some South Americans, ‘rice’ is a dinner plate full of saffron-colored, scratch-made fried rice served as an accompaniment to a broad range of foods. To the Japanese, ‘rice’ is a medium-sized cup of scratch-made steamed rice that serves as a blotter to the flavors of the foods with which it’s eaten. It misses the point for a marketer to say that rice is rice is rice when, in fact, in each of these cultures ‘rice’ is a totally different and highly personal social experience.

Adaptation requires intimate knowledge of the culture and its idiosyncrasies, something that translation lacks in principle.

Personality Not Included

personality-not-included.jpg pni_interviewseries.jpg I’ve had the great pleasure of virtually interviewing a good blogging friend and great marketer, Rohit Bhargava.

He launched his book “Personality Not Included” this past weekend and came up with a interesting way to promote it… and I, as a blogger, couldn’t be left out of it. So, I sent him my 5 interview questions that I wanted to know about the book and he answered. This is also a mini-contest, as the best interview will get the book and a $100 gift certificate from Amazon.com. If you want to vote for my questions, which by the way are posted here below, you can go to his blog, Influential Marketing Blog. Please do!!!

I haven’t read the book yet, but know what it’s about and find the subject very compelling, especially since we’re undergoing a major change in how businesses do marketing and deal with consumers – it’s a whole new dynamics now with this “new” very savvy and informed consumer group. I hope you will enjoy my set of questions, and as usual, I always try to focus on transcultural issues to get a new perspective on things.

My 5 Interview Questions:

  1. What are the common characteristics of a company doomed to lose authenticity?

The most common characteristic is something that I talked about in the book called “the employee silencing policy.” It’s rarely called this, but lots of companies have a similar policy that essentially forbids employees from talking to anyone about anything relating to their brand. How can you have an authentic company if everyone who works for it is forbidden to talk about your brand. That’s the most common characteristic.

  1. In my view, brand/company personality resembles corporate culture, which means, it comes from the top. How much can the consumer influence a company’s personality, if at all? I’d assume management needs to be open to it.

There are actually two pieces to this question – one is how much consumers can influence a brand’s personality, and the other is how much “common” employees can do this. In both cases, one of the things I note in the book is that often this personality does come from the people in the middle of an organization or customers. The thing that smart companies need to do is be open to hearing these messages and act on them.

  1. Will the process described above – top down from management to company to product to consumer – be reversed? Why or why not, and what are the implications?

I think it is already being reversed, and that is part of the necessity for a book like this. The type of control of defining a message and pushing it down through channels is an old school method, but is already being reinvented. Part of the power of the idea of personality is that for organizations that focus on using some of the lessons in the book, it can help them to flatten their organizations just enough to bring more authenticity to how their brand interacts with others.

  1. What’s your suggestion for companies that face different brand perceptions in different markets? This is applicable for both domestic (regional markets) and international markets. Very few companies can maintain one set of standardized or “globalized” “likeness” attributes.

This is true and an important point that you bring up. Having a personality doesn’t mean trying to apply the same belief system to different regions around the world. For companies that face different perceptions in different markets, the best advice is to allow their brand to take on a local character and embrace the changes that need to happen. Often, the toughest thing that a global brand can do is to get away from their silos between different groups and resist the temptation to try and use globalize with the same message. The real advice is to remain flexible – and allow different markets to customize a message. The most successful global brands are the ones that understand how to do this.

  1. What are the companies that do it right? And why?

There are lots of companies, actually – and many different lessons you can get from how they do business. Since you’re at 1800flowers now and probably interested in a few online ecommerce examples, I would point to Threadless, Moo.com, and Zappos.com as all good examples. The main thing they all manage to do is have a team of individuals rather than a faceless group of people servicing their customers.

If you’d like to see the other interviews, go here pni_interviewseries.jpg