I moved!

I (finally!) moved to my own hosting with my own domain 🙂

Please visit www.betranscultural.com .

See ya there! Happy New Year!

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.

Bathroom Blogfest ’08 – Cleaning Up Forgotten Spaces Around Us

Bathroom Blogfest '08 - Cleaning Up Forgotten Spaces Around Us

Bathroom Blogfest

We’re off to another Bathroon Blogfest! And this time I found a little, cozy bathroom to blog about.

When I was on vacation with hubby in the Poconos a couple of weeks ago, we visited Jim Thorpe town… what a cute little town! To this day, I still can’t believe that small, cute, little towns like that still exist. And it’s also wonderful that they still exist. We spend most of the day there, and had lunch at this cute little cafe/restaurante called Through the Looking Glass (Yeap… Alice in Wonderland!).

Through the Looking Glass

Through the Looking Glass

Through the Lookign Glass

Through the Lookign Glass

I was so taken by this place’s charm, that I immediatelythought of Bathroom Blogfest and how cozy the bathroom at this cafe/restaurant must be! I eventually made my way there and…. it took me back quite a few years!!! It looked like a bathroom in one the those farms I spent vacations on back in Brazil… how cool is that?

Check this out!

As soon as I got in and close the door, this is what my view was:

It’s a tiny bathroom with that very rustic feel to it! From the wood and white tiles, to the sink, wood cabinet cabinet and embroidered curtain!

I noticed the lock on the door… that gave it away to me… I haven’t see this kind of lock in ages!

Then, I turned around and covered the whole bathroom…

These sink and heater skirts are just lovely! We see some pieces of moden times toiletry, but nothing too fancy to distract from the rustic decor.

Can you see how tiny this bathroom is? Everything about it feels like it’s a few decades old!

The embroided pieces are just too cute! Feels like grandma made it!

On the wall next to the door and toilet, there was this wall hug (or something like it) that seemed to be some kind of memento from a members-only type of organization – Fraternity, Confederation Pals… who knows?

I enjoyed being taken a few years back to my childhood, which wasn’t too long ago, and seeing these “old” minute details that bring back tons of memory. Funny thing, however, is that while these pieces of bathroom decor bring back some memories from 20+ years ago, these pieces actually represent an era that is much older than that! And part of my fascination and amusement in seeing such small towns in the US is that we can still see history, after all, in the midst of modern technology and high-tech lifestyles. This town has, without a doubt, the most low-tech lifestyle you can find… and this bathroom is proof of that!

If you enjoyed this post, there are many more you can read! Here are the list of our Blogfest 2008 participants:

Susan Abbott at Customer Experience Crossroads
Shannon Bilby at Floor Talk!
Laurence Borel at Blog Till You Drop
Jo Brown and the blogging team at Kohler Talk
Lisbeth Calandrino at Lisbeth Calandrino
Sara Cantor at The Curious Shopper
Becky Carroll at Customers Rock!
Katie Clark at Practical Katie
Iris Shreve Garrott at Circulating
Ann Handley at Annarchy
Marianna Hayes at Results Revolution
Elizabeth Hise and C.B. Whittemore at The Carpetology Blog
Maria Palma at Customers Are Always
Sandra Renshaw at Purple Wren
Kate Rutter at Adaptive Path
Claudia Schiepers at Life and its little pleasures
Carolyn Townes at Becoming a Woman of Purpose
Stephanie Weaver at Experienceology
C.B. Whittemore at Flooring The Consumer

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IzeaFest 2008

Yuppy! I’m writing again!

Very excited to share my experience at IzeaFest 2008. I had the privilege of being invited to be part of an advertisers panel to speak to bloggers about “What Advertisers Want”. This was last weekend, not this past weekend, but the one before, in sunny and humid Orlando. I’m late to the game, but nonetheless, it’s worth to write about it.

I met, talked to and exchanged one or two words with many interesting bloggers and advertisers there. That, in itself, was worth the trip! Some of the big name bloggers I met are:

Jeremy Shoemaker

John Chow

Lena West

I specially enjoyed meeting my account rep, Luis Abreu, who I mainly speak to on the phone, and the entire Izea crew, wich is made up of one super-energized CEO, Ted Murphy, and his super-tight and amazing cool staff, which I call the Izea Family.

I’ll post the video of my panel here, and if you’re interested in watching more, you can visit here.

What Advertisers Want

Enjoy!

Miller Chill

Miller Chill I’ve seen the ad a couple of times and, obviously, the Brazilian samba (meaning the lyrics are in Portuguese, not Spanish, in case you don’t know that we speak Portuguese in Brazil, not Spanish) playing on the background is what gets my attention. Then… I remember… ahh… it’s beer and it’s ¿Se Habla Chill? campaign… for the Hispanics… the ones who speak Spanish… not Portuguese… how confusing!!! Are they trying to be global here? Appealing to “all” Hispanics? The Spanish and the Portuguese-speaking ones? If so, they still have long ways to go.

I wonder if the intended audience of this campaign is having the same confusing reaction. Can they be annoyed by the samba on the background? Ohh… yes, they can!

Shame on you Saatchi & Saatchi… I thought you had transcultural-competent people at your offices. What a lazy job, if you ask me.

Something else missing here… taste testing. I hope Miller did some taste testing before rolling it out, because I’ve already found some negative reviews of the product on this blog. To me, the whole concept of Miller Chill (like Tequiza) just does not appeal. It’s not beer (the way beer is supposed to be), no matter how golden it looks. It’s a hybrid drink… a confusing alcoholic beverage just like its confusing TV ad.

Adding a piece of lime to the beer is something that’s culturally ingrained in Latin America, mostly Mexico. Latins (Mexicans) do it because they like to add a bitter/citrusy taste to it (or whatever the reason may be)… but when they are on the beach, sun bathing, relaxing, chilling, having a good time. Mixing lime juice in the beer and buying it at the supermarket is an ENTIRE different product and experience.

Marketers, please listen… not everything can be packaged or bottled! Corona did a phenomenal job because it showed Americans how to drink beer in the Latin style… by just adding a piece of lime. Corona did not invent a lime-beer. Very different approaches.

The case for “Originality”

Be original

I’ve been thinking about writing about the political campaign for quite a while now, but never got to it because I had to much to say (and write), which was getting a bit overwhelming. But, I have finally narrowed all my thoughts down to one simple angle: Originality.

The way I see it, it’s a simple equation:

Obama = original = victory

Clinton = unoriginal = defeat

Why is that?

Because times have changed. People are more empowered, more knowledgeable (blame it on the Internet) and more demanding of leaders who actually speak TO them (Obama) and not AT them (Clinton); leaders who see from the people’s eyes (Obama) and not over people’s heads (Clinton); and leaders who are charismatic (Obama) and not scripted (Clinton).

No matter how much we go around and spin the truth, we all know that at the end of the day we:

· Make friends with people we like

· Hire people we like

· Choose leaders we like

· And so on…

Charisma is a very critical quality of a leader and I don’t see that in Clinton, and neither do many other people who have chosen to vote for Obama because he transpires confidence, originality and charisma.

We can also make the case for originality in the business world. We all know that consumers are in control and therefore we must work with and for them and not against them and for us, the companies. Only companies smart enough to be and/or become original will have a standing chance in this new business world dynamic.

Classic examples are:

· Apple = original = consumers are fans

· Microsoft = unoriginal = consumers are buyers

· Zappos = original = consumers are advocates

· Footlocker = unoriginal = consumers are buyers

Etc, etc, etc… we all know which companies are original and the ones that are not.

In today’s business world, we don’t want just buyers, we want consumers who like and cherish us the same way we like and care for them, genuinely.

What’s most astounding to me is that even though we have the power of instant information at our hands and know of the changes happening in society, business leaders still refuse to accept that the old-school business model DOES NOT work in today’s world. It’s “people” as usual…

How long can these companies go without realizing that? I hope not for too long, otherwise there won’t be enough interesting companies with interesting products/services.

Just my $0.02.

Spelling Bee… Anyone?

Let’s make believe…

Q: Spell the Latin word that’s feminine for medius and the PLURAL of a medium, as in “a medium of conveyance, or expression.” Pay close attention, it’s a medium of communication.

Tic-tac-tic-tac…

A: M-E-D-I-A. Media!

media

Q: Spell the PLURAL of the Latin word that describes an individual who communicate with spirits. Pay close attention now… this is tricky… the plural can ONLY be applied in this context….

Hmmm….. tic-tac-tic-tac…

A: M-E-D-I-U-M-S. Mediums!

mediums

Congratulations! You’ve got it right! There’s no such thing as medium to describe more than one medium as a channel of communication, as the correct form is media!

Now, if high school kids can get that, why can’t adults in the business of MEDIA get it? I’ve gotten to the point where it hurts when I hear someone in my OWN industry (for crying out loud!) telling me that “we should use all the mediums…” I just want to barf at that point… and I must confess that my respect for that person’s skills is gone… gone, gone, gone! Why should I listen to someone who cannot use a basic word correctly? It’s grotesque and very disappointing to see my peers commit such a stupid mistake… and I’ve seen a lot, not many, a lot. The worst part to me is that they don’t even care to search for the correct way of saying it… they’re stuck on the idea that mediums is correct, from wherever they got that idea from, and end of the story.

Very much how they approach the Hispanic and international markets… They hear something on the grapevine… sounds good to them, but they don’t bother checking the sources to see if that’s really the case. What a mind!

I, now, correct everyone who hurts my ears with mediums when wanting to refer to media. And I want to ask all of you to do the same! PLEASE CORRECT THEM! You are, without a doubt, doing them a favor.

BTW, I referenced the very-trusted Webster for this.

Oh… here’s a rule of thumb that may be helpful… when in doubt, go with shorter word. Pretty easy, no?

Paper or Plastic? Thanks, I’ve ALWAYS got my own

Paper or Plastic? How many times have we heard this before on the check out line of the grocery shopping? I have to say that I’ve heard it countless times for about 8 years now since I’ve been in the US. Before that, I did not.

And I didn’t hear it before not because we were ahead of the environmentalism curve some 20 years or so ago, but because we have always brought our own grocery bag to the market, that’s just how we have always gone shopping for fresh fruits and vegetables in Brazil and Latin America. One thing to understand first is that, most consumers in Latin America are used to making a two-stop or even three-stop shopping at the local market – usually very small – for fresh fruits, vegetables, and sometimes fresh meat, otherwise a third stop at the meat place is needed, and another at the supermarket to buy the other things on the list, usually non-food items. Food items have always been purchased at these local small markets or flea markets, where fruits and vegetables (and meat, where is available) is much fresher than at the supermarkets.

Here I’m thinking about this the other day when I went to Whole Foods and decided to get one of their canvas totes to continue my shopping “tradition” of always having my own bag. It occurred to me that we, in Latin America, have been doing the “right thing” of not wasting paper or plastic on grocery bags all along, but the same “tradition” was not shared by consumers in the US and probably some other first world nations as well ONLY until now, we it became a trend.

I’m fairly confident – although without evidence – that the availability of grocery bags at US checkout lines stemmed from marketing and the savvy businessman who wanted to deliver to a convenience-minded-population exactly what it wanted, convenience. Who would, after all, remember to bring his/her own bag to shop for food?

I have researched on this topic but could not find anything to back me up, but my theory is that with advancement of machinery and the manufacturing boom in the US after WWII, manufacturers were able to produce mass quantities of raw goods very cheaply, which in turn enabled retailers to offer an array of “incentives” to attract consumers, such as the case of paper or plastic bags. I don’t know when supermarkets and grocery shops started offering paper or plastic bags, nor do I know how consumers did their shopping before these grocery bags were available. (I think Keith could help me with that). I just find interesting how different societies develop its habits around its own environmental and socio-economic conditions.

For one, the US became a very rich country due to the manufacturing boom and that has enable US consumers a lifestyle of abundance and waste. Two, has this manufacturing boom also made people less conscious of its actions, or have Americans inherently been like that? That’s a chicken and the egg question, and I think it’s a bit of both. In Brazil and Latin America, abundance and waste in most people’s daily lives is minimized to the teeth – it’s a sacrilege to even think about wasting – and abundance, it’s stuff that we see in the American movies. Again, it’s the chicken and the egg question: did our scarce environment taught us not to waste or were we “raised” like that already? Again, a bit of both.

Are our markets cheap for not offering us grocery bags? Probably yes. Are we miserable because of that? No. Do they offer it these days? Probably yes, after all, they have to catch up with the first world.

One thing that’s apparent and somewhat bothersome to me is that if the media and marketers don’t get involved in propagating “causes” such as this one, US consumers would never think of doing it on their own. Causes need to become trends, with a lot of celebrity involvement and the whole nine yards, otherwise American consumers don’t pay attention to it. Has life become so automated that people are even told what to think and do? Huh…. I think I know the answer to this question.

In the end again, we just think differently and have had different life experiences that have shaped our lives.

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

I want to be frugal!

mrs_frugal.gif I’m SOOOO happy about what I did the other day…

Ever since I came to NY (a far more expensive place than where I was before) and as part of my new year’s resolution, I decided to cut down on frivolous “fashion” spending, meaning spending on clothes, shoes, handbags, etc. I also decided to do that because I need to get my finances in order. After a while, I realized that I pretty much have everything I like to wear and that most of the things out for sale are not my taste. I like everything I have and REALLY wear them; and the reason I emphasize it is because I used to have a closet full of clothes, shoes and accessories which I did not wear… some, not even once. How stupid and unclassy is that?

When I first arrived in the US, there was an enormous amount of temptation to go shopping, from the media to the people around me. How can one resist? Everything is so readily available in so many shapes and colors, full or discounted prices, sales left and right, catalogs, coupons… and on top of that, you must keep up with the trends… it almost feels like an obligation. Well, I was in heaven back then. I could have everything I wanted. It’s a good feeling to be able to possess things. I early on decided that quality is much better than quantity and always bought designer clothes at full price because the quality was much better. I was enjoying myself… spending, spending, spending…

But then something happen… I got bored of shopping and couldn’t stand (and still can’t) going to the mall. I started to consciously ask myself “Why am I shopping?”, “Do I really need or want this?” and the answer was always “I don’t know why I’m shopping… I don’t need or want this.” I was seeking the thrill of buying, not something that I genuinely needed. It almost describes an addictive behavior, but I was not a shoppaholic, just someone with too much time in my hands and driven by the consumerism mentality of my new-found home.

It’s undeniable that this society is a buying machine; people are conditioned to buy, have bought into buying as a means to solve all their problems. If you happy, you buy; if you sad, you also buy. People probably don’t even know why they’re buying, but their favorite pastime is shopping. I don’t even know where I’m going with this, but one thing I know is that I have broken away from shopping for the sake of shopping. I want to be frugal now! Frugal is in! I’m frugalicious! I want to save my money for something better and bigger than a pair of shoes.

Oh…. and what I did the other day that made me very happy was to cancel an order that I placed online. I felt as good or better canceling the order as I did when I was buying things for no reason.