Tag 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.

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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.