How to succeed in interpreting foreign brand?

A lot of companies seem to believe that when their brand becomes global things will become easier. They’ll no longer need to worry about all those finicky things like local cultures, language, and customs. The truth, however, is that this isn’t the case. Because even though ‘going global’ might sound like you’re going bigger, in many ways you’re going to have gone just as small – but you’ll have to do every time for every market that you’re going into.

This is known as “localizing” in the jargon and it’s often the key to success, as it means the product will appear to the people in the culture as coming from that culture. An easy example would be to replaces the ‘z’s used in American English to ‘s’s in British English, so it is no longer recognized as content that comes from across the pond.

Of course, when you’re working with a brand that is from further afield then there will need to be far more changes and modifications in order to make sure that the brand isn’t interpreted as to foreign for the people of that market. Here are some of the big things to remember.

Understand the keywords

You can’t just take the keywords that are a part of a brand’s strategy, translate them across and hope for the best. Very often, a literal translation simply won’t do as those words mean something slightly different or wouldn’t be how people would look for the product the brand is selling.

And if you don’t take that under consideration, it’s possible you’ll end up aiming for words that simply aren’t that popular in the other language (or, vice versa, which have been completely cornered and are impossible to move in on).

For that reason, make sure you do the right keyword research, much as if you were trying to position your brand in its original market. Note, if you’re not a native speaker in the new market, then make sure you actually get a few involved, as it’s important you use the correct form of looking for the product.

Consider the translations

One of the big jobs, when you’re moving stuff into a new market is to make sure the translations are absolutely spot on. This is harder than it may seem, largely because the translation isn’t something that’s absolute. Instead, there is often a huge amount of interpretation in every translation job. For that reason, make sure you have somebody who can do an adequate translation of the foreign brand.

Don’t know one of the languages involved? Then use a back-translation technique, whereby after the words have been translated in one direction, somebody else – who has never seen the original text – translates them back again. Then you can compare the two texts to see if the essence remains the same.
In this way, you’ll know if the person you’re using to translate the texts is up to the task and is delivering a high-quality product.

Be aware of the cultural differences

In Japan, it’s considered quite rude to say ‘no’. In Greece, you spit on the bride. In India, you won’t find any toilet paper. In Malaysia, you point with your thumb as pointing with your index finger is rude. In Brazil, the OK sign of the tip of the index finger touching the thumb in a circle is incredibly rude. In the US, tipping isn’t optional. In the Middle East, your left hand is considered dirty. In Thailand you never touch another person’s hair.

There are tons of cultures unique to different countries and it is important that when a brand enters the market these are considered carefully. It doesn’t even have to be big deal things like the ones listed above. Some are much smaller but can still have a negative impact. For example, in many conservative cultures, men will struggle if they feel they’re being told what to do by women. In others, overly bright colors are considered garish. Even what colors signify can change from place to place.

Just as importantly, run the names of products by a local audience as sometimes words that are innocuous in one culture have quite an undesirable meaning in another.

Use focus groups

And then, when you think you’re done and you want to bring the product onto the market, don’t. Instead, bring in a focus group and run through everything again. This might sound like an expensive exercise, but it can save you a huge amount of trouble, as often they’ll tell you about feelings and ideas that you’re not even aware of.

Focus groups can be done on the cheap, by simply bringing together a few people that aren’t associated with the product. The important thing to remember when you’re presenting anything to such a group is to ask non-leading questions. Because that’s the only way you can get the answers you need instead of the answers you want.

Final thoughts

Once it’s out there, it’s very hard to take it back. For that reason, make sure you do all your due diligence before you bring a product to market. This can be expensive, but it can ultimately save everybody a lot of money and a lot of embarrassment. After all, when the cat is out of the bag and the local culture sees a brand in a certain undesirable way, it can be nigh on impossible to change their minds.

Guest article written by: Margaret Reid is a self-driven specialist who is currently working in The Word Point and trying to improve herself in the blogging career. She is always seeking to discover new ways for personal and professional growth and is convinced that it’s always important to broaden horizons. That`s why Margaret develops and improves her skills throughout the writing process to help and inspire people.

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