Making products speak the right language
Any international venture – but especially those in new markets involving different and unfamiliar cultures and languages – exposes a firm to new risks, as well as new opportunities.
The dangers are more exaggerated today than in the past, even more so in the consumer and retail product sector, where every potential customer is also a potential negative Facebook post, Twitter slam, or bad blog entry.
It doesn’t matter how large a brand is – nobody is too big to falter in the age of social media and constant connectivity. In fact, the larger the brand, the more damaging an international branding mistake may be.
Here at CSOFT, we help our consumer and retail products clients scrutinize and localize their product packaging and accompanying literature by focusing on three main metrics, so that they can count on success straight out of the gate in a new market.
Consumers’ first experience of any product is visual. As such, packaging needs to speak to them in their distinct cultural vernacular. Doing so requires a native understanding of the mores and traditions of a given region; that’s why we always use in-country specialists for all CSOFT localization projects.
While businesses comfortable operating in today’s globalized marketplace tend to make far fewer mistakes than 20 or 30 years ago, they still often seek our expertise when releasing new products or retooling existing offerings.
Cosmetic localization needs to take into account images displayed, color, and package shape. We help our clients design and test market their products to ensure they achieve their best possible results. An illustrative example of how not to perform cosmetic localization in a new culture comes from a soft drink company that changed their product’s package color in the 1950’s.
Unfortunately, their color change dramatically shifted consumer perception of the brand throughout Southeast Asia where local cultures had a pre-existing association of this color with death and mourning. The aforementioned soft drink company has yet to recover their once impressive market share.
Language translation and localization is CSOFT’s bread and butter, so it’s no surprise that so many consumer and retail product companies rely on us for these services. We can’t stress the need for effective translation enough — the latest research shows that 60 percent of all consumers in all regions will only purchase a product if it has been translated into their language.
But optimal sales and success require a step beyond translation; it requires localization. Localization is the process of making sure that a slogan, tagline, or any other marketing collateral uses its target language with native fluency and with the target culture firmly at the forefront.
Again from Asia where good localization has been notoriously difficult, another example of what not to do: In the mid-1980’s, a popular fast-food chain restaurant entered the China market but neglected to fully localize their slogan.
They ended up telling the Chinese consumer that they would “Eat their fingers off,” after visiting the eatery, an invitation that was understandably declined. Though the brand performed an impressive bounce back, it took them a decade to do so.
Our cultural advisory services help consumer and retail product clients understand whatever new market they’re entering without having to learn costly lessons the hard way. We’ve got the experience and on-the-ground expertise that’ll make any expansion into a new market as painless and rewarding as possible.
Though the story is probably apocryphal, a marketing legend has it that a baby food company began selling its products in New Guinea in the late 1930’s. The locals, having seen other food product packaging always carrying pictures of what was contained inside, believed that the visiting missionaries who brought the baby food were far more barbaric than themselves.
Whether the story is true or not, it illustrates the need for thoughtful consideration of local cultures whenever a business goes abroad.
Companies large and small can hit very significant stumbling blocks when taking their brand abroad. Rather than relying on in-house translators who may lack native-level understanding, it’s usually best for them to engage the services of a reputable language service provider (LSP) who has resources specific to the market they’re targeting.
While it’s always possible to re-establish oneself after an international branding blunder, it’s obviously much better to go in prepared and able to succeed the first time around.