Lost in Translation

Companies that decide to go regional or global are often faced with a number of dilemmas in marketing communication within the new markets especially when the new markets are culturally different from the home country. The differences encountered have created some expensive and embarrassing gaffes for many global companies. Marketers therefore need to be knowledgeable about the host markets where they are going before creating products and marketing communication messages.


Mind your language
Language barriers in international business contribute to anxiety , uncertainty and mistrust, which may lead to conflict and disagreements.

Colossal gaffe
A car with the name “Nova” was launched in spanish speaking markets at a cost of millions of dollars. In Spanish “No va” means “it won’t work”. An unfortunate name for a car.

What to do
Before launching a brand name in a new country or embarking on a massive marketing communication campaign, get local translators to ok your marketing content and if necessary, to change it to locally acceptable language.

Mind their religion
Religion is a sensitive subject that continues to cause conflict all over the world. Therefore when a global company enters a new market and unintentionally disrespects the religious beliefs and symbols of that country. there is likely to be trouble. Offended consumers have been known to take to the streets to protest against the offending company.

Colossal gaffe
When Nike learnt that its stylized “Air” logo resembled “Allah” in Arabic script, it apologised and had to pull all its shoes from distribution in the new market it was trying to enter.

What to do
Find out what religions are existing in the markets you want to go to and understand the religious implications of your products and advertising campaign. Make sure that your products and advertising does not offend major and influential religious groups.

Mind social values
Be aware of social and regulatory issues when launching a new product or marketing communication campaign in a new market. Use marketing research to find out what will and will not be acceptable in the host country before spending millions on the wrong products, packaging and advertising.

Colossal gaffe
When McDonald first entered the Indian market the company quickly learned that there was no way it would sell beef burgers or use any beefy tasting ingredients in its recipes. The cow is after all sacred in India. The company had to quickly find other products to substitute beef.

Beware of advertising content.
Do the words your company wants to use in its advertising campaign in a new market mean the same as in the host country. Global companies need to be aware of the possibility of word meanings when launching products and advertising in new markets.

Colossal gaffe
Parker Pen thought the word the word “embarrass” in Mexico was “embrazar”, which actually meant “to impregnate”. Their ad slogan for a new pen distributed in Mexico read “it won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”

What to do
Be clear about the meaning of your advertising content in the new market. Use content that is acceptable and that will not cause you to waste millions of dollars undoing the damage. Carefully watch consumers response to your advertising and if need be, adjust accordingly.

Beware of culture
When entering new markets, companies should be aware of the cultures of the markets in which they are entering. Differences in cultures determine such issues as the way people greet each other, how meetings are held and who makes decisions, acceptability of bribes, and how negotiations are carried out. Cultures also determine human resources issues, leadership and management of the new venture and work ethic in the new company.

Colossal gaffe
A major deal broke down between British and Polish telecommunications companies wanting to enter into an arrangement to build base stations in Poland after the British team refused to partake of a couple of bottles of vodka. Needless to say, it took the British team’s senior management some effort to smooth things over.

What to do
Learn as much as you can about the host country and determine if your corporate culture will not clash with that of your company. Make your entry decisions when you are sure that in spite of these differences, your new enterprise can cope. As much as possible, hire local people who understand the culture of their own country.

When there are significant differences in cultures, a company that wants to enter into new markets should make decisions about standardization or localization of its products and marketing communication. Language, culture, values, are some of the issues that can affect a new venture and that new entrants need to deal with, preferably before making marketing communication and product mistakes.


About chipomaps

A brand reputation, marketing and new media trainer and consultant. Constantly curious, constantly learning.
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