Dogs, Widgets, and Internationalizing Your Brand

Advertising boils down to basic sociology. Of course there are external factors that can change the behavior of consumers, but at the core, society functions on the idea of shared meaning. Shared meaning, or consensus, is at the root of communication. For example, if I type the word dog, in most instances, everyone will picture the same thing.

Well, wait a second, if I said “dog” to a non-English speaker, would they picture the same thing? Perhaps not…but I’ll come back to this later because it’s important.

Okay, where was I? Oh yes, shared meaning. I’ll give you another example. Carl Jung’s work centered on the idea of archetypes. Essentially, he spoke about universal symbols and experiences. These symbols and ideas are recognizable to most people.

They aren’t part of the Jungian archetypes, but I’ll give you an idea of some universal symbols and ideas. Ready? Here are a few to get you thinking: Family, friendship, love, sadness, good and evil, and life and death.

(You might be asking how this fits into brand internationalization. I’m getting there, I promise.)

Let’s revisit my point about the dog. The word “dog” might be meaningless to a non-English speaker but most people would recognize a dog if they saw one. The qualities attributed to the dog might also be different. I think of loyalty, friendship, and family but you might think smelly, dirty, and unruly (my dog storm is a combination of all of those). So depending on your perspective, a dog might mean different things.

The Point

You have two options when internationalizing your brand. You can either create a new brand image in every market OR you can create an international brand identity and make small changes to your graphics, idioms, and language. The second option is not only more efficient at creating a strong brand but it’s also more cost-effective. You won’t have to re-brand in every market.

Basically, you need your brand to be based on a universal but make tweaks to the dog. Confused? Let me clear things up with an example:

Widgets and Doohickeys Canada wants to internationalize their brand. Looking at their sales demographics, they see that their widgets and doohickeys are bought by married couples with two or more children. Naturally, they decide to base their international brand image on the universal idea of family. So, they create their Canadian advertising. It shows a family skating together during a snowy Canadian winter.

The caption reads: “Keeping Families Warm When It’s Cold Outside”.

A great Canadian piece of adverting that absolutely won’t be effective in Puerto Rico.

Widgets and Doohickeys want to keep that “family” message; it symbolizes what their brand is all about. So, they make tweaks. They change the language, the graphic, and the idiomatic expression to suit the tastes of those in Puerto Rico and how they view family togetherness.

With this method, they are cultivating an international brand image using the universal notion of family but are making adjustments for cultural perceptions of what family means.

The Role of the Language Services Provider

Language Services Providers offer what is known as localization. We work with your universal appeal but target it to the tastes of different cultures. This might mean adjusting graphics to give it local appeal, changing colors to those that a culture associates with your main message, arranging typesetting and content flow to appeal to cultural standards, and translating your message to engage your target audience.

The goal is to maintain your global brand image while also carving a niche in a local market. Taking this approach ensures that you avoid a generic marketing message. This helps you leverage your communication efforts and differentiates your product from local offerings.

Join Me on Facebook Tomorrow
I will be doing a Q&A on interpreting, translating, localization, internationalization, and anything else you can think of. Just like us at: www.facebook.com/abletranslationsen

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