International business is more than just language
As any good business person will tell you, success or failure often hinges on a company’s ability to understand its audience. Vital to this understanding is the ability to communicate. Whether you’re trading at home or abroad, if you can’t express your business offering using appropriate language, you will more than likely fail to attract the right clientele.
However, success in international business is about more than communicating effectively. As well as making sure you can speak to and understand people based in other countries, you must ensure that your overall corporate strategy is tailored to suit each location that you operate in.
Tailoring your products
It’s worth bearing in mind that the goods your firm sells may have to be adapted in order to meet the needs and preferences of your specific target markets. In some cases, it is possible to appeal to a global audience with a consistent product that differs very little, if at all, from place to place. The goods offered by businesses such as Coca-Cola and Gillette are perfect examples of this.
However, with certain products, differentiation is key. For instance, fast food giant McDonald’s adapts it menus to complement the tastes and cuisines of the locations it trades in. The firm, which has stores in 118 nations across the globe, tailors its meals in order to boost their appeal. For example, in France and Austria, it offers dinky macarons as a dessert option, while in India, it serves up McAloo Tikki, which is a spiced potato croquette served with salad in a bun.
Especially if you are lacking experience of particular cultures, it can be difficult to establish exactly what level of product differentiation is required to ensure your goods hit the mark in overseas markets. This is why plenty of research is crucial, and it helps to enlist the assistance of local experts.
Marketing that takes values and customs into account
As well as getting your products exactly right for each overseas market, you’ll need to tailor your advertising campaigns. Translating marketing slogans and messages directly into foreign languages can be a big mistake. You risk losing the meaning and effectiveness of the phrases and, in the worst cases, you can make potentially reputation-destroying faux pas.
Vehicle manufacturer Ford is all too aware of this issue. In an ad campaign it ran in Belgium, the company attempted to use the phrase “Every car has a high-quality body”. However, when translated, the slogan read “Every car has a high-quality corpse”.
It’s not just text that can cause problems. Images must be considered carefully too. Proctor & Gamble suffered because of an image-based oversight. It used artwork depicting a stork delivering a baby on the packaging of its Pampers nappies in Japan. The business subsequently discovered that, unlike in the US, the idea of storks bringing babies to parents isn’t part of Japanese folklore, so the image was causing understandable confusion and concern among consumers.
More generally, it’s important to avoid any terminology or imagery that could cause religious or cultural offence.
A savvy approach to branding
There’s no denying the fact that branding your products internationally can be a challenge. It requires a lot of careful consideration and planning. However, by making sure you have access to the relevant assistance, you can make this process easier. For example, it’s crucial that you have a top-quality translation service provider on hand to help you get your message across to your target audiences in the most suitable way. Firms such as London Translations specialise in providing assistance like this and may be perfectly placed to help you.
You may also benefit from enlisting the help of marketing experts who are based in the locations you plan to target.