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Don't be the Next International Cultural Blunder - AJPR

Don’t be the Next International Cultural Blunder

Back in 2013, I wrote an article for Click Z about some of the global brands’ cultural blunders that costed them in not just the sales, but also the brand image. During the past 7 years since the article, I’ve seen many other global companies made similar mistakes. I wonder why the cultural correctness hasn’t been added to the localization process, yet.

J.Crew website from 2013
Is this how a brand should create buzz?
(Model: Kiko Mizuhara, Photo by Hedvig Jenning, 2019)

Many types of mistakes are results of ignorance of cultural differences, but that doesn’t mean it’s ok. Having unlimited resources available online, I think the mistakes happening now are results of laziness. Or perhaps, they don’t value the foreign market as much as they say they do to invest time and effort to minimize cultural insensitivities. Those website owners, who fail in reaching out to foreign market often comment that the web/Internet doesn’t work for their businesses, or their products don’t work in that country. In many cases, it’s their website and/or their marketing strategy that failed them.

I suggest below to the brands so that they won’t be the next one to be laughed at.  

  1. Check your company/brand names in local language 

If you have a resource (offices, reps, partners, etc.) in that market, ask them to go through the list of brand names for any potential issues including the Chinese/Kanji characters. If you don’t have any local resources, at least use the online translation tool to see how it could mean in their languages.  

  1. Check the color scheme favored in local market 

What colors are good or lucky colors, and bad or unlucky color in another country can be quite different. The last thing you want to do is to offend or send the wrong message to your new customer base with some color you decided to use for the background or an order button.  For example, the color red, which is used to indicate caution and danger in US, represents a good luck and celebration in China. It’s also a color of mourning in South Africa.  

  1. Check the marketing copy translation 

You may expect for the translation company to provide the culturally correct translation, but it’s not likely when they are tasked to “translate” and not to “localize” the site. When the translated content is delivered to you, have it reviewed by the natives preferably by someone who understand the industry well like your reps and partners in that market. Ask them about the translation, color scheme, and images on site are appropriate or not. Do the same with the ad copy and the landing pages.