Alice asked the Cheshire Cat,
who was sitting in a tree,
“What road do I take?”
The cat asked,
“Where do you want to go?”
“I don’t know,” Alice answered.
“Then,” said the cat,
“it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

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The challenges of globalizing the brand

Whiplash Team, March 6th, 2020

The challenges of globalizing the brand

As global markets shrink to the size of our Internet browser, worldwide brand positioning strategies become more complex. Localization and transcreation involve not only translating, but also adapting messages and creating specific campaigns for local markets in a way that suits the cultural and language characteristics of each place.

Thanks to the Internet, the world is getting smaller every day. However, the cultural characteristics and peculiarities of each country or region remain. Therefore, the introduction of a brand in a new market implies understanding what is suitable and what is not.

Building a brand that works globally requires deep respect for cultural differences, as well as knowing that every market needs its own strategy. Understanding and correctly implementing terms such as localization and transcreation is essential if we want our brand to achieve its objectives in different markets.

In this context, translation is very important. It is not simply about changing words from one language to another. What we are talking about is whether the message, the brand or the product name, works in the same way in the market that we intend to conquer as in the original market. To do so it is necessary to rely on professional advice and guidance on the cultural and language differences of each market.

For example, a product that has a name that works well in English does not always do so in Spanish. Mitsubishi, to name a case, launched its Pajero model globally in the 1990s, although in Spain and Latin America the company had to change the model’s name to Mitsubishi Montero, due to the meaning the word Pajero has in Spanish slang.

There has also been the case of a name in Spanish that does not translate well into other languages, such as the Seat Málaga. In Greece, that car model was marketed as Seat Gredos because Malaga sounds like malaka / Malakia, which in Greek has a similar meaning to that of Pajero in Spanish slang.

The automobile world is full of similar cases, such as that of the Toyota MR2, which in France had to remove the number 2 from the name because phonetically, when pronouncing the acronym, it sounded like “mierdeux”. The Nissan Moco (snot, in Spanish) never got to be commercialized, but it is not difficult to imagine how hilarious it would have been in the Spanish-speaking markets, with the consequent sales results.

These are just some cases of how the creation of a name, or a global campaign can be adverse if the idiomatic, cultural and idiosyncratic variables unique to each market are not considered. Localization implies adapting messages and campaigns to local markets in a way that does not misrepresent or lose meaning in translation.

Transcreation goes further. It implies that everything can change to adapt to the specific market we want to address. From corporate colours to name, tagline or brand logo. It implies a total openness to change which, in most cases it is not easy. Especially when you have worked hard to create and position a specific brand.

Sometimes, with transcreation we have the same feeling as if we were creating the brand again from scratch, although the difference is that the objectives of the advertising campaign or marketing strategy have already been defined and applied in the original market and the idea is to create in the new audience the same feeling as in that of the market of origin.

In any case, if there are substantial cultural differences between the market of origin and the new place where we want to position our brand it is very possible that transcreation is the answer. Especially if the name of the brand or product has a rude meaning in the host language, or if our logo can be misinterpreted in the country or market where we want to enter.

The 2012 London Olympics logo is a good example. Iran was about to withdraw from the Olympic Games claiming that the logo was read as ZION, while other countries pointed out that it looked like a deconstructed swastika.

The most important thing in all cases is that the values ​​and purpose of our brand exude positivity and are correct in the new market. For this, we must go through translation, localization and transcreation processes with enthusiasm and openness, embracing new proposals that truly connect with the audience we are addressing, without losing the essence of our brand.

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