Consider Cultural Differences when Marketing Global Brands

The way in which we express culture differs from country to country. With so many different cultures and customs, it can be easy to bemuse, anger or offend people when marketing your brand on the global stage.

Culture affects our beliefs and values, how we perceive the world, and even the way we market to consumers.

Localization goes beyond just language. It makes certain your content resonates with your global audience on a personal and cultural level. There are many ways global organizations communicate their brands. Many marketing channels are available to quickly and effectively reach international audiences. The key is to be mindful of how you portray your brand, whatever country it is marketed. This means taking into account how your brand’s marketing messages are viewed around the world.

Here are three key considerations when developing and localizing global brand materials.

Colors and Symbols
Factors such as colors and symbols are varied in their meanings. The color blue, for example,  can be soothing and represent trustworthiness to Americans. Blue to Mexicans is their color of mourning.

Using symbols may not have the effect you intended. A tick or check mark indicates yes or that something is correct in English-speaking countries. In Sweden, Finland, Norway and Japan, the mark can symbolize an error, or the word no.

Giving someone the thumbs up sign may seem like a harmless way to express approval. In Latin America, some parts of the Middle East and West Africa, it’s perceived as quite rude.

Consumer Behavior
It will come as no surprise that where consumers live affects their behavior due to factors like traditions, the type of food and drink they prefer, and even what kind of climate they live in. All these seemingly irrelevant things have a major impact on how your brand is viewed in that geography. Research from psychologist E.R. Jaensch revealed that those who live in warmer climates tend to prefer bright colors. If you are expanding into countries with high temperatures, it could be something to consider for logos, product packaging and advertising.

A country’s food and drink preferences could alter the way you market a food product. As mentioned in our previous blog, Examples of Successful Transcreation, the fast food restaurant McDonald’s offered sandwiches relevant to the culture of several local markets.

You may think that one area may have the same culture and therefore you can apply the same marketing messages; however, that might not be true. Speaking the same language does not necessarily mean the same culture. The majority of Latin America may speak Spanish, though each country has a different culture, and as a result of this, may respond differently to marketing messages. For example, 25% of Latin Americans eat cereal in the morning; however, national figures are quite varied from 48% in Central America to only 11% in South America. There could be a myriad of reasons why cereal-eaters are so concentrated in one area, and global marketers have to find out these cultural differences so the best local marketing campaigns can be implemented to engage their global audience.

Depending on where you go, religion can play a huge part in how you market to consumers. Countries like Saudi Arabia, the UAE and Pakistan operate mostly or entirely under Sharia law. Sharia law is the moral code and religious law for the Islamic faith.

When marketing in countries where religion is present in the law (and even when it’s not), make sure you have a good understanding of what is and is not acceptable. For instance, the usage of scantily-clad women in marketing materials is forbidden in countries under Sharia law, food must not be advertised during Ramadan (a time of fasting), and intoxicants and gambling are also forbidden.

To establish a global brand, it really does pay to invest in localization, right at the planning stage. Research on the territories you are expanding int, and find out consumer habits, values and customs. This will make sure that your brand campaigns are prepared and developed with localization in mind.

Louise Donkor, Communications and Marketing Specialist at Welocalize

You can find out how Welocalize helped Videojet, part of the Danaher Group, localize their global marketing strategy in a Welocalize case study – Click here to read.