Biggest global marketing challenges from McCain, SAP, Shiseido, KLM, and others

I’ve just returned from a very inspiring 2-day conference in London: the Brand2Global. Marketing and globalization managers from 50 large and medium-sized corporations gathered to discuss issues and challenges for successful globalization and I’d like to share the key points that arose.

Generally, the focus was: what are the main problems these companies face and how do they cope with them?

The biggest issue currently is the growing amount of data that has to be made available in multiple languages, be it marketing materials, website or social media content, or collaterals. From both the financial and the logistical aspects, keeping up with that is an immense challenge. Is it best to centralize or decentralize? How can we maintain order in all those thousands of documents and find a good way of transferring them to the local branches? How flexible shall the global campaign be and how much change or adaptation can be done by the individual countries? It is not always easy to find answers to these questions, but during the discussions a lot of different ideas were presented about how different corporations are dealing with the issues, and that definitely both helped and inspired, even if there are no clear answers.

As for the localization side of the discussion this is my daily cup of tea. Which languages are important and which are “less” so? Should you have all content in all languages? What if your budget is limited and you must make a selection? How do you measure what information is relevant and what is not? What to do with user content of social media: have it mixed for all languages, translated or not? What about machine translation? How to manage the speed in order to have social media or other campaigns in multiple languages in parallel?

They were all very interesting topics that we discussed – and if you face any of these challenges and want to hear ideas for dealing with them, do not hesitate to get in touch with me and I can spill the beans a bit about the conference talk.

I will write more in the coming weeks on single issues from those mentioned above.

Please comment: What is your biggest challenge in globalizing your materials?

 An Stuyven

3 thoughts on “Biggest global marketing challenges from McCain, SAP, Shiseido, KLM, and others

  1. As a translation student, I found your post insightful and interesting. I agree with you on the point that it is logistically difficult to keep up with the growing amount of data that has to be made available in different languages. Many companies encounter challenges in trying to break into international markets. They are eager to sell their products overseas and reach more consumers. They are often faced with the same question– how “globalised” or “localised” should their products be? In my opinion, your post also relates to the concept of glocalisation: “adapting a product or service to a local market but to a certain extent the adaptation is still in line with global considerations” (Chuang & Lee). Globalisation and localisation can be described as two ends of a continuum. The extent of globalisation in a product increases when the other decreases and vice versa. In terms of website translation, both can co-exist on the same website (Chuang & Lee). However, the final decision on whether a product should be more “localised” or “globalised” often lies with the manager or executive board. Translators are sidelined in the decision-making process related to the level of change or adaptation to a product.

    Not only are certain languages selected when the budget is limited, translators in the localisation industry are also restricted in their choice of words. They need to obey rules which require them to use certain terminology from previous projects hence stifling their creativity. They are also expected to focus on their translations instead of being part of the marketing as well as more lucrative aspects of translation (Pym). I believe that translators should be seen as an essential part of the localisation process, their input and creativity a driving force in the successful launch of a product.

    1. Hello Doris, I agree. As the amount of data that needs to be made appropriate for different locales keeps increasing and more companies are trying to go international, I think we will begin to see more and more of the glocalisation described by Chuang and Lee. It will most likely make the process of entering locales more efficient, by “thinking globally and acting locally” in the words of Theodore Levitt. However, it does make me sad that the unique diversity of cultures in this world have to make way for these glocalisation processes.

      1. Hello Doris and Dai!

        I completely agree with both your opinions on glocalisation’s rise in today’s world. I wanted to touch upon another aspect that shows glocalisation’s necessity.

        Many consumers may be bilingual or polyglots but have been raised with the idea of English as the dominant language. Therefore, they may want to see some aspect of it in marketing campaigns, website or data with the language of the locale e.g. Game localizer Paula G. Luiz said that Brazilian gamers have complained about the translation of multiplayer option to multijogador in Brazilian Portugese. They wanted it preserved in the original language (English) as they are accustomed to it (Game Localization; Carol’s Adventure in Translation). This demand challenges and proves the fear of cultural homogenization simultaneously because it indicates many may accept localisation or glocalisation but will only accept it at the cost of sacrifice of certain elements of the locale to the dominant global language.

        I recently saw this in L’Oréal’s latest ad with Celine Dion, based for a French (France) locale. The choice of Dion, a Quebecois, shows that the company is trying to create a cross-over between “French (France)” and “French (Canada)”, whereby demonstrating the pride of France through an individual from one of its locales, Québec. Throughout the ad, Dion speaks in French but dances to the English lyrics of her song, “Respect”. Some, who possess fierté for the France language, may be put off by this but the English and French cross-over only represents the amount of English expressions and cultural elements that has entered into French culture. This harkens back to the time of the revered French duchess, Eleanore of Aquitaine’s marriage to England’s King Henri III in 1152 and the transfer of cultural elements e.g. troubadours between both regions (Marian Meade; Eleanore of Aquitaine Biography). What becomes clear to me, then, is that the act of glocalisation by a company may truly work when it represents the language and cultural shifts a locale has experienced over time. For this to happen, we must break the “rut” of translators being relegated to “translation roles” and allow them, as well as linguists and historians, to take part in the decision-making process (Pym).

        *fierté: pride

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