Culturalization: the Heart of Communication

13 11 2017

There are experts employed by global companies like Microsoft, whose job descriptions might read something like: examination of everything going on at every level in every country where we sell products.

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Beyond adaption to such elements as foreign currencies, time zones, and programming requirements, and beyond translation of languages, culturalization is the process of deep-level product adaptation to the huge variety of people globally who will use it. Sensitive and subtle issues unique to a country’s current political and social climate can figure prominently in the reception of marketing in a country. Historical circumstances that still prompt emotional responses and geopolitical boundary disagreements that were never satisfactorily resolved – such issues can lurk potently just below the surface of a people’s consciousness.

Imagine a start-up in Eastern Europe deciding to play on the vast geography of the US by using both Union and Confederate flags in marketing graphics. Not every entrepreneur in every country knows American Civil war history and how its symbols can still sizzle and divide neighbors. And, likewise, American knowledge of almost all foreign cultural, political and historical issues is most often limited to a handful of fairly superficial ideas. Experts are required to safely and successfully navigate touchy details at the heart of a culture or country. And such details can be brought to mind for a country’s natives by background music, color schemes, hand gestures… the list of potentially volatile elements is long.

Current developments within a specific people’s behavior are also important to study. As an example, for the Chinese version of Draw a Stickman, the game developers observed and incorporated the fact that Chinese players generally prefer more detailed and explicit instructions. This company also modified the game’s online social integration tools to link to the preferred social media platforms in China. There is no globally uniform strategy for any aspect of communication.

The world of ideas that your product presents may be a fiction conjured from what appears to you to be ‘nothing’. But if it hints at the sovereignty of one people over another, it will be deemed unacceptable in the offended nation. Games that do not show Taiwan as part of China, for instance, are banned there. What is known as the Sea of Japan in Japan is called the East Sea in Korea – clearly that’s a detail one would want to get right or avoid altogether.

Digging into cultural knowledge from the start is the best policy your company can adopt. The geo-cultural experts say they are most often called in when a problem has already arisen. But if you build content from the start with awareness of, and advice about, every market you hope to reach, your core communication can be clean of misguided mistakes. Skrivanek’s approach to serving our global clients has prioritized this practice from the start. We employ the expertise of our native linguists and subject experts in the countries where you need culturalization assistance, and welcome the opportunity to optimize your connections there.

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