When William Shakespeare posed the question, voiced by Juliette, “What’s in a name? That which we call a rose by any other name would smell as sweet.” in his play Romeo and Juliet, he probably wasn’t thinking about how language needs to be managed in a connected world.
Rather, Shakespeare was considering the power of branding or re-branding in his created world of the Montagues versus the Capulets. He was considering the nuances of a feeling for words and names and the perceptions they bring to a specific audience. In this case, the perception of “Brand Montague” to Juliet’s family, the Capulets and how those feelings might change if only Juliet could re-brand Romeo with a simple change of his last name. If only her family might perceive Romeo the way that she did. Juliet saw his essence, not his family title. She saw the man who had touched her mind, won the value of her loyalty and the gift of her heart.
Isn’t that the goal of those in marketing and business across the globe? To connect with customers, to win hearts and minds and to build loyal relationships that transcend cultural or language differences. When brand identity and local perception merge, a brand becomes a regional success as much as a global one.
“For brands to succeed in a global marketplace, they need to connect at a local level. This means not getting lost in translation.”
For brands to succeed in a global marketplace, they need to connect at a local level. This means not getting lost in translation. The language used has to resonate with the specific market you’re selling to. A brand evolution that recognises local needs and demonstrates an understanding of specific markets’ taste, values and culture has to take place. It has to speak with words and images and stories that connect with the market’s culture at a visceral level and not just be a pre-packaged “one-shoe-fits-all” solution, which would only create a disconnect from the foreign market. “Local” cannot be a distant memory for brands or their consumers; they should make sure their brand aligns with their values and connects to their stories, experiences and aspirations”.
The world has never been more connected—our words and images now travel on bits and bytes that flatten borders and open doors of understanding. At its most basic level, we all speak the digital language of binary code. The zeroes and ones that merge into communal hubs like Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram—this is where the globe gathers in the millions to connect and share.
Those hubs split into communities. Tribes still form as collectives and each will have its own culture that is more similar than different. Language and cultural differences can create an “us vs. them” distinction that becomes counterproductive to global marketing. Brand communities that listen and are inclusive and break down the differences with sensitivity will win hearts and minds if they create open and tailored channels to specific markets.
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For emerging markets in the East, regional differences and interpretation of Western imagery can inhibit communication. Until brands connect with the story and experience of the emerging markets there will be a sense of separation. Western mythologies and stories are unfamiliar there. This should be at the heart of language and storytelling—to connect regionally. Brands that tackle new regions must anticipate those local needs and bond with their cultural archetypes and mythologies and be in position to align language and concepts with the understanding of the market rather than expect them assimilate a singular western ideal.
A tweet is the power of 140 characters honed into shared message, a thought that can be broadcast and amplified to millions or touch a single person. It can influence a decision or create a maelstrom of emotion and responses. It can direct a sale or provide responsive customer service. Now consider how that tweet will be translated into a multitude of languages. Does the metaphor that was used or the comparable simile or the colloquialism, the joke or sporting reference really work in Hindi or Chinese? Does it smell as sweet? A concept or idea has to hold merit for its intended audience and that takes local knowledge and cultural understanding.
Brands that distill the essence of their brand DNA into accessible and internationally-tuned packages will be ready for the ever-growing generation of connected users from across the globe. Now in these hubs of digital communities, brand conversations are powered through social media and brands need to choose their words wisely and be flexible enough to embrace the differences in attitudes and understanding as much as discovering the many similarities and universal loyalties.
Those similarities lay in our humanity. Brands that embrace the common archetypes of love, family, friendship, motherhood, fatherhood, strength, beauty, fragility and innocence will connect through the eyes, ears and mind of the consumer. Brands that align with their consumers’ stories and sense of identity will succeed in this connected global network.
Successful brands know that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet as long as they are willing to adapt branding and marketing practices to the expectations and desires of new and emerging markets. To embrace being global and value the brands point of difference but respond, listen and speak like a local and create that point of connection that may indeed win the gift of the consumers heart.