Big ideas need big words – what every international marketing manager can learn from Anne of Green Gables

It will not come as a surprise to anyone who has ever read Anne of Green Gables that the red-hair orphan uses big words. Really big words. She would never say that something is pretty but instead she would use mesmerizing. In her world everything is splendid or marvelous or the opposite – atrocious. Why? Because she knows that big ideas need big words. We say: localized words.

Anne’s dazzling imagination and her way to express herself made her unique and enabled her to overcome any obstacle. Even if her path was made of confusion and sometimes sorrow, she never changed. And yes, you may think her adventures have nothing to do with international marketing but what if you just try to think like Anne?

Launching a new product or service on a foreign market is quite troublesome (Anne would probably say something like vexatious). It requires changing the perspective and learning how to talk to new clients. And we do not mean the language only. You’ll need to find a sensitivity regarding culture, tradition and customs in the region. The trick here is to understand the language and culture despite globalization – entering global markets you need to think local. Here is how to do it.

There’s such a lot of different Annes in me. I sometimes think that is why I’m such a troublesome person. If I was just the one Anne it would be ever so much more comfortable, but then it wouldn’t be half so interesting.*

Firstly, the word universal should be pushed to the back corners of your dictionary and be replaced with localized. The right approach regarding localization of marketing strategies is often overshadowed by the desire to transfer safe but old strategies to a new market. However, there is no other way than adapting a promotional campaign to a new cultural and linguistic reality.

That’s why multinational marketing management should start with getting to know the new market and customers. The buzzwords they respond to, the emotions that will trigger a desire to buy your product, the things that make them laugh or cry. You need to harmonize your brand with the new audience, which may require changes in your line of communication.

What you will have to do is to create a single brand but express it in different ways depending on different markets. Don’t translate the slogan literally because it is bound to be disaster. Instead, invest in localization — turn to a specialist who will know how to preserve the message you want to communicate using more suitable words. The fact that you have one brand does not mean that you have to stick to only one line of communication. It would be simple, but the effect would be disappointing.

Those changes can affect every aspect of the previously developed marketing strategy — the distribution channels, the media you use, the website content, graphics, even the packaging of your product. So do not cringe back when a localization expert suggests switching from advertising on Facebook to investing more money in VKontakte — it is probably because he or she knows that your Russian customer will respond to that better.

Nike would probably now pay a lot for a localization expert after a scandal that broke out a few years ago. The company launched a new model of shoes with a logo that meant to look like flames at the back of the product. But what they didn’t know was that the flames in the logo resembled the word Allah written in Arabic, so they lost quite a lot of money after they had to recall the shoes from Arabic markets.

I read in a book once that a rose by any other name would smell as sweet, but I’ve never been able to believe it. I don’t believe a rose WOULD be as nice if it was called a thistle or a skunk cabbage.*

Moral? Naming matters. Anne says, a rose wouldn’t smell as good if it was named differently and the same rule may apply to your product. You have to remember, however, that a client speaking a different language sees things differently too. Language is not only a mean to express words but also emotions. It affects the way we perceive the world and even the way we think. Using a localized product’s name, adjusting the corporate identity and, generally speaking, your customer’s language (and again – we don’t mean using the correctly translated words) will bring you closer to the local audience.

Assuming that something that worked in one country will have the same effect globally won’t help you in gaining trust of your customers. To fit into a new world you need to be open to change. The keywords describing your product or service, the tags written into the website, the content for social media — all those components – when localized – will enable you to reach a customer on the personal level and build up trust among the local community. That way you can create an image of an accessible culture-conscious local brand even if you’re present globally.

Anne is right – you need a right name to sell a product, but it doesn’t mean using the exactly same name in every language and in every region in the world. Example? Colgate launched toothpaste on the French market called Cue. What they didn’t realize was that it was also the name of a local porn magazine.

The same thing happened to Ford when launching its Ford Pinto on the Brazilian market – too bad the name of the car literally means penis in Brazilian Portuguese.

Solution? Localization done by professionals.

My life is a perfect graveyard of buried hopes.*

Anne’s quote above is meant to serve as a reminder, not a gruesome picture of your brand’s future, provided you follow a few simple rules.

Remember that the quality of the source content is as important as the quality of translated/localized content. It has to be localizable, so when you are creating a new website, have in mind that you may need more/less space for different alphabets. And don’t be surprised if someone from a foreign office changes a catchy slogan you have come up with.

A newsletter campaign gave you an amazingly high ROI in Spain but it did not work in Japan? Try to find out if the layout/call to action/ graphics you used are effective in a given country. Or maybe it is the medium itself that is ineffective? Do your research before investing in a marketing channel and do not assume that every measure you take will work globally?

The more you think about localization during the early stages of planning all marketing activities, the easier it will be to launch your product on a new market. Think about a potential consumer’s experience with your brand instead of your expectations. You’ll need to find balance between a coherent global strategy and diversifying communication in different regions.

“People laugh at me because I use big words. But if you have big ideas, you have to use big words to express them, haven’t you?” *

Find the right people to use the right big words for your brand, do as Anne Shirley says and we promise that no one will laugh at you for using big, localized words. Unless, of course, you intent to make them laugh.

*All quotes above come from Anne of Green Gables by L.M. Montgomery.

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