Exporting your brand overseas can often feel like a choice between protecting your individual brand voice or adapting to culturally specific attitudes. However, with a bit of creativity and the right team behind you, you can advocate your brand while still entering new global markets.

We’ve worked with many distinct brand personalities over the years that are unique to their home country. The trick to expanding internationally is to capture that personality in a way that’s relevant and engaging for the target audience.

BODEN: A CASE STUDY

Boden British FashionLet’s take the British fashion brand Boden. We love their approach to producing smart, quirky content aligned with very British characteristics.

They’ve localized their website into French and in terms of cultural adaptation, they’ve done it brilliantly. In the UK, their tagline reads: ‘Boden: New British.’ For their French site, this has been adapted to: ‘Boden: Le New British.’ This is a great move as it instantly identifies the brand as being British to the French market. But British with a French twist.

Boden has a unique tone of voice: chatty, fun and engaging that builds a good rapport with their UK customers. However, this approach is less common in France where most brands adopt a much more formal approach, in which Boden’s chatty style won’t necessarily translate well for the French audience.

To successfully adapt content to the target audience, get to the heart of what the brand is trying to say by establishing brand truths, values and an underlying brand ‘story’. Then consider nuances should be emphasized or toned down, based on local market sensitivities and requirements. Translating source language is never enough – you need to go beyond the actual words and consider their meaning and overall impact.

UNDERSTANDING THE LOCAL LANDSCAPE

Boden is a great example of a fantastic brand personality that just needs some slight content tweaking to really make an impact on an international audience. Generally, when considering how to adapt your content for foreign markets, there are two key things to bear in mind:

1) Channel strategy

Understanding how each market interacts with your brand, and what channels they use, will dictate how you express your brand overseas.

Take Chinese millennials, for instance, who are increasingly traveling the world and consuming foreign media through mobile devices. These two factors combined have contributed to the growth of “zhai” (homebody) culture, where the external world is experienced vicariously through mobile phones and online consumption. To take advantage of this and increase brand awareness, your brand heritage should be leveraged through social media channels in a game-like and interactive manner. This allows you to explain where your products come from, your goods’ production journey and what your brand represents in your home culture, all while keeping your customers engaged and entertained.

For example, Hugo Boss built an interactive gift-hunting game on WeChat, a Chinese social media platform, for the 2016 Christmas shopping period. Players had to find the four parts of a new character named “Bossbot” in its virtual store to finish the game. Upon completion, users were directed to a landing page with product information, pricing and styling tips, as well as a link to the eCommerce site. This approach appealed to Chinese consumers’ preferences and increased their exposure to a range of new Hugo Boss products.

Chinese alleyway with lanterns and people2) Cultural differences

Understanding the cultural characteristics of your target market must form the basis of how you adapt your brand.

For example, Russian consumers tend to be more impulsive, while Japanese shoppers are more cautious and willing to invest in a lot of pre-purchase research. British customers enjoy witty humor, whereas a German audience prefers modest and direct language.

To get the most out of each target market, it’s important to recognize these differences and tailor your brand personality, accordingly; otherwise, you could risk being misunderstood or rejected.

TOOLS

Once you’ve defined how your brand should be projected to the target market, it’s important to adopt the right infrastructure to ensure consistent implementation of your brand personality.

Define your voice – By writing a Tone of Voice guide for each market, you can ensure that the way you speak to your customers is on-brand, culturally appropriate and suitably engaging across all channels.

Define your terms – Building a multilingual glossary enables your translators to consistently use the approved target-language terms.

Ensure consistency – A translation memory guarantees that approved segments of content are consistently used across all content types, saving time and money.

CAPTURING YOUR PERSONALITY

While the tools above provide a so-called “scaffolding” for building your brand personality abroad, the artisans (copywriters and linguists) must be able to tell your story.

Colorful buildings on a village streetPersonality Matching

We use the Five Factor Model, or the “Big Five,” which is a personality classification system that bases its framework on these major traits: openness, conscientiousness, extraversion, agreeableness and emotional range (sometimes called ‘neuroticism’). We score your native brand voice and desired target market languages based on these measures and then help adapt your narrative for that specific market.

Each linguist’s tone is also analyzed and scored based on the Big Five in order to narrow down the list of linguists who best match your desired tone. From there, we take two more things into consideration: we pick linguists with relevant industry experience, and we look at the nature of content the linguist is used to working on to assess  what they are most comfortable with (i.e. legal copy, highly creative content, or something in between). We want to make sure the linguist has extensive experience working on content that’s similar to yours.

As a result, we compile teams with the right tone, industry experience and content capability. This might mean having different teams for different types of content, depending on your content portfolio. In the initial setup phase, we pick three teams for you to test and select your favorite from, which then becomes your dedicated content team moving forward.

FINAL THOUGHT

We love being involved in the creative side of defining a brand personality overseas, but we also place a great deal of value on the importance of maintenance and governance.

We also highly recommend quarterly content audits as well as setting up a reporting system on translation memory and glossary use. By providing content audits to your clients, you will feel assured that your target brand personalities for each market are being accurately portrayed across all markets and channels. Similarly, TM and glossary reports will give you confidence that markets are buying into the tools, processes and new brand personality. Tell us how we can help achieve your international needs.