Advertising to International markets: different cultures, different tastes

by Felicia Bratu

I remember when McDonald’s opened its first restaurant in Romania. I was so excited about it and I still remember my first meal there. I had a beef burger, and I liked it… and I never eat beef! At that time, McDonald’s was already a well-known brand in my country from American movies, so the opening was a big success, even if the prices weren’t the best ones.

Seize the moment!
Why did they have such success in Romania? Because they came at the right moment – it was at a time when everything there was changing, communism was over and everybody was open to new experiences.

Know the market. Find the opportunity. Nike has been selling shoes in China since 1984. Everybody knows that Nike shoes aren’t  cheap, but the company adjusted its prices for the Chinese market. Also, the sudden popularity of basketball in China was the real boom for Nike. Basketball players wear Nike and people in China love them so they love Nike shoes… This company found the right instrument to crack into a tough market.

Different cultures, different religions, different tastes. Research and tailor your product to fit consumer needs.  McDonald’s didn’t have to change their recipes too much in Romania, but this didn’t work everywhere around the world. Entering into a foreign market is more than just knowing the language. Knowing what tastes your customers prefer could be the key.

Hellmann’s mayonnaise tastes differently in Brazil than in the UK. It’s more lemony in Brazil and more vinegary in Britain. Dreyer’s modified their ice cream for the Japanese market since people in Japan prefer their frozen desserts to be less sweet. Japanese consumers prefer their beef to be fatty, Koreans like the taste of cow’s feet, and Hindu people do not eat beef at all.

Adapt your product.  I only heard of cranberries after I came to Canada and I wasn’t sure what they were… that’s because this fruit isn’t known outside North America. When Ocean Spray Cranberries, Inc. first tried to sell its products in the UK, sales were low. So, they adapted their product by selling a mixed cranberry juice with a juice preferred by children in Britain. They also changed the packaging and instead of selling the juice bottled, they started to use boxes.

(Source: Marketing, Canadian Edition; Pride, Ferrell, MacKenzie, Snow)

It’s no longer news that English is not the first language on the Internet and international visitors prefer to purchase from websites in their own languages. If you want to sell to foreign markets, you have to speak your customers’ language.

Localize your website. Do not only translate your website: pay attention to cultural differences and customs. Small details like colors, numbers, and signs can transform your entire campaign into a nightmare if you don’t use them correctly.

Felicia Bratu

Felicia Bratu is the operations manager of wintranslation, in charge of quality delivery and client satisfaction. As a veteran who has worked in many roles at the company since 2003, Felicia oversees almost every aspect of the company operations from recruitment to project management to localization engineering. She recently received certification as a Localization Project Manager as well as Post-Editing Certification for Machine Translation. Felicia holds a BSc. in Industrial Robotics from the University of Craiova, Romania.