How Reputation Management Works around the World
The Internet might make it easier to expand into overseas markets, but that doesn’t mean going global isn’t still a major undertaking. Building your brand and protecting your reputation requires an in-depth knowledge of your target audience, and that means taking into consideration the culture you’re trying to convey your message to. After all, what works in the US might have a very different effect in another country.
Who Needs to Worry about International Reputation Management?
International reputation management isn’t just for organizations with global ambitions. Even for brands that haven’t set their sights on the international marketplace, a poorly executed marketing campaign that leaves a bad impression in one part of the world can still have global repercussions.
Brands of all types, scopes, and sizes need to observe cultural sensitivities to avoid costly public relations disasters. One example of such a disaster is when US fashion designer Kenneth Cole used the 2011 political instability in Cairo to promote a new line of products. Despite making an apology later that day, the backlash in Egypt and, indeed, all over the world, was severe.
The Importance of Local Specialization
A surefire way to damage your reputation abroad is to simply assume that everyone is the same in that they have a perfect understanding of American English and, indeed, everything else American. To many people, however, this approach simply looks lazy and thoughtless and, even in countries where English is widely spoken, using it for advertising slogans is becoming passé and often leads only to confusion and irritation.
Branding works very differently from one country to the next due to many factors. Even in cases where the language is the same, audiences typically want to feel that you’re in touch with their unique requirements and aware of their specific pain points. These factors all vary depending on attributes like the cultural background and geographic location. If your company is trying to market itself in a different country, you will need to strive hard to demonstrate that you’re relevant and knowledgeable.
Local specialization is essential if you hope to maintain any kind of presence in a foreign marketplace. That’s why you need to work with people who are familiar with the culture you’re marketing to and can create content that is relevant to its target audience. Your efforts need to be real to the extent that people should feel compelled to respond to them. That’s not likely to happen if your brand can’t demonstrate a fluent understanding of regional nuances.
Developing and nurturing local relationships is just as important as it is at home. As part of an ongoing process, that means maintaining a consistent presence on local social media and other outlets and responding to reviews with a local understanding. That means leveraging local talent and working with those who have intimate insider knowledge of the market you’re trying to appeal to.
Adapting Your Branding Strategy to Regional Audiences
Although global corporations generally manage all their localized branding in parallel, they adapt their messages specifically so that they are more culturally relevant in each region. That means going beyond translation alone to maintain intent, context and style in a process that’s known in the marketing world as transcreation.
A good example of transcreation is Coca-Cola’s Share a Coke campaign, in which the famous cursive logo on bottles was replaced with popular names. In Britain, the company used the opportunity to celebrate the birth of Prince George, while in China, the campaign stuck to nicknames out of respect to the formal significance of first names in that country.
As the above example demonstrates, there are usually many opportunities to take a local concept to a global audience. Nonetheless, it needs to be done with great care, not least because something that might be completely innocuous in one country may be seen as confusing or offensive in another. That’s why it’s crucial to leverage first-hand, local knowledge throughout your international marketing efforts.