News and Insights
Not quite an Englishman in New York: cross-cultural marketing in practice
November 19, 2019
I have the pleasure of working with people from around the world: from Russia, Poland, Romania, Spain, Lebanon, the US, China, Korea, Japan and, of course the UK. It’s an enriching experience: cross-border collaboration exposes us to other cultures, which helps us to be better communicators and to build experience that’s invaluable when it comes to tailoring marketing and communications to suit different markets.
Lost in translation
The necessity to adapt tone of voice within content to ensure it works in an international context is one key lesson. You cannot hope to simply translate a document from German to English, for example, and expect the result to be the finished article. There needs to be a native review to ensure the pitch and tone is correct, to add that finesse that is necessary to attract the attention of the reader. And it cuts both ways. What sounds perfect in English may sound like a hard sales pitch in German. Again, it is all about finesse.
Not my circus, not my monkeys?
Of course, this also applies to communicating with clients and colleagues. Aside from learning some intriguing sayings – take the amazing Polish one above, for example – and gaining an understanding of meanings that may not be immediately obvious (I get, for example, what it means to ‘chase’ someone and there’s no running involved)* – you can also learn a lot about different perspectives, which helps you to put yourself in your customers’ shoes.
It comes down to empathy and understanding and realising that what might be obvious to you won’t necessarily be obvious to someone else. We are all shaped by our experiences, and, based on what I’ve seen, broader horizons make for better communicators.
Looking beyond borders for innovation
Working with different cultures also enhances what you know and can make you aware of the incredible things happening elsewhere. Take China as an example, I recently had an inspiring conversation with some colleagues on the opportunities WeChat offers that ‘Western’ social media companies can only dream of.
It turns out that WeChat allows you to not just pay your rent, but also to get a divorce – and suddenly, Facebook Messenger seems less innovative than I previously thought. There are so many opportunities to explore, and sometimes all it takes is to start a conversation with your global colleagues.
Using your strengths to collaborate effectively
That said, it is always important to focus on what you do best in your own area and get in help from international colleagues when needed. Nobody can do everything all at once, so concentrating on key markets and doing them well is often the secret to success.
It might be tempting to run a campaign in Europe from outside of the continent, but don’t underestimate that this means localising to several key languages – just like running a campaign in Asia or the US would be more complicated from Europe. Trust your colleagues and partners – they know their local markets and their intricacies best. They also know the local media, trade shows, speaking opportunities and so on and will be able to guide you in a collaborative effort.
Learning from other cultures opens doors to many different worlds. Those sneak-peeks make life more interesting – be it in the office or outside. It enables us to view the world and the way we communicate differently, without even leaving our desks or home.
*Oh, and in case you were wondering: I am, in fact, ‘a German in London’, not an Englishman in New York.