The #Blacklivesmatter campaign went viral in a couple of days, what a few clicks can do is now beyond our control and imagination. Digital campaigns, whether for racial justice or advertising, can deliver huge impact. However, when used poorly, they can lead to calamity.
A culturally offensive social media video showing a Chinese woman failed to use chopsticks on Italian food took five days to destroy Dolce & Gabbana’s prospects in the Chinese market, which accounts for about 35% of the global personal luxury market. On November 22, 2018, five days after the video was released, nearly all the major e-commerce sites removed D&G products from their shelves, including Alibaba, Jindong and Suning. D&G’s sales never got back to pre-crisis level in China and its reputation was damaged.
This demonstrates how important it is to adapt and create digital campaigns across different markets and cultures, and as a creative technology studio with extensive global digital advertising expertise we wanted to share our advice for global brands on this topic.
According to The Culture Map, Americans precede anything negative with three nice comments; French, Dutch, Israelis, and Germans get straight to the point; Latin Americans and Asians are steeped in hierarchy; Scandinavians think the best boss is just one of the crowd. Before any market expansion, a well-rounded research is indispensable as well as local expertise.
Global brands need to make sure their products and way of communication are culturally acceptable in the destination country.
2. Respect the culture
The D&G ad campaign intended to show how Italian and Chinese cultures can come together, but it portrayed Italian culture as the superior culture while Chinese culture was defined as “impractical and incapable”. From the Chinese perspective, the video trivialises their culture in an offensive way. For global brands entering a foreign market, being disrespectful to the local culture is the root of a full-on disaster.
Needless to say, brands need to respect the differences among cultures and consider them equally valuable and meaningful rather than comparing them from a narrow perspective.
3. Adapting messaging and positioning
Communication is the key, it’s not just about translating the content to local languages, but more about adapting the message. Appetite Creative works with clients entering foreign markets with brand new positioning and messaging based on the market audience, which goes far beyond a simple language change.
AnyClip, the Isreali video data and technology company, was aiming to enter European market. As a newcomer to this marketplace, it was facing challenges such as non-domestic mistrust, intermediary mistrust, and network legacy mistrust. Appetite Creative recognised the importance of underlining the benefits of the AI-driven platform and to manage this mistrust of Isralie tech companies in the ad tech space, there was a European wrapper that needed put in on the messaging and positioning to enable AnyClip to cater to the needs of European audiences. As a result, AnyClip saw a notable increase in new business opportunities, as well as a material increase of interested investors.
In addition, we have recently started to work with a US-based renewable energy company, Clearview, to enter Spanish and Portuguese markets. A major cultural difference is that American culture is more open to innovation and the green energy aspect, while European culture has a tendency of being reluctant to accept constant transformation, according to a recent study by The Information Technology and Innovation Foundation (ITIF) and Office of Science and Technology Austria – Washington.
With this in mind, Appetite Creative is developing new websites for Clearview. The original website for the US market was focused on the energy being green, renewable and innovative, so the website we created for the Spanish and Portuguese markets is geared towards educating the audience, helping innovation-wary European customers understand the bills and help overcome their fear of switching energy. With a team of experts from across over the world, Appetite Creative is able to offer a global vision to brands that are looking to enter international markets.
Different cultures have different values. People from different parts of the world hold different perspectives and concerns on the same topics. Therefore, it’s crucial for global brands to adapt to the local environment in every way possible, to ensure a successful entry, as well as further development and market expansion.