While facilitating at this year’s Middle East Leadership Academy in Muscat, Oman, EnVeritas Group’s CEO Brice Bay had a chance to discuss multicultural branding with Marco Blankenburgh, founder of KnowledgeWorkx.

Multicultural Marketing: Are You A Cultural Learner?

It’s no secret that companies are leaving the comfort of their home country and embracing the concept of global business.  Why? Simple mathematics: opportunities across the globe are plentiful, which makes the allure of “going global” difficult to resist.

But marketers beware. International markets, while lucrative, present their own pitfalls – from legalities to language barriers. A big issue: Understanding local culture and developing an understanding of the nuances of each different setting.

So many differences exist between cultures, both subtle and blatant, and ignoring them can lead to a PR nightmare for your company.  When creating a marketing plan aimed at attracting consumers in a new, international market, any strategist would best be served by becoming a cultural learner.

According to KnowledgeWorkx.com, being a cultural learner is defined as “The ability to create new cultural spaces to create win-win solutions by anticipating, correctly interpreting, and adjusting to the culturally defined behaviors of others.”

While visiting Oman to serve as a facilitator at the Middle East Leadership Academy recently, EnVeritas Group CEO Brice Bay spoke with KnowledgeMuscat, OmanWorkx founder Marco Blankenburgh.  He asked Blankenburgh about the concept of being a cultural learner and how it relates to branding a message across different cultures.

“The message is typically designed from the messenger’s perspective, and this causes all kinds of issues, especially if you go cross-cultural,” explains Blankenburgh.

“The recipient of it needs to be able to engage with it emotionally, linguistically, culturally, metaphorically, and from an imagery point of view.”

In Japan, Coca-Cola was forced to change the name of the company’s popular Diet Coke beverage to Coke Light after finding out that the term “diet” carried a negative connotation.  In Japanese culture, someone on a diet is thought of as being sickly. Consumers weren’t exactly juCoca-Cola Light Japanmping at the chance to drink a beverage for sick people.

Coca-Cola isn’t the only company guilty of cultural marketing blunders.  Take, for example, UPS’s entrance into Spain.  The company’s familiar brown box trucks weren’t quite as welcome as they are elsewhere, as their exterior resembled that of local hearses.  Who wants to walk outside to get their mail and see a hearse pulling up in front of the house in the middle of the day?

No matter what product or service your company offers; if you decide to go global, make sure that you have a plan.  On the surface this seems like a no-brainer, but even the major players (hey, Coca Cola!) make major blunders. This means you can too. So don’t get too comfortable. Learn the culture, get to know your audience, and localize your strategy. The key to any marketing effort is to develop a full understanding of your target.

Anthony Gaenzle – Director of Marketing
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