Keeping it Glocal

Merriam-Webster has yet to add it to the official dictionary, but the term “glocalization” is being used more and more by marketers.

“Glocalization” or “going glocal” means taking a global brand and/or its global campaign and making it relevant at a local level. Sounds easy enough, right? Not so fast.

think glocallyAs a member of the Agricultural & Environmental Sciences practice at PadillaCRT, I help lead a team of 15 people who conduct marketing communications and public relations activities for several clients, including a global manufacturer of chemicals used in crop protection. As we create messaging for our clients’ customers – growers of corn, soybeans and specialty crops across North America – it’s critical that we understand nuances of the particular geographies and the preferred communications channels of individual grower groups.

A corn or soybean farmer in the Midwest deals with very different challenges than the almond grower in California, the rice grower in Tennessee, the wheat farmer in Canada or the sugar cane grower in Mexico.

When it comes to being relevant locally, there are several important considerations to ensure that a global campaign theme resonates locally. There is no such thing as “one size fits all.”

As marketers, we’ve heard the horror stories. Remember when KFC decided to expand its fried-chicken franchise to China in the 1980s? The company simply translated its longtime slogan “Finger-lickin’ good” from English to Chinese. However the translated version, “Eat your fingers off,” didn’t appeal to customers in China. KFC quickly recovered, and it’s the No. 1 fast food franchise in China today.

And who could forget The American Dairy Association’s “Got Milk?” campaign, featuring celebrities with milk mustaches? It was extremely popular among American audiences for nearly 20 years (the slogan was retired earlier this year). But when the catchphrase was translated into Spanish for the campaign launch in Mexico, the question became “Are You Lactating?” That didn’t resonate with customers.

Pepsi experienced the same lost-in-translation problem when introducing its popular U.S. slogan, “Pepsi Brings You Back to Life” in China. The literal interpretation: “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back From the Grave.”

PadillaCRT’s work in the agricultural chemical industry focuses largely on communicating with growers in North America, so we haven’t confronted similar translation challenges. But recently, we had to revise some creative used in North America so it would be relevant for a trade show in China.

The campaign centered around a portfolio of solutions for crops and featured artwork of seeds in their natural environment. Through conversations with our marketing partners on the client side, we learned that seeds are depicted much differently in China’s agricultural industry. So, the creative was revised to incorporate the bright and vibrant colors that are most commonly used to illustrate seeds in China.

Over the years, we’ve learned other important lessons and local marketing strategies after working closely with this client:

Finally, understanding who your audience is and how they behave is critical to ensuring success of a global (or any, for that matter) campaign. Conducting the right kind of research with the appropriate size audience is key to obtaining this understanding.

Find out: Do your brand’s values and personality resonate in the same way across all markets? What is the current awareness level and market share of your product in all markets? Chances are these factors vary and a single message across all markets would be ineffective.

Localize and fine-tune your message for specific markets, and your marketing investment will be more likely to pay off.

And just for fun, check out these additional campaign-translation blunders.

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