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japanese entertainment and how the xbox failed to localise in japan

How the Xbox Failed to Capture Japan

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Following the much anticipated reveal of their latest console, codenamed project Scorpio, Microsoft chose the E3 conference to unveil the Xbox One X. Given that this new, formidable spec will easily make this the most powerful console on the market, being 4k and VR enabled, it is unsurprising that there is global excitement in the gaming communities to give this baby a whirl. However, there is one place that the Xbox brand has never been able to gain a solid foothold: Japan.

Since the release of the original Xbox in Japan sales have lagged, with cheaper and weaker consoles taking up the market share. As the Japanese gaming market was estimated at being worth $12.4 billion in 2016, making it the 3rd largest in the world, it would be hugely detrimental for Microsoft to continue to allow this disconnect to stand. The question to ask is, what chance will the Xbox One X have of gaining cut-through if Microsoft are unable to address the fundamental issues they have with engaging the Japanese gaming communities?


Are Japanese loyal to local products?

The most commonly cited excuse is that Japanese consumers are typically hostile to foreign products, with their intense brand loyalty to the ‘home-grown’ giving Playstation the significant edge. This doesn’t ring true however, in that there are several examples of foreign companies dominating the market in Japan. Amongst these is in fact Microsoft, as their PC Windows platform is being employed on more than half the computers in Japan and by almost double the number of users of their nearest competitor, Apple.

Apple themselves have also seen huge success in the Japanese smartphone market. With smartphone use at almost 94% in the country, the iPhone has an amazing 51.7% of market share. As hard as it might be for Xbox marketers to admit, they cannot hide behind excuses, but have clearly failed to present their product in a way that engages with the Japanese market. One problem Xbox are still struggling with, and where the Microsoft OS and Apple smartphone have excelled, is the assurance of exceptional product quality which is integral to attracting the Japanese consumer.


Xbox vs Playstation: quality vs variety

The Xbox brand suffered a cataclysmic blow with the Xbox 360 ‘Red Ring of Death’ saga. The severe overheating issue which cost Microsoft around £1.15 billion and resulted in consoles needing to be replaced became an international news story, tarnishing the consumer trust in the Xbox brand. With Playstations lasting for 10 years without problems, the comparison would have only confirmed Japanese consumer’s beliefs that their money would be more wisely invested in Playstation.

Microsoft’s next launch, the Xbox One, would have been a huge opportunity to regain consumer trust, but sadly this too failed to capture the hearts of the Japanese consumers. Despite quality trumping localisation, when given the choice between two quality consoles, the general consensus indicates that the Japanese market has been swayed by the much larger library of games, both Western and Japanese, from Sony. By refusing to localise their offering, Microsoft are already alienating this market and losing their share of a vast gaming industry.


Did Xbox do right with localisation?

Stylistically, the Japanese game designers take a very different approach to storytelling than Western creators, meaning Western games are not necessarily going to connect as well with the Japanese audience. Deviating from the Western market’s love for the first-person shooter genre, the Japanese games industry skews heavily towards the JRPG (Japanese Role Playing Game) and slower paced, narrative driven Japanese video games. As is true of all consumer groups, Japanese audiences value feeling like brands are directly addressing their needs and values, but by excluding these from their catalogue, Microsoft show they are not strategising with the Japanese gamer in mind but maintaining a Western-centric approach within their local market.


Cultural factors are paramount

To gain a deeper understanding of what other cultural factors might inhibit this brand’s appeal translating into the Japanese market, we asked one of our expert Japanese transcreators for their opinion on what’s stopping the Xbox brand from connecting with their market:

“Firstly, Microsoft made a huge blunder by bundling the Xbox One with the Kinect, a motion detector that could also be activated through voice commands. For this technology to be successful it must always be left on. This fails to understand fundamental Japanese cultural factors such as the importance of privacy. An always on system is unappealing to most Japanese households because it’s a constant surveillance which naturally is incredibly intrusive.

Secondly, most Japanese apartments are so small there is almost no room to utilise the motion reactivity which is a key selling point of the Xbox One. There’s certainly no room to sufficiently move around for games such as Dance Central.

The design sensibilities of the Xbox series are clearly based on a western lifestyle and consistently fail to take into account an average Japanese person’s living conditions and environment. If Microsoft are unable to target the Japanese market with a more nuanced approach, I would have sincere doubts about the new console seeing any more success than its predecessors.”


How to connect with the Japanese market?

At the very least, Xbox are trying to address the issue of ignoring the Japanese viewpoint on their consoles. Xbox division head Phil Spencer’s recent trip to Japan has been publicised as a way that they are trying to connect with and gain credibility within the Japanese market. By getting Japanese game developers on board and discussing their anticipation of the latest console launch, Spencer seems to be attempting to quell the consistent fear that Xbox will continue to neglect the Japanese games market. Unfortunately, this also comes with the news that a number of games, including Nier, will not be available on Xbox.

The question that remains is can Xbox overcome the many blunders it has had in Japan since the first Xbox and regain its reputation? Even if they do manage to do that they will still have to prove that the Xbox One X is worth buying over the Playstation, which still appears to be far more in tune with its home audience.


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Advertising facts from all over the world - a textappeal Infographic

Advertising Facts From All Over The World

  |   CultureShocks Blog

For advertising to really hit home in its respective markets, its vital to have the subtlety and depth of understanding of the culture behind the words. Some brands navigate this beautifully, bringing their voice and message into the hearts and minds of consumers around the world, whilst others fall woefully short of the mark with comical blunders. By not considering the idiosyncrasies of the markets they want to tap into, brands can find the message they have worked hard to tailor to their audience becomes disastrously lost in translation.


Some brands have really struggled to ensure their advertising campaigns navigate the cultural differences across target markets. Messaging, imagery and ideas which work in their central market might not have the same resonance or associations with consumers in say Argentina or South Korea. If you’re looking to connect with your global consumer base, these cross-cultural barriers need to be addressed and overcome, and who better to help with that than local transcreation talent. This infographic presents just a few of the interesting and funny advertising facts from around the world which showcase the individuality of specific markets.


(Click infographic to enlarge.)

Advertising facts from all over the world - textappeal infographic

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10 reasons you should translate your website

10 Reasons Why You Should Translate Your Website

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Content production takes tremendous strategy, effort, and analysis. Crafting blogs, infographics, image quotes, and related materials that garner attention, educates, and convinces consumers takes serious finesse. You also have to ensure that articles and social posts are more effective than the competition and still adhere to SEO best practices. Tackling all these nuances feels like a herculean task.

Considering content creation is an increasingly challenging undertaking, shouldn’t you try to get the most out of your materials?

Then consider translating your content into other languages to reach new audiences. There’s no reason why everything you create can’t go global.

English, despite being spoken by roughly 1.5 billion people (or about 20% of the global population), accounts for more than 51% of all content online.

This divide presents massive opportunities for brands who are willing to go the extra mile to capitalise on underserved markets.

While many opt for translation plugins to try to fill this void, these are not the best ways to translate a website or its content. This is because such automated tools do not understand the nuances of many languages, often creating nonsensical translations; this could actually damage your reputation and alienate audiences.

Here are 10 compelling reasons to get started transcribing your website content right away.


1: Increase Your Customer Base


In the global economy, effective website transcreation is necessary for a variety of reasons.

In order for brands to capture overseas consumers, webpages must be served in their native tongue.

Various studies have indicated that roughly 72% of consumers spent the majority of their time online visiting websites in their first language. The same number of people also state that they are more inclined to make a purchase if the product info is in a familiar dialect.

Furthermore, from a psychological standpoint, we know that global shoppers are less likely to purchase an item from a site that is not in their native language and the vast majority always visit websites that feature their preferred language. It makes sense that people want a shopping experience in their native tongue wherever possible.


2: Your Company Ships Internationally


Many websites and ecommerce stores cater to foreign crowds with international shipping and various currency payment options. Despite this, many of these sites house English-only content.

By providing customers with product information in native languages, you greatly increase the chances of making a sale.


3: Your Competition has a Multilingual Website


If your competition is serving a variety of audiences around the world through a multilingual site, they are likely capturing more eyeballs and revenue online.

The longer you go without a translated version of your site, the stronger your competition grows across global communities.


4: Be a Global Powerhouse


On the other hand, if your rivals don’t boast a multilingual website, you are presented with a fabulous opportunity to capitalise on this fact and create custom content for foreign consumers. Many of these folks will no doubt be your loyal customers even if your competition steps up its game.


5: Data Indicates Translation is Logical


When digging through your site’s traffic data, you might find that your visitors’ geographic data is more diverse than expected.

If you are gaining sizeable volumes of foreign traffic, determine what languages these folks speak and seize the opportunity to capture this business.


6: Enhance International SEO


Global SEO is one of the most effective strategies for developing an international presence as this will ultimately drive traffic to your site, generate leads, and boost other supporting factors. Most importantly, keeping an international SEO strategy can skyrocket your conversions, which is the heart of any successful online business.

The best way to translate a website and optimise it for multilingual SEO purposes is to hire a transcreation agency with search engine expertise.


7: Increase Time on Site


Most translated websites receive the added SEO benefits of lower bounce rates, greater user interaction and time on the site.

This will not only help your international SEO efforts but it will also increase the chances of making a sale.


8: Cost Efficiency


In addition to website translation services, contributing to a site’s bolstered international presence is one of the most cost effective ways of reaching foreign audiences.

By providing your website’s content in a variety of languages and showing users how to change languages on pages, you can effectively capture new users, build confidence with shoppers, and reap a multitude of other benefits.


9: Build Trust Worldwide


Online consumers typically only shop with websites that they deem trustworthy.

When a site is in a language that people don’t understand, they are more likely not to trust it.

A site that is thoughtfully and accurately presented in a variety of languages, however, gives an air of polish, authority, and global credibility that helps to form significant consumer confidence. A multilingual site gives consumers the impression that the brand cares deeply about their experience.


10: Build a Stronger Brand


Whenever a brand is able to establish a foothold in foreign markets, it reaps the benefits of strengthening its brand on a global scale.

Nike, Pepsi and Amazon did not become the household names they are today by providing audiences with English-only content.

While these reasons for website translation are informative, you may still be at a loss in deciding which languages to focus on for your translation efforts.


Choosing Languages

The first step in figuring out how to build a multilingual website is to establish which languages will be supported.

The more options you choose, the more costly the project will be. It is important to note, however, that not all languages cost the same.

Considering this, it is vital that you account for the size of your budget when studying the countries that are already visiting your site and which languages those people speak.

There are certain languages that are likely to be more fruitful in your translation efforts, but this will probably vary from brand to brand.

Translating your website brings a multitude of benefits; increased sales, stronger brand image, higher international SEO rankings, and many more business perks. The best way to translate a website that converts and boosts your brand is by hiring an agency that intimately understands a language’s intricacies so as to not develop content that appears foolish and turns off the demographic you were looking to convert.

Your site’s success may very well depend on how much you cater to an international audience. Don’t limit your reach to just one language; intelligent localisation can be the single most powerful choice you make for digital business dominace.



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japanese culture facts - traditions in japan-min

Japanese Culture Facts: 6 Traditions Every Traveller Should Know

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Facts about Japanese culture that tourists and businessmen might not know but really should before travelling or doing business.

Japan is famous for having one of the richest and most interesting cultures in the world. Many of the country’s ancient practices and traditions are still intact today, helping to shape Japan’s unique lifestyle and global perception.

While most Westerners conjure thoughts of sushi, samurai and sumo wrestlers when they think about Japanese culture (and they wouldn’t be wrong), these notions barely scratch the surface of the Japanese people and their multi-faceted culture.

If you are getting ready to take a holiday to the Land of the Rising Sun, heading there for business purposes, or just looking to be aware and respectful to people from this country, here are six traditions and rituals that you need to know in order to blend in with the locals and not succumb to an acute case of culture shock.


Traditional Tea Ceremonies

Japanese Culture Facts - traditional tea ceremonies in Japan

Tea ceremonies are a common part of Japanese culture. This formal yet stylised custom is taken quite seriously. These ceremonies have been greatly influenced by Buddhist practices and the event can be likened to a meditative experience. Japanese tea ceremonies possess deep meaning to the country and those who are invited should feel quite honoured.

If you find yourself invited to such an occasion, be aware that each guest plays a role in the ceremony and will be seated in accordance with their ranking.

Guests should be keenly aware of Japanese tea ceremony etiquette as it can be a fairly complex ritual.


The Sacred Practice of Giving Gifts

Japanese Culture Facts - gift giving in japan

Another Japanese tradition that is extremely prevalent throughout the culture is gift giving.

When meeting with business associates or arriving at someone’s home you have been invited to, it is particularly important to show respect and gratitude by presenting your hosts with a gift.

There are a variety of gifts that are acceptable; these largely depend on the occasion and your current relationship to the recipient.

Additionally, how the gift is wrapped is essential; be sure that it is packaged very nicely. If wrapping is not an option, present it in a bag from the shop it was purchased from.

Whatever you do, do not give someone gifts in a set of four as this is considered unlucky since the Japanese word for “four” is pronounced in the same way as “death”.

Present your gift towards the end of your encounter, and do so with both hands no matter if you are giving or receiving.

Additionally, if you are ever offered a gift, strongly object acceptance at first as this is polite; afterward, accept the gift as anything less would be rude.


Festive and Celebratory Bonenkai Parties

Japanese Culture Facts - kampai celebration in japan

Each December, Japan is swarming with Bonenkai parties.

Bonenkai party means “forget the year party” and is a way for the Japanese people to leave behind their troubles from the current year and look optimistically towards a new one.

Pretty much every company will throw one of these parties, but there will also be private ones among friends and family.

This Japanese tradition is typically structured with various games and speeches.

If you are fortunate enough to be invited to one of these events, be sure to keep your etiquette intact (which we will go over in a moment) as there is often a second party (and possibly a third) afterward; these can get pretty rowdy.


Kampai: A Reverent Social Convention

Japanese Culture Facts - festive bonenkai parties in japan

Whenever you are out drinking with Japanese people, you’re going to hear the word “Kampai” quite a few times. This is akin to “Cheers” in English-speaking countries and translates to “dry glass” or “bottoms up”.

Be mindful when partaking in alcoholic beverages, however, as it is considered rude to pour yourself a drink; another guest should take care of this for you and you should do the same for others.

Additionally, it is also boorish to start drinking before everyone has a beverage and has the chance to Kampai.

Finally, if you want to appear reverent to your newfound friends, during the first round of drink, order the same thing as everyone else to show comradery.


Not Tipping: A Custom Rooted in Respect

Japanese Culture Facts - tips in japan

Among all the festivities and drinks, your natural instincts might kick in and convince you to leave a tip on your way out of the bonenkai party or business meeting.

Under no circumstances should you leave a tip in any situation while visiting Japan. In fact, leaving a tip is not only unacceptable, it is considered insulting.

Leaving a tip conveys a message that the business must not be well off and needs extra money.

In the Japanese culture, all of the services you have requested are included in the final price, so leave it at that.


Public Sleeping

Japanese Culture Facts - public sleeping in japan

While in Japan, foreigners might find it odd to see people sleeping in public places like on trains, park benches, and similar locations.

Pay no attention to this, however, as it is quite common. It is called inemuri, which translates to “sleep while being present.”

This is not only a common cultural Japanese practice, it is respected as a sign of a person who is working incredibly long hours to contribute to a company’s success and therefore just can’t keep their eyes open.

Finding workers asleep at their desk is an everyday occurrence in Japan and is honored by managers and other higher-ups in a company.

This doesn’t mean that employees can just curl up under their desks and take a nap; staff should appear as if they have dozed off while working. As inemuri is an unintentional nap, unlike hirune – a planned siesta – a person’s posture must reflect that they were trying to work and just couldn’t stay awake a moment longer.

These are just a handful of Japanese traditions that foreigners would be wise to understand. Travelling to a new country for work or pleasure can be a disorienting experience, but by honouring these customs and rituals, you are far more likely to develop prosperous and long-lasting relationships with many Japanese people.

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picture representing diversity in vogue magazine

‘Racist’ Photoshoot puts the Spotlight on Vogue

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Diversity and inclusion are two topics that are frequently brought up in today’s societal conversations.

As the dialogue around these topics grows, some brands have come out in support of these cultural issues while others are taking a lot of heat for their failed marketing attempts at highlighting the beauty in diversity.


The News

In the March edition of US Vogue, the magazine elected to centre the issue on diversity. The publication – which featured Kendall Jenner, Gigi Hadid, and plus-sized model Ashley Graham on its cover – touted a six page spread of Karlie Kloss dressed as a Geisha.

The photos span a variety of scenes in which Kloss sports a kimono-esque dress and Geisha-themed hair, makeup and shoes. In one photo, Kloss is positioned next to a sumo wrestler while in others she can be seen descending the stairs of a tea house.

vogue diversity kloss as a gueisha

The featurette, entitled ‘Spirited Away’, was shot in Japan and was likely an homage to Richard Avedon’s 1966 Vogue shoot.

Shortly after the shoot, Mikael Jansson, the photographer, published one of the images on his Instagram page (which has now been removed) and the internet backlash began.

Users all over Twitter, Instagram, and other social networks began lambasting Kloss and Vogue for ‘cultural appropriation’ and ‘whitewashing’ while other people called the shoot outright ‘racist’.

Many users also pointed out the irony that Kloss received a full six pages, whereas the two models of colour were featured in only a single image each.

While Vogue has yet to make a statement about the controversy, Kloss has since taken to Twitter to issue an apology by stating:

“These images appropriate a culture that is not my own and I am truly sorry for participating in a shoot that was not culturally sensitive. My goal is, and always will be, to empower and inspire women. I will ensure my future shoots and projects reflect that mission.”

Tensions are still running high about the issue, making this a prime example of a brand not doing its due diligence by obtaining cultural insights.


Behind the News

This is not the first time that Vogue has caused contention and decent in its 120 year history.

In 2011, Vogue was on the receiving end of a lot of hate mail after the Italian Vogue website published a feature entitled ‘Slave Earrings’. One year prior to this incident, in 2010, Vogue Italia attempted to glamourise the BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico by featuring models adorned in feathers and netting while covered in oil. Or how about the time in 2009 when French Vogue featured Dutch supermodel Lara Stone in blackface?

diversity in advertising water and oil

One thing is for certain: Vogue is not afraid of controversy.

In spite of Vogue’s best efforts, the brand seems oblivious to the fact that this whole mess could have been avoided entirely by actually supporting diversity and hiring a Japanese model for the shoot.

Instead of choosing to embrace diversity, they chose instead a popular route in entertainment: hiring a white person to portray an individual from another culture.

matt damon the great wall vogue diversity

Either Vogue made a research error, or chose to stir up some controversy. While we don’t know if any of the hoopla has been intentional, they have certainly landed in the spotlight. If that translates to more magazines sold, then it’s doubtful there are any regrets.

Regardless, by failing to understand such culturally charged matters, it has created another calamity that reflects poorly on its brand and will serve as a vehicle for damaging its sales and reputation long term.

When travelling the world for business negotiations, creating social media posts that involve other countries, and drafting other culturally-driven materials for publication, it is absolutely vital to understand that country’s customs and culture before making a brand look insensitive.

Vogue has impressive longevity, so they are doing many things right. But considering its extensive track record of producing ‘tone-deaf’ publications, this long-standing magazine mainstay would likely engender a lot more loyalty and credibility if they genuinely honored diversity.

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tips for a successful cross cultural marketing campaign

5 Tips for Launching a Successful Cross-Cultural Marketing Campaign

  |   CultureShocks Blog

Marketing in general is an extremely challenging practice. Virtually every niche is saturated with competitors vying for consumer attention and dollars.

To successfully have your brand’s voice heard, one must develop the right marketing messages, craft compelling and useful content, build a highly-active and engaged social following, and deploy modern marketing tactics that are capable of driving results.

When a brand makes the move to expand its horizons and enter the global marketplace, those challenges become exponentially more complex and strenuous.

Localising content, products, and brand presence requires a keen attention to detail in regards to cultural nuances, habits, restrictions, and relationships.

The ultimate goal is for materials to be so effectively localised that consumers feel as if the company is actually based in their region. This, however, is far easier said than done.


For example, when the Nestlé-owned baby food manufacturer Gerber entered the African market, the company elected to use the same imagery as it does in the U.S.

Their label, which features a baby, did not go over so well in Africa as many of its residents cannot read. Because of this, their consumers are used to package images depicting what is contained inside the package. In this case, a baby wasn’t accurate, understood, or well received.


All companies – small and large – are susceptible to this kind of blunder; that’s why we’ve compiled these 5 brand necessities for going international.


1: Begin with a Brief

marketing brief

At the beginning of your campaign assembly, it is vital to construct a brief which details the goals of the foray, who the target audience is and their defining attributes, and the tone and characteristics of the marketing materials that will be deployed.

Additionally, the brief should include information on the territories your brand aims to target, the languages in which materials will be translated, and which marketing channels will be leveraged.

This document will serve as a means to record the campaign’s requirements as well as an information delivery system to integrate other parties and providers into the fold in expedient fashion.

All of the outlined materials in the brief should be backed by extensive research and data, otherwise, your campaign is in jeopardy.


2: Study Cultural Specifics

study cultural specifics

Understanding cultural differences is absolutely critical to a successful campaign as each region has its own specific challenges, colloquialisms, and lifestyle habits. Even the largest brands can fail overseas if they do not delve deeply into cultural norms.


Soda giant Pepsi is one such brand. The company actually lost its lead in the South East Asian market when it changed its vending machines from deep blue to light blue. Pepsi was unaware that light blue correlates with death and mourning in the area, and they caused serious damage to their brand image with this small but impactful shift.


For this reason, cultural awareness needs to permeate through every single aspect of a campaign; from labels to messages, even down to the brand name itself. Everything must be analysed to ensure success in a new region.


Gerber is again a prime example as its brand name translates to “vomit” in French. Considering its consistency, that likely wouldn’t go over well in France.


Colloquialisms and translations aside, brands also need to gain a deep understanding of a culture’s societal values to better understand appropriate behaviour and messages, an understanding of regional symbols, along with other entrenching aspects like weather patterns, geographic challenges, political tensions, international relations, and basically anything else that can be unearthed.

For this kind of intimate research, it is best to develop a contact within your niche that is extremely well-versed on the culture, if not a native.


3: Intent is Everything

intend is everything when it comes to transcreation

Over 72% of consumers are more likely to buy a product if advertising is in their native language. This makes proper translation critical.

Translation alone is not enough. Brands must transcreate their materials, meaning that content is translated while still retaining its intent, tone, style, and context.

This is much more challenging than it sounds as each region of the globe may have similar sayings that reflect completely different meanings. For example, The United States and Britain both speak English, however, terms like “trainer” and “braces” mean wildly different things.

Now imagine simply trying to translate an English saying into Portuguese or Arabic; things can easily come off wrong or nonsensical.

If you really want to capture that 72% of consumers, you need to sound like a local, not Google Translate.


4: Research Top Marketing Channels

research top marketing channels

It should go without saying that using the same channels of advertisement overseas may not fare as well as it does in your native marketplace.

Many regions around the globe have significant marketing disparities in the physical and digital landscape.

In today’s world, social media is one of the most meaningful marketing channels available and is a massive driver of sales, awareness, and other goals.

If your company seeks to expand its presence to China, you’ll be unpleasantly surprised to know that social networks like Facebook and Twitter are banned there; its citizens use sites like Weibo instead.

The same thing goes for search engines. Google is not dominant in all parts of the world. This means that businesses need to optimise for engines like Russia’s Yandex if they hope to be found.


5: Work with Trusted Experts

work with trusted experts

All of these obstacles can feel overwhelming if you have no connection to the region you hope to reach. This makes it a critical necessity to hire a transcreation and localisation team to help ensure that your messaging, logos, content, and all other materials are up to par for regional markets.

When shopping for such a service, be sure to take into consideration which languages the company is capable of converting, its current track record of successes/failures, its experience within your specific industry, and the types of services it is able to offer to your brand. Ideally, the selected team should be able to transcreate marketing copy, video content, and audio formats such as podcasts.


Crossing over into other regions of the globe and achieving financial success is no walk in the park. It takes a lot of research, planning, and partnerships to develop a campaign that will resonate with global audiences. But if you want to go big, global is the only option.



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Things to consider when adapting your message to the Russian market. - localisation and transcreation into russia

7 Things to Consider When Adapting Your Message to the Russian Market

  |   CultureShocks Blog

“I don’t know the rules of grammar. If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language.”

David Ogilvy


We all like this wise quote from David Ogilvy and it can’t be truer. This post is about the use of the Russian language to persuade Russian speakers to use your services or buy your products.


Why is it important to have your website and marketing materials translated into Russian?

Mainly because it is a native language of more than 170 million people. This number only refers to people using it as their first language. Imagine how it will grow if we include those who use Russian as their second language.

Do all those people live in the Russian Federation? No, of course not. As Wikipedia tells us, “Russian is an official language in Russia, Belarus, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan and many minor or unrecognised territories. It is an unofficial but widely spoken language in Ukraine and Latvia, and to a lesser extent, the other countries that were once constituent republics of the Soviet Union and former participants of the Eastern Bloc… In March 2013 it was announced that Russian is now the second-most used language on the internet after English. However, Russian is the sixth-most used language on the top 1,000 sites, behind English, Chinese, French, German and Japanese.

Want to get ahead of your competition and tap into the Russian-speaking market? It’s high time to do that before others in your niche seize the opportunity.

Seems that everybody these days has heard at least something about localisation. That’s what makes your message understandable for people who don’t speak your language. However, as one of my favourite marketing professionals says, it’s not enough to just do the right things. You need to do the right things, correctly. So how do you adapt your message to the Russian market and do it right? There are a few things to consider.


1. Not. Ever. Use. Machine. Translation. You can save on anything, but not on translation and localisation. The translated content will become your voice in the target market. Do you really want to sound like Google Translate to your customers?

2. Hire localisation professionals who will:

  • Translate the content of your website
  • Adapt the currency and date format
  • Make your website searchable for the Russian search engines. Yes, we have our own search engines, with Yandex being just as popular as Google if not more. And its algorithm works differently from Google, so just translating the keywords won’t do the trick.

3. Consider the difference in calendar, public holidays, time zones etc. Getting a newsletter at 2 a.m. with a time-sensitive limited offer is kind of weird. Also, for those of you who are preparing your next big Christmas sale, our Christmas is on January 7th, not December 25th. New Year is one of the biggest holidays here, which comes before Christmas and is celebrated very widely, whereas Christmas is mainly a quiet family holiday. Valentine’s Day is not widely celebrated here, so the best time to prepare a sale for men’s products would be before February 23rd (it’s the day when we honour boys and men, and especially those who are serving or have served in the army) and for women’s products – before March 8th (Women’s Day, when we honour women of all statuses and ages).

4. Want to use SMM marketing? Then be ready to do some research and find out how your Russian-speaking audience is using social media and which social networks people use. I bet you haven’t heard about networks like vk.com or ok.ru. We do use Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, but the most popular network is still vk.com (formerly known as Vkontakte). It’s often called the clone of Facebook, but the netiquette there has some peculiarities.

5. Make sure your marketing brochures, newsletters etc. use the same terminology, same names for products and services (whether they are kept in English, translated, or transliterated etc.). Which means either sharing your translation memory with a professional who will translate your marketing materials, or hiring the same people to do everything.

6. Be ready to answer any questions about your company, your website, your services or products. We ask questions not because we are stupid, but because we care about the quality of our work, and we want to be sure we understand everything correctly. If we understand you, your customers will too.

7. Test, test, and test. The Russian text is often longer than the English, and that’s completely normal. But it may break the structure of your website or the layout of your brochure. So the only way to make sure everything works right is to test everything again and again.


You may be reading the text and thinking, “Wow, it’s going to take SO MUCH WORK!” Yes, it is. But it’s going to be worth every penny you spend. Because you will show that you care about how we think and how we feel. It will simplify the website navigation and communication, thus bringing more sales.

Do you have experience in localising anything for the Russian market? Share what you’ve learned in comments! It’s always great to learn from one another.

About the author:  Olga Arakelyan, Russian native speaker, translator, editor, transcreator, and manager of LinguaContact translation training school (the leading online translation training school in Russia!). You can find her on Twitter, or check out her English blog.


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image of pablo escobar in Puerta del Sol Madrid, Controversial Adverts

Controversial Adverts: 4 Campaigns that Caused Major Contention

  |   CultureShocks Blog

The point of all marketing pursuits is to draw attention to a product, service, or other corporate offering via persuasive advertisements. Most campaigns seek to stir emotions from the general public. Joy, anger, sorrow, humour, and other mental states, are all tools that marketers wield.

Every so often, however, advertisers concoct seemingly witty and unique materials that end up inspiring outrage, from its target audience. These controversial adverts did more than push the envelope; they effectively tore it wide open.

Here are four marketing campaigns that resulted in major controversy.


Netflix: Narcos wishes a “white Christmas” to Madrid


The News:

Narcos, one of Netflix’s flagship original series, has caused quite the ‘uproar’ in Madrid, Spain.

Early December, the streaming service’s advertising team placed a massive poster in one of the city’s busiest locations, the Puerta del Sol public square. The advert features the actor who plays the show’s main antagonist, Pablo Escobar, alongside the tag line, “Oh, Blanca Navidad,” which translates to
“Oh, white Christmas.”

The slogan for the season is a clear play on word’s, considering the nature of Escobar’s cocaine dealings, but what has the public up in arms, is the fact that Netflix’s persuasive advertising, is essentially glorifying a man, who has had a very negative impact on the region.


Behind the News:

Many of the city’s residents have taken their resentments to social media, calling out the show’s leading character as a “killer, drug dealer, and terrorist.” Furthermore, much of the distain stems from not only the exaltation of such a savage individual, but the placement of the banner as well.

Instagram user @lamadredediego posted that, “. . . thousands of families come to the capital to enjoy the bridge, the Christmas lighting and what you will find is a photo.” That horrible photo elevates of one of history’s most notorious criminals.


*edito: gracias por los comentarios y sobre todo aquellos en los que puedo ejercer de censora (creo que en otra vida lo fui) ya que me producen algo más allá del éxtasis total y más cuando vienen de la “juventud” y perfiles de 0 publicaciones 4 seguidores. Besos para todos y muuuuuchas gracias por informarme que es un actor. Yo inmersa en mi ignorancia, creía que la foto del matón en el tejado era estaba tomando el sol 🙃 En serio? Quien ha sido el genio? Y quien ha dejado que pongan esto en un punto tan importante de la cuidad? Donde este fin de semana vienen miles de familias a la capital a disfrutar del puente, de la iluminación navideña y lo que se van a encontrar es una foto de un ASESINO, NARCOTRAFICANTE, TERRORISTA. Estas series solo hacen daño a la sociedad, ya que hacen ver a una persona que hizo cosas repugnantes como un genio, un ejemplo a seguir Esta sociedad está súper intoxicada y con cosas como esta no ayudan a mejorar en nada @madrid @comunidadmadrid @cristinacifuentes @esperanzaguirre @begonavillacis deberíais hacer algo ESTO ES VERGONZOSO!!!! #navidadenmadrid #cabreomaximo #indignacion #verguenza #repugnante #puertadelsol #madrid #notodovale

A photo posted by lamadredediego (@lamadredediego) on

But while some think that television’s glorification of history’s monsters serve only to ruin society, the controversial advert was not completely shunned by Madrid residents. Many local citizens have applauded the poster and have recommended the show to those who have yet to witness it.

Despite Madrid’s divided nature over the prominently placed announcement, the billboard remains intact for the holidays.


Hyundai & Ford – Fiascos in Advertising

There are plenty of ways to craft marketing messages that get consumers interested in buying a car; the following is not the angle that we recommend.


The Killer Car Ad


The News:

In 2013, car manufacturer Hyundai released a controversial ad in Britain highlighting how environmentally friendly the IX35 crossover was. This was illustrated by depicting a failed suicide attempt when a man in his garage tapes a tube to his muffler, which is then extended into the car’s window. Due to the fact that the IX35 produced only water emissions, not noxious gases, the video was intended to be humorous.

The television spot, which was created by the company’s in-house team, Innocean, and dubbed “pipe job,” received the kind of reaction you would expect from a televised suicide attempt.


Behind the News:

Hyundai ultimately had to apologize for the botched attempt at humour and stated that, We are very sorry if we have offended anyone. We have taken the video down and have no intention of using it in any of our advertising or marketing.”


Ford’s Marketing Flub

image of a controversial Ford ad in India


The News:

In similarly poor taste, prolific auto manufacturer Ford had its own marketing gaff that same year in India, while trying to promote the company’s new hatchback, the Figo.

The controversial advert used to raise awareness about the car depicted a cartoon illustration of several curvaceous women tied up and gagged in the back of the car. The reasoning behind the half-baked marketing scheme was to show off the spacious nature of the vehicle.


Behind the News:

Unfortunately for Ford, they had not done their research, as at that time India was experiencing a massive influx of tragic sex crimes, including the vicious gang rape of a 23 year-old student.

The public’s reaction to Ford’s message, and its variations, was harshly criticized and just.

Shortly after, Ford pulled the controversial ads and issued an apology stating, “We deeply regret this incident and agree with our agency partners that it should have never happened.”

This is a classic case of companies who paid the price for not properly researching regional tensions, before pulling the trigger on marketing materials.


Humans for Animals Hullabaloo

The advertisement gives the impression that animal rights activists would sooner kill a baby human than a seal pup - controversial adverts


The News:

Some marketing messages are rather candid about their intent to shock; and that has it’s time and place. Humans for Animals, a European PETA-like organization, completely missed the mark with their controversial advert, however, and it serves as a warning to others embarking into controversy.

In collaboration with ad agency TBWA Paris, Humans for Animals devised a campaign which sought to reverse the role of animals and people to get its point across.

In the now infamous Photoshopped image, a seal holds a club as it stands over a bloody and beaten baby. The imagery was accompanied by the grammatically incorrect tag line of, Don’t treat others the way you don’t want to be treated.”


Behind the News:

While the company’s efforts were noble, their less-than persuasive advertisement was nothing short of grotesque and inspired wide-spread indignation.

Today, Humans for Animals is defunct, in part, due to the ineffective nature of its advertising.

While things like shock, humor, and glorification all serve as essential tools in marketing, there is certainly a time and place for them. Moreover, using such powerful weapons requires that a brand conduct proper research into the region the materials target, so as not to infuriate the intended audience.


Marketing mishaps such as these, serve as a reminder to advertisers that there is a very fine line between shocking and offensive. Each of these controversial adverts crossed that line, and in one instance, it contributed to the death of the organization.

Marketers beware, antagonistic adverts can have the impact you are looking for, or they can blow up in your face; the key is not pushing the envelope beyond the point of general decency.

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