Brand marketing has a long-lasting impact on how well your company will perform. There are many factors which influence brand marketing success. In this article, we will look at 6 top tips that marketing companies recommend for taking your brand to the next level.
1. Get Smart about social
If you aren’t already building your presence on social media, now is the time to start. Identify the social media platforms that are best for your business. These are the most natural fit for your business sector and the demographic profile of your most likely customers. B2B brands are more likely to reach potential customers on Linkedin than on Snapchat. Consider whether the particular social media platform features are best for your business.
2. Prioritise interactions over numbers of social followers
Look beyond your number of followers. Brand awareness doesn’t guarantee successful brand marketing. Although adding new followers increases brand awareness, it doesn’t provide the complete picture.
If your sole focus is on increasing your follower numbers, you are ignoring shares, comments and opportunities to build interactions with potential customers. Better interaction on your social platforms means you are more likely to convert brand awareness into customer purchases.
3. Measure your website traffic
Assess the number of people who are aware of your brand and how they find you. Look at the numbers of people who reach you via organic search, social, referrals and direct traffic. Organic searches measure the number of people who reach your site via search engines. Social traffic comes from your social media followers. Those who reach you via links are referral traffic.
Digital visitors may approach your site directly by typing your web address into their browser. (Perhaps you gave them your business card.) Those who are already well aware of your brand are also important to understand. You can measure the direct traffic to your site with popular tools like Google Analytics, register with a traffic counter site and/or consult with a marketing agency to track this information and convert the data into actionable recommendations.
4. Learn from your offsite mentions
Analysing offsite mentions will tell you about your position and perceptions of you in the marketplace. You can conduct backlink searches, use social listening software and even Google your own brand name to discover what people are saying about you. Measure the number of references to your brand, your website and how high profile they are. Study the number as well as the content of both negative and positive reviews on external sites.
5. Shape the conversations beyond your own platforms
Whether they are first-timers or regular followers, people who engage with your brand can be leveraged to set the tone for the wider perception of your brand. Brand management should go beyond your own social channels, your website and any of the platforms you control directly.
Engage with those mentioning your brand on external review sites and your other offsite mentions. Take time to interact and respond to those who are talking about you, so that you are shaping the conversations about your brand. Address negative reviews and show your appreciation for testimonials and referrals. You don’t need to transform sly-sounding queries into a Twitter battle, but if you find yourself in one, keep it clean and on brand.
6. Define success, track progress, keep learning
In the course of formulating your brand marketing strategy, decide what success looks like for your business. Whether it’s increasing awareness of your brand, changing perceptions of your brand, converting brand awareness into purchases, or something else, have a goal in mind at the outset.
Track the progress of your brand marketing efforts over time. You can make small adjustments to your techniques and refine your strategy after each monthly analysis. Do give yourself time to see results, whether that’s over the course of a few months, half a year or more.
Remember, there is always room to improve strategy and refine your techniques. There will also be changes to how search engines and social media platforms will make your marketing goals easier or more challenging to achieve. Keep learning about the digital ecosystem and keep thinking about how to make your brand stand out for the right reasons.
Japan (Nihon) 日本 has a rich and fascinating cultural history. On the one hand, it is steeped in traditions which date back thousands of years; on the other, it is a society in continual flux, with shifting fads, fashions, innovative adverts and astounding technological developments. Here is a fun pictorial introduction to key time periods as well as a glimpse into some of the folklore, symbols and holidays in the Land of the Rising sun.
SPYSCAPE is an interactive museum designed by British architect David Adjaye which allows visitors to explore the fascinating world of espionage through multi-media storytelling, amazing artefacts and spy-skills challenges that reveal each person’s spy profile. Set in New York City, the museum attracts people from all over the world, so SPYSCAPE’s agency, Territory Studio commissioned our language and culture experts to provide transcreation and voiceover recordings in Spanish and Simplified Chinese.
The three-minute recordings are played in the world’s largest passenger lift which has been transformed into ‘The Briefing Lift’, an immersive audio-visual experience including 19.1 surround sound and optical illusions that create the impression of an ever-expanding space. This serves as an introduction to the museum and prepares the would-be spies for their exciting mission.
The mission for our team was to ensure that the briefing message would be as effective for visitors from Mexico City or Beijing as it is for those from Minneapolis or Brooklyn. To accomplish this, we provided culturally relevant translations of the script into Spanish and Simplified Chinese. We also took a carefully considered approach to casting and producing the voice-over recordings to enable them to embody the correct tone and persona of a spy agency director in each language.
If you are a travel brand, whether you manage a tour company, a hotel chain or a tourist attraction, then the Chinese market deserves your special attention. Although visitors from all nations are valuable customers, Chinese travellers are especially important because they make up the largest market segment in the world.
2018: The Year of EC-TY (EU-China tourism)
According to a report conducted by the World Tourism Organisation, Chinese travellers embarked on over 145 million international adventures last year (2017) and spent a whopping $261 billion dollars – phenomenal figures which constitute 21% of global tourism expenditure and make Chinese travellers the lead global outbound travel market. These already impressive figures are expected to increase again with a projected 6.3% annual growth, taking this figure to over 154 million travellers.
In January of this year, the EU and China joined forces to encourage Chinese tourists to visit Europe. Several leading bodies across the tourism industry have been collaborating with a view to increase the annual levels of Chinese visitors to Europe by 10%, a figure which would inject approximately €1 billion per year into the tourism industry. To capitalise on this boom, you need to make your business “China ready”.
Globetrotters with a Unique Style
Chinese travellers are particularly affluent, and their financial outlay covers mid- to high-priced accommodation, must-see attractions and uniquely generous spending on the high street and in shopping centres. When it comes to international travel, financial analysis indicates that they follow the “go big or go home” mantra. Research by The World Tourism Organisation shows that in each destination that they visit, the Chinese spend double the amount of money that the majority of international visitors do. As a result, the impact of even a single Chinese tour group can be huge.
While many Western tourists search for ways to minimise costs by selecting Airbnb rentals over luxury accommodation, Chinese visitors (especially middle aged travellers who did not receive enough or even any English education when young) tend to prefer the full-service benefits of well-apportioned hotels. Similarly, many Westerners set out to explore destinations unchaperoned whereas most Chinese travellers prefer the security and ease of a guided tour experience.
Getting a Slice of the Chinese Tourism Pie
With the summer travel season fast-approaching, it is high time to roll out the welcome mat to Chinese visitors with these key steps.
Translate Your Content into Chinese
Although many younger Chinese visitors eagerly study English and other European languages, many others will be more comfortable reading promotional material in their native Mandarin (if they are from mainland China and Taiwan) or Cantonese (for residents of Hong Kong and Macau). To facilitate more bookings, have your website, brochures and key signage translated into Chinese. Don’t rely on Google translate to do this for you. Consult with professional translators and transcreators to ensure nothing is lost in translation and no offense is inadvertently given.
Have a Chinese Online Presence
The majority of Chinese travellers plan their vacations months in advance, and although some use travel agents, many like to conduct their own online research into holiday service providers. On the mainland, a censored version of Google is the third-ranked search engine after Baidu and Soso.com. Homegrown Weibo and WeChat are key social media platforms for mainland Chinese users since the Communist Party imposed bans on YouTube, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook, Snapchat and Pinterest.
You may not feel the need to sign-up for language immersion courses, but a little effort goes a long way in demonstrating that you value your Chinese customers. A simple “ni hao” greeting will be sure to impress. If your Chinese guests have a memorable, positive experience with you then they are more likely to consider a return visit or recommend you to their friends and family back in China.
Work with a Chinese Influencer
Influencer marketing was a huge trend in 2017, and it’s set to continue in 2018. Many young people trust the words and recommendations of their peers and influencers more than traditional marketing. Getting the endorsement of a wanghong (internet celebrity) is an invaluable way to convert their social media fans into your customers. There has been a proliferation of agencies which help brands establish those connections.
We wish you much success in attracting and nurturing your Chinese visitors, or should we say, 生意兴隆 (shēng yì xīng lóng) “May you be endowed with a thriving business and prosperous trade”.
With the recent women’s equality fuelled movements like #MeToo and #TimesUp, this year’s International Women’s Day 2018 is set to be one of the most powerful and inspiring yet.
The annual celebration is a time to reflect on the progress of women’s rights to date, to call for further change to gender equality, and to recognise the social, economic, cultural and political achievements of women.
The New Year is upon us and lots of us are taking a look back at what we’ve accomplished in the past year. It’s the perfect time, too, for companies to think carefully about how their work has shaped outcomes for 2017.
For agency creatives, much of what we’re able to achieve is shaped by our creativity. If you think hard about it, you can probably trace the genesis of your year’s biggest achievements back to a few single epiphanies. It’s easy to feel like you’re at the mercy of blind inspiration. Sometimes we struggle for days on a campaign only for that killer idea to hit us when we least expect it.
However, the truly creative amongst you know that, like anything, there is a process to creativity that can be learned and replicated. Once you understand how to be creative, the random nature of inspiration dissolves and those perfect moments are there just when you need them.
Let’s explore the 9 ways to stay creative and unlock your imagination for good.
Part one: Input
Did you ever stop to think about where great ideas come from? They don’t materialise out of thin air. In fact, it’s a common error to believe that creativity is all about inventing something completely new and original. It’s practically impossible to create an idea out of nothing – that’s simply not how our brains work. If you need proof, try and imagine a colour that you’ve never seen before. The best you’re going to end up with is a blend of two colours you already know.
Creative thinking is usually nothing more than the blending of existing ideas. That’s why motifs and themes in art transcend the ages within the vehicle of their specific genres, like blues music or abstract painting. In order to foster great creative output, you first need to fill your brain with creative input.
1. Study the masters
And what better place to start than with the giants of your field? No matter how obscure your job is there are always imaginative, accomplished masters who changed the game for the better. Spend some time on Google researching some of the greatest names in your field. Once you’ve made a list of five or ten great thinkers that you’d like to get to know better, do your best to seek out their work. It’s always best to experience it first hand, but if that isn’t possible look out for biographies, criticism, and stories that give apt descriptions and insight into their creative processes. They’re just the thing for a creative booster.
2. Keep a swipe file
The swipe file is one of the most powerful tools in any creative’s kit – a place to store tried and tested ideas that you’ve ‘swiped’ from other places. Although the term originated with copywriters and advertisers, swipe files can be made up of just about any creative material, from cartoons to architecture to product designs. All you need to do is make a space, whether that’s on your computer or in real life, and fill it with ‘cuttings’ of great work done by others. When it comes time to create something for yourself, you’ll have a whole host of ideas, frameworks, and motifs from which to build something original.
3. Indulge your artistic temperament
Inspiration really can come from anywhere. Ideas transcend the boundaries of the art in which they live, and grow wildly in the fertile ground of new landscapes. For that reason, it’s a good idea to expose yourself to as much creative work as possible. From literature to painting, music, design, and theatre; indulge your love of art to the maximum in your spare time.
4. Copy everything
The art of replication is crucial to developing a high skill level in any art form. From UX design to playing the violin, the best way to get good is to copy what others have done. Famous writers from Benjamin Franklin to Stephen Fry advocate reproducing others’ work in order to get a feel for what good art looks like. By copying, we get a feel for not only for the technical execution of work, but also rare insight into the creative imagination that made it.
If you’ve done a lot of this work in the past and want more ways to increase creativity even further, try copying work across art forms. For example, an architect could try to imagine what Van Gogh’s Water Lilies might look like as a block of flats, or a music producer might wonder what The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy would sound like as a techno beat. This sort of thinking can lead you down fascinating creative pathways to great new ideas.
Part two: Output
Now that we’ve filled our brains with as much creative imagination as we can muster, it’s time to put pen to paper. As we mentioned above, creativity is a process and can be broken down into specific steps to be replicated. By following the system below you can ensure an improved creative output time and again. Remember, though, that each step in the process is separate and needs to be carried out independently from the others. I recommend taking a sizeable break between each step, or even carrying out each one in a new location.
5. Do some blue-sky thinking
The first part of the creative process is often called a brainstorm, but in fact, the term ‘brain dump’ is probably more accurate. The goal here is to get every tiny idea out of your head and onto the page. And that means every idea. Even if it’s impossible, nonsensical, stolen from somewhere else, or just plain irrelevant – none of that matters. Just get it on the page. The general idea here is to spread out all the elements of your creative mind like pieces in a jigsaw puzzle. Once you’ve got them out of the box, you can start piecing them together bit by bit until a picture starts to form. Every idea, no matter how weird and wonderful, could lead you down an imaginative path towards something that works. Do your brain dump with a magic marker and the biggest sheet of paper you can find. Write the central theme of your project in the center, then just go nuts. Once everything is out of your head and on the page it’s much easier to work with.
6. Perform some crazy chemistry
Step away from your brainstorm for a short break and maybe a change of scene. We want to be approaching the next step with a fresh perspective. When you’re feeling refreshed, it’s time for the fun part.
Remember when we talked about inventing new colours by mixing two existing ones together? That’s precisely what you’re going to do with your brainstorm. Grab a different colour marker and start making connections between the individual entries in your list. What would happen if you mixed this idea with that one? What about swapping one part of this one with this part of that one? Write down what you think the results might look like, or how you think your ideas could gel together.
Just like during the brainstorm phase – and this is key to the process – we’re not worried about the quality of your ideas here. The goal is pure quantity, so really go wild.
7. Put on your practical hat
Now we’ve got half a million ideas down on the page, it’s time to start thinking about what could realistically work for us. After another short break, return to your page and start crossing out the things you don’t like. Maybe an idea is just completely impossible to execute. Maybe it’s been done before. Maybe it just plain sucks. Whatever the reason, wipe off anything you feel can’t make the final grade.
8. Flesh out the details
Hopefully by this stage you have anything between three and ten interesting ideas to work with. Get a new piece of paper and write each one down with some space around it. They’re now going to become individual little brainstorms as you think through the practical applications of your ideas. Try to imagine what your idea might look like in the real world, fully formed and in its proper context.
9. Choose one to run with
The only thing left to do is choose an idea to turn into reality. You can do this on your own, but it’s often helpful to talk to a team member, client, or boss to help you pick. They’re bound to offer an alternative perspective or mention something you haven’t thought of yet.
As long as you keep each stage distinct, and keep your brain rested in between stages, you’re guaranteed to come up with some exciting new ideas for your next project or campaign.
If you run a creative team, building spaces and systems for each of these phases of the creative process will foster an on-going atmosphere of creative empowerment in your company. With the ideal creative process in place, 2018 could be an extremely exciting year for both your business and for you.
Four years ago this November, I was on a date with a lovely Japanese businesswoman in downtown Shibuya, Tokyo. Desperate to impress, and wary about breaking some sort of cultural taboo, I started chatting about humour in different languages. I tried to explain how well-regarded English humour is around Europe. “Ok” she replied, “Tell me a joke”.
In a blind panic, I dived into an almost word-for-word rendition of Monty Python’s famous ‘Buying a bed’ sketch. It was an Oscar-worthy performance, certainly one of my best. When I’d finished, I waited patiently for the obligatory fit of giggles. Instead, I got a long awkward silence, broken only by my own yammering.
“You know, I guess it’s much funnier when you watch them do it.”
We looked at each other for a long, silent moment. And then, sharing in the awkwardness, we burst into tears of laughter together.
That day I learned an important lesson about humour across cultures. So much of what we find funny is socially ingrained. Our sense of humour is deeply rooted in our nationhood, our shared view of the world, and the norms that are so familiar to us, but so foreign to others. But there are deeper levels of humour – comedic elements that cross boundaries and tap into something universally human. Knowing the difference can be the key to capturing the comedic imagination of your audience, no matter where they are from.
One point that is universal is that watching a person trying too hard to be funny is almost never funny, no matter where you’re from. At the very best, it’s funny only in a pitying, ironic way, and only then in certain cultures. Although our desire to entertain might drive us to think of something quirky and creative, a misstep can quickly lead to awkwardness and disaster. The easiest way to be boring is to try to be funny all the time.
Before you start, ask yourself the important question: “Do I really need humour to get my message across?”. Once the pressure to be funny is off, you may find that jokes grow organically from the conversation.
This is especially important when it comes to humour in advertising. There’s nothing more groan-inducing than a TV spot that desperately claws at a joke as a way to engage and entertain its audience. But when you have a funny message to relate and you tell it in an honest way, you’re likely to uncover an unexpected wit in your work. Check out the story of how Old Spice’s ‘The Man Your Man Could Smell Like‘ campaign was brought to life. This piece that virtually defined viral humour in marketing didn’t even start out as a joke.
The bar is lower than you think
We often make the mistake of thinking that humour is performative – that we need to think of something clever, outrageous, or provocative to make someone laugh. In actual fact, most people are predisposed to finding things funny. Given the chance, we all want to laugh. This means that the thought and effort required to make a situation funny is a lot less than you might think. Instead of forcing it, you simply need to understand why something might be funny and let the humour shine through.
What makes something funny?
Given the diverse range of cultural differences in humour, it’s difficult to imagine that there is a universal formula for what makes something funny. Over at the Humour Research Lab at the University of Boulder, Colorado, however, they’ve managed to take a convincing crack.
Peter McGraw’s fantastic TEDx talk illustrates that anything funny always has two components; it must be unthreatening and it must subvert your expectations. If you take away a joke’s benign nature or it’s element of surprise, you end up with something that’s unfunny at best and downright creepy at worst.
If you’re looking to work humour into any of your work, McGraw’s formula is a great place to start. Think carefully about how you can subvert the expectations of your audience in a light, unthreatening way. What surprises people, however, is very likely to vary from place to place, culture to culture. Let’s jump into exploring some different ways that jokesters subvert expectations throughout the world.
We asked a handful of talented people from different countries how they would describe humour at home. Their answers provide a fascinating insight into the differences among cultures. But more than this, they help to underline the universal aspects of what makes things funny.
Humour in Europe
With its complex political history and broad variation in cultures, it’s difficult to sum up the European sense of humour in anything smaller than a textbook. Nevertheless, there are a few strings of commonality that bring us all together.
In Britain, we love to laugh at ourselves, and much of our humour is delivered at the expense of the teller. We also tend towards deep levels of irony, and love jokes that push the boundaries of what is socially acceptable.
‘Did you hear about the guy who had his entire left side cut off? He’s all right now.’
In France, Spain, and Austria, regional satire is extremely popular and often fuelled by competitive relationships between districts and countries.
-¿Qué hace un catalán cuando tiene frío? (What does a Catalan do when it’s cold?)
-Se acerca a la estufa. (He gets close to the heater.)
-¿Y cuando tiene mucho frío. (And when it’s very cold?)
-La enciende. (Turn it on.)
In Germany, political satire and social taboos are often at the crux of comedy, as is clever wordplay and double entendre.
‘I just told a friend a joke about lemonade. Fanta/found it funny.’ In German, ‘Fanta’ and ‘Fand er’ (found it) sound similar when pronounced.
Polish people love bitter and sarcastic jokes, the subtleties of which are often lost on other nationalities.
Of all these different approaches to humour, the one thing that binds us all is satire. For us in Europe, comedy is an excuse to play with and ridicule the structures that hold us in place.
Humour in Russia
Though the Russian temperament can seem dower on the surface, in fact it hides a deep love of laughter. Much Russian humour is tightly bound to the subtleties of the language, and so can often be extremely difficult to translate. Nevertheless, with a little explanation it’s possible to see the clever and surprising Russian wit shine through.
Take this clever joke based on a well-known proverb:
‘Без труда не вытащишь и рыбку из пруда’ ‘Without an effort, you won’t even pull a fish out of a pond’; or in English ‘No pain, no gain’.
So the joke based on the proverb is: Без пруда не вытащишь и рыбки из него ‘Without a pond, you won’t pull a fish out of it’
Humour in Asia
Comedy is often deeply rooted in language. As such, the vast linguistic differences that pervade across the Asian continent make similarities in two countries’ approach to humour especially rare.
In Chinese humour, jokes are often deeply embedded into the multi-level meanings of the Chinese writing system, which uses characters that change their meaning depending on the grammatical context. The Chinese language, therefore, is the perfect place for clever puns and wordplay.
‘There are two reasons why you are single: first is nobody is good enough for you; second is you are not good enough for anybody.’
Japanese humour, too, frequently uses puns, though they’re often referred to as ‘old man’ jokes with a groan and a sigh. The Japanese also love to tell long, comical stories, called Rakugo that feature foolish characters and awkward social faux pas.
Indian humour is diverse and difficult to pin down but often revolves around the roasting of certain individuals or groups, especially those from rival regions or with different daily practices. You’re also likely to hear people in India making fun of their own cultural practices and traditions; this is much more likely to occur in groups of younger people, for whom certain activities seem outdated. There is also a big spin on typical family scenarios, and humour in the media maximises on this as it is universally applicable to those from all walks of life. For example, a TV son who gets married to an ‘overly modern’ woman can spark enough jokes to last many months, usually based around the mother-in-law/daughter-in-law rivalry, with the son caught in the middle.
In Korea, comedians love to play with the idea of personas and societal roles, often putting on an act to make funny, yet well-meaning, observations about others.
Humour in US & Canada
The USA and Canada are both hugely influential in the field of entertainment and have a diverse range of different comedic styles. In general, though, you can expect humour from the US to be fast-paced, with a lot derived from stereotypes and ethnic differences. American humour also loves to play on the absurdity of seemingly normal events, or to inject absurdity into the mundane. By contrast, Canadian humour often focuses on light satire, irony, and parody.
Humour in South America
With Spanish and Portuguese being the predominant languages in South America, much of their humour is shared with their European cousins. This doesn’t mean, however, that each country won’t have its own unique flavours of comedy. Brazilians might describe their humour as sarcastic, dry, or a touch on the dark side. In Mexico, mockery is used as a way to break tension and build affectionate relationships. Mexicans also pride themselves on their political-incorrectness and ability to make light of nearly everything. Argentinianhumour, by contrast, is littered with references to their history and national identity.
¿Por qué los mexicanos no pueden jugar billar?… porque se comen los tacos.
Why Mexicans can’t play pool?…because they eat all tacos.
Humour is an intensely human habit. It’s our way of showing affection, of breaking boundaries, and of sharing in common belief systems. And although somebody’s sense of humour may seem alien, impenetrable, or downright odd at first glance, it only takes a little patience and persistence to be able to see the commonalities in all of us. If you’re exploring the humour around the world, never take it at face value, and always seek to understand the elements that make a joke surprising yet benign. They may be more subtle than they first appear. Keep this in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to using humour for global brand success.
Languages put our worlds in focus, give structure to our thoughts and help us to communicate with the people around us. They are fluid concepts, built from our heritage, our people and our interactions with the world, growing and changing to keep up with the modern day whilst reminding us of our past. These quotes are just some of the many amazing ways we can appreciate the depth, variety and power of understanding language and the people behind it.
“Our language is the reflection of ourselves.
A language is an exact reflection of the character and growth of its speakers” by Cesar Chavez.
“To have another language is to possess a second soul” by Charlemagne.
“You can never understand one language until you understand at least two” by Geoffrey Willans.
“Everybody smiles in the same language” by George Carlin.
“Silence is the language of god, all else is poor translation” by Jalaluddin Rumi.
“The art of communication is the language of leadership” by James Humes.
“Those who know nothing of foreign languages know nothing of their own”
by Johann Wolfgang von Goethe.
“The difference between the almost right word and the right word
is the difference between the lightning bug and the lightning” by Mark Twain.
“If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head.
If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart” by Nelson Mandela.
“Language is a process of free creation; its laws and principles are fixed,
but the manner in which the principles of generation are used is free and infinitely varied.
Even the interpretation and use of words involves a process of free creation” by Noam Chomsky.
“If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something,
it seems to me you should use their language, the language in which they think” by David Ogilvy.
“Language is the blood of the soul into which thoughts run and out of which they grow”
by Oliver Wendell Holmes.
“Language is the road map of a culture.
It tells you where its people come from and where they are going” by Rita Mae Brown.
“Knowledge of languages is the doorway to wisdom” by Roger Bacon.
“French is the language that turns dirt into romance” by Stephen King.
“The limits of my language means the limits of my world” by Ludwig Wittgenstein.
We’re thrilled to announce that we’ve been signed as a trusted transcreation partner for global fashion brand COS. Best known for embodying simply elegant style infused with a relaxed, functional flair, we are helping this brand to speak in their own voice to customers and staff in multiple, diverse markets across the world. We will be responsible for a host of marketing collateral, including in-store comms, weekly newsletters, new season kick off films and additional market support in multiple European and Asian markets.
For a transcreation project to succeed, it is vital to think beyond simply words. The right choice of wording will accurately convey the message of your marketing campaign, but brand appeal is a jigsaw that comprises many parts. From culture to culture, the number of pieces in this jigsaw varies depending on where you are in the world, perceptions of a brand or a product can be affected not just by the words that are used, but by the choice of certain numbers, cultural affiliations, political factors, gender representations, images and even colours in advertising too.
In Japan, for example, camera maker Olympus followed its E-PL3 system with E-PL5 with the number 4 considered unlucky, while Renault’s R17 model became R177 in Italy, where the number 17 is feared. Meanwhile, Heineken’s special beer bottles created for the 2004 football World Cup, featuring the flags of the competition’s finalists, were withdrawn after complaints from Saudi Arabia. The country’s flag features the Quran, and the association of a non-drinking nation’s holy book with an alcohol brand caused more harm than good.
Similarly, colours can also make or break a brand’s mission to succeed overseas. While a brand or product’s existing colour palette may have positive connotations in some cultures, it may have the power to damage the brand in others.
When it comes to the use of colour in overseas marketing campaigns, a one-size-fits-all approach is unlikely to work. Careful consideration of colour in advertising – and colour combinations – can spell the difference between brand failure and brand magic.
Five colours to avoid in your global advertising campaign
The association of colours with different emotions, actions or cultural elements is nothing new. In the UK, the colour red is often used as a warning, such as on “Stop” signs or traffic lights, or to represent love, as used commercially by a multitude of brands on Valentine’s Day. Similarly, green may evoke a sense of environmental friendliness, pink may symbolise femininity, and black can translate as stylish and sleek, or as funereal, depending on the circumstances.
Certain countries – or even regions within specific countries – attribute different values to different colours, just as they do with numbers, as shown above. Here are five examples of countries where particular colours may spell out disaster for brands looking to internationalise.
Green for Chinese men: In China, the sight of a man in a green hat is rare, as the colour symbolises a man who has been cuckolded by his wife. Phonetically, “wearing a green hat” sounds similar to the word for “cuckold” – and stories tell of how families of prostitutes during the Yuan Dynasty were forced to wear green hats to show their status.
Red in South Africa: To South Africans, red is a colour that signifies violence, sacrifice and mourning. It appears as one of the six colours that make up the country’s national flag and, according to the designer, the red symbolises blood that was shed during the sacrifices and wars that frequent South African history.
Purple in Thailand: While in some countries the colour purple can represent attributes such as wealth, royalty and even Catholic penitence, in Thailand its significance is very different. The colour purple is worn when mourning – particularly by women whose spouses have passed away.
Yellow in France: For many cultures in the Western world, yellow is a colour that signifies warmth, cheeriness and positive feelings. For other countries, this is not so true. In France, its connotations are more sinister, evoking thoughts of weakness, contradiction, betrayal and jealousy. In the 10th century, French criminals’ and traitors’ doors were daubed in yellow paint, clearly marking their shortcomings for all to see.
Orange in Northern Ireland: While associations with the Dutch royalty and happiness and spirituality in Eastern countries are positive for the colour orange, it can be divisive. In Northern Ireland, it is the colour of Protestant organisation The Orange Order. Use of this colour by brands could alienate around half of the population, who are staunchly Catholic.
Care must be taken during the transcreation process: national colours and those representing certain behaviours, feelings and characteristics have the potential to draw consumers in, be perceived as inappropriate for the brand or the product or even cause a great deal of offence, depending on the way in which they are used in marketing campaigns.
Colour combinations to stay away from
For some brands, adhering to such colour psychology in advertising is simply a case of shifting to a new colour palette for markets where their existing palette will not work. Sedona, Arizona, for example, is home to the only branch of McDonalds whose golden arches are blue, thanks to strict regulations regarding the spoilage of the area’s beautiful scenery with garish colours.
While this is one option for brands looking to refocus their advertising colours for local markets, it could potentially lead to an unpleasant clash of hues. There are five such combinations that marketers should take care to avoid.
Blue, magenta or yellow on red: A red background can prove overpowering, making it tough to balance with other hues. These colour combinations can also cause dizziness if stared at for too long.
Red, blue or purple on black: The combination of red and black often creates a “Goth” or Halloween feel, while purple or blue on black can be unreadable.
Neon or rainbow hues: While such combinations will grab attention, they also have the ability to tire viewers’ eyes and irritate rather than excite.
Yellow or green on white: The combination of light text and a light background may prove hard to read, with grey or black proving better pairings for a white background.
Coloured text, and a textured background: Coloured text placed directly on a background that is textured will render it unreadable.
Successful colour-based transcreation campaigns
The successful use of colour for cross-border brand and product launches can be a minefield. When Pepsi Cola changed the colour of its Southeast Asian vending machines from a darker to a lighter blue, the new colour’s association with mourning destroyed its dominant market share.
However, successful international launches are certainly possible. Coca Cola, for example, feature heavy use of the colour red in their brand assets, but have transcended its negative connotations in certain parts of the globe to create continuity across cultures, and a brand identity that is recognised the world over.
In the hot drinks market, tea brand Lipton has successfully entered over 110 markets, with particular popularity in Europe, the Middle East, North America and parts of Asia. The brand’s distinctive yellow and red colour palette is used the world over, but its campaigns are designed to be globally appropriate and applicable to each of its individual markets. A browse through individual country websites for the brand reveals that while the classic yellow dominates throughout, other imagery is designed to reflect the culture and colour preferences of the nation in question.
In Egypt in 2017, the brand captured the imagination of its audience still further when it reinvented the packaging in a monochrome design for Ramadan, standing out in a brightly coloured category at a time of year known for its colourful lanterns and street decorations.
When it comes to how advertising affects us, there are many things to consider during a transcreation campaign. Language, imagery, symbolism and culture all have a part to play, but colour must also be considered. With different colours evoking different emotions and events across the globe, simply transferring your standard colour palette to another country may not be enough: it is important to work with local talents who understand that nation’s culture and beliefs to ensure success.