Will Your Startup’s Image Translate Across Borders?


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Will Your Startup’s Image Translate Across Borders?

By Liz Elting

Wall Street Journal - July 18, 2013

As an entrepreneur, you’ve spent countless hours considering and defining how your brand will present itself to the world. You may have even spent more time choosing your company’s brand and product names than you spent selecting your child’s name. It’s that important to the future success of your company. You have deliberated over everything from your brand’s logo, to signature colors, to website design. You’ve reviewed multiple slogans and taglines. But have you stopped to wonder if these colors, images, words and phrases will carry over into global markets down the road? Images and words only have the power to reach the select subset of people who understand them, and have the potential to alienate those who don’t. If your core characteristics are successfully communicated across multiple languages and cultures, the company’s image will be universally understood and accepted by its consumers in target markets. As many cautionary tales from brands that didn’t consider the “lost in translation” factor have taught us, your carefully chosen company slogan may have an entirely different meaning when translated into Chinese, for example – and that meaning may not be one you want your brand associated with.

When constructing your brand’s image, it’s important to focus on comprehensively translating its desired image and messaging, going beyond just the one-to-one, literal language switch, to ensure that your brand integrity will hold true. That means going beyond your company name, product names, taglines and slogans to also include all website copy and even the colors and images on your marketing materials. Potential consumers around the world are embracing international brands as they become active participants in the global economy. But they are also eager to celebrate their own cultures. Your international audience will respond positively when they see their traditional preferences, local customs and familiar design elements in your brand’s marketing materials. This approach is especially powerful in the “BRIC” countries – Brazil, Russia, India and China – where local pride is on the rise.

A company is only as successful as its consumer base is loyal. Customers remain loyal to the brands with which they feel they can engage. They return to spend money on the companies to which they relate and the companies that offer products or services that show true understanding of consumers’ needs. For this relationship to develop, companies need to ensure their images remain consistent across the board and around the world, wherever their customers may be. Image is so much more than a few words strung together or a few headlines in the newspaper. A company’s image communicates what the brand represents, and that characteristic should be accurately and effectively understood by all those who encounter it, anywhere that brand travels.

 
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