Cultural Expertise As A Success Factor In Asia

Cultural Expertise

As A Success Factor In Asia

Attractive business opportunities keep coming up all over Asia, in China, South Korea, Japan, the ASEAN states, India and other nations. Unfortunately, many enterprises that want to penetrate Asian markets are not aware of how much their success in Asia depends on cultural factors. This article will provide a sketch of some cultural aspects that foreign businesses need to keep in mind when they plan to expand their operations to Asia.

Cultural Expertise As A Success Factor In Asia

Consider Cultural Differences From The Very Beginning To Evaluate Chances Of Success

A lot of companies believe that something that works in their home countries, will also work on a global level. However, the reality is not that simple. Just like good translators cannot always translate word by word, particularly when translating between European and Asian languages (as discussed here), business plans cannot simply be transplanted 1:1 when companies expand operations to Asia. Even within Asia, individual approaches are required for different countries, as Asian nations, cultures and economies are very different from each other.

As soon as companies start initial research about Asian markets, cultural aspects need to be considered. This will help them find out if their products have any success chances at all or if they are bound to fail. Think about products such as self-tanning lotion, for example. Many people in Europe and the US apply it regularly for a darker complexion. In most Asian countries, in contrast, people use whitener for lighter skin, and any self-tanning product has absolutely no success chances in most Asian countries.

Self-tanning lotion in Asia marlet

International brands must consider such country-specific cultural preferences to decide which products to offer, or develop individual product lines for different countries. Western fashion brands, for example, might offer accessories with cartoon elements in countries of East and Southeast Asia, where they are popular among women in their 20s and 30s, even though that would not work well in the original markets of those companies.

Many westerners are surprised to learn that even things that are “mainstream” and very popular in their home countries, do not necessarily work in Asia – including something as enjoyable as movies or TV series. A lot of Thais and Vietnamese, for example, generally avoid talking or thinking about hospitals, which is why medical dramas will never be as successful in Thailand and Vietnam as they are in the US or Europe. Other genres, such as Korean dramas, are much more popular in many Asian countries, because audiences can understand the characters and relate well to what they do and why they do it (save face, fulfil parents’ expectations, subordinate own interests, appear modest, avoid conflicts, etc.).

As you see, certain products have only limited – or even no – chances of success in Asia. Foreign companies must evaluate success chances from the very beginning. Language service providers will prove extremely useful to them. For example, companies can have surveys translated into Asian languages and use them to evaluate the market potential of products. Linguists can also assess brand or product names to make sure that they carry positive connotations, and provide general cultural consultancy services to avoid pitfalls.

Foreign companies must evaluate success chances from the very beginning

Cultural Expertise In Marketing And Pr

You certainly know that international and intercultural marketing are extremely complex and that this article cannot discuss it comprehensively. However, let us look into some few examples to illustrate why cultural factors make tailor-made approaches essential and why most marketing activities should be either adapted or re-created for Asian markets.

For example, advertising campaigns in Europe often focus on individuality. In most Asian countries, in contrast, focussing on community and social integration will be much more effective. If you watch Asian food commercials, for instance, you will realise that they almost never show anyone eating alone.

Advertising campaigns in most Asian countries often focus on community and social integration

Also good timing heavily depends on cultural factors. For example, companies that plan marketing campaigns for China or Vietnammust consider that Chinese or Vietnamese consumers are unlikely to buy certain products in the first month of the Lunar New Year. Any campaigns for clothes, for example, will not attract interest in that month.

Some things that might seem insignificant or irrelevant do matter in Asia because they have certain symbolic meanings. Particularly numbers (4, 14 and 24, for example, have negative connotations in China), colours or gestures can easily be misunderstood and stir unwanted associations.

Another aspect that is often totally overlooked is the importance of insights into typical local habits/routines. For example, if you buy keywords for search engine users in Thailand, a quality language service provider can not only provide Thai translation, but also check out alternative popular Thai keywords. Search behaviour varies from country to country according to linguistic patterns and local habits, and experienced language service agencies can consult you on that to make your investments worthwhile.

Generally, do not jump to conclusions in international marketing. Cultural expertise is key to success in PR and advertising and will help you enhance your chances of success.

Search engine in Thailand

Translation Vs. Transcreation

When foreign companies expand operations to Asian markets, some documents (such as contracts, business licenses, import/export documentation, etc.) will have to be translated. However, other documents, such as marketing collateral, will often need to be transcreated rather than translated (learn more about the differences between translation and transcreation here). Why can transcreation be so powerful?

If, for example, you are planning to access the Chinese market, a Chinese translation of your company slogan might be 100% correct in terms of grammar, meaning, etc. – but it might still not sound catchy or impressive to Chinese people. That is exactly where transcreation will help you.

Or think about humour, for instance. We all know that humour is an integral element of so many commercial clips. However, the fact that a joke is funny in one culture does not mean that it works in other cultures, too. That is why also humorous content will usually need to be transcreated.

If you have questions about translation and transcreation or do not know which one is right for you, a quality language service provider will be happy to assist.

Sometimes transcreadtion is more powerful than translation

Cultural Aspects In Website Localisation

Everybody knows that a website is a key to success, but only few people are aware that a website that works perfectly well in one country, might not be successful in others.

Preferences in terms of design, images, colours, search behaviour, etc. are important aspects of successful website localisation.

Check out our articles on website localisation for Asian markets and cultural aspects in website localisation and you will see why translation is the key, but there is often more to do than translation so that websites will generate the results you want.

Cultural Aspects In Website Localisation

elionetwork has helped clients succeed in Asian markets for two decades and excels in intercultural communication. As a one-stop solution provider, we are proud to offer premium translation services, transcreation, DTP and much more. From our offices in Singapore, Bangkok and Phnom Penh we coordinate a huge network of experts on languages and cultures. Besides Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Thai translations, we also support less frequently requested languages with our Malay, Indonesian, Vietnamese, Lao, Burmese and Khmer translation services, etc. Contact us now to see how we can help you succeed in Asia and beyond!