January 16, 2013

Cross-culture creativity

Thanks to the internet we now live in a global culture. Anyone can see the same thing at the same time. Even with the “great firewall” the Chinese have ways to access to the same content as someone in New York, London or Sydney. Because of this more and more brands are seeking to communicate with one global voice because it’s impossible to put up walls between countries.

So how can we create campaigns that cross cultures and are meaningful wherever you are in the world? First we need to be sensitive about cultural differences

It’s not just about translating text from one language to the next. We need to consider cultural values, etiquette humor and slang. A global agency needs local people to help develop a truly universal campaign. Otherwise this might happen…

When Pepsi entered the Chinese market, the translation of their slogan “Pepsi Brings you Back to Life” was a little more literal than they intended. In Chinese, the slogan meant, “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back from the Grave.”

When Kentucky Fried Chicken first opened stores in China, it didn’t take long before they discovered their slogan, “finger lickin’ good” translated to “eat your fingers off.”

When Ford introduced the Pinto in Brazil, they were confused as to why sales were going nowhere. The company later learned “Pinto” is slang for “tiny male genitals” in Brazil. Ford ultimately changed the car’s name to Corcel, which means ‘horse’ in Portuguese.

Can a brand campaign be universally understood and loved? Look at this recent example from the world of music to see how something can cross cultural boundaries. Gangnam Style has become the most watched video on Youtube. How can a tubby man singing in Korean become a global hit? He stuck a universal chord by combining a simple tune with a dance move anyone can copy. Is it meaningless fun? Of course! But it went around the world like wildfire.

Coincidentally the recent launches of Microsoft Windows 8 and Surface were essentially marketing messages wrapped inside music videos. Easy to use across cultures but can the message be more meaningful?

Global campaigns need to touch the hearts and minds of everyone no matter what their culture of language is. We could learn a lot from Pepsi who recently launched a new global campaign. Their new theme of “Live for Now” is a rallying cry as well as a clear brand spirit that is embodied by a pop-culture-focused campaign. It’s centered around a social and content curation platform called Pepsi Pulse.

“Live for Now” came out of “the desire to build a global positioning for our flagship brand Pepsi,” says president, global enjoyment, brands, and chief creative officer of PepsiCo, Brad Jakeman. “It’s the culmination of 9 months of work around the world to understand the unique place that Pepsi already owns in people’s hearts and minds.” Jakeman says the research revolved around finding out how Pepsi “loyalists” defined themselves, and he says that what emerged as a theme was “the notion of making the most of every moment.”

The Nike campaign “Find your greatness” is a great example of a message that resonated with people anywhere in the world – especially during the London Olympics when ordinary people could only admire the superhuman athletes performing. Running across 25 countries the campaign sought to inspire everyone to find their own moment of greatness and push themselves a little further. The underlying message is simple – if you have a body you are an athlete.

Cross-culture creativity relies on universal human insights to develop a message that connects with people. It can be on a deep or superficial level. But it comes down to understanding the humanity that unites us beyond language, culture or traditions.

Finally, a brand can’t just say something, it has to live it too. So find your truth and then make it real. In every message, connection and action – be true to who you are.