Are you expanding into foreign markets? Localise wisely!

Autor Anna Podruczna Anna Podruczna

When you look to expand across borders, you can see the tens of millions of potential customers. However, do you think this comes with any risks? Neighbouring markets – especially within the CEE region – often look accessible and easy, but you need to think about entering them and the subsequent marketing communication the same…

Czechs and Slovaks, who have shared one state and one national identity for 95% of their history, are completely different. What works in Prague will not work in Bratislava and vice versa. Localization in Slovak countries is simply not enough. Poles are a chapter in themselves, even though they speak a language from the same family as Slovaks. They have the sea and AdBlock, the proportion of Catholics there is half that of Spain. With that comes the distrust of foreign entities that is even greater than in the Czech Republic. And let’s not forget about the Austrians. 

Localizing your brand and marketing campaigns can be tricky and can cost you an arm and a leg. This is completely unnecessary. The fact that it’s not just about translating texts is illustrated by the well-known “marketing” joke about the Coca-Cola mall that went to Saudi Arabia for a presentation. 

Beware of cultural differences!

Coca-Cola had prepared a mini-comic about how cola gives you the energy you need, even if you are lying exhausted in the Rub al-Khali desert. You take two sips and you can run all the way to Riyadh. “So why didn’t they buy it?” wondered the shopkeeper’s colleague on his return from the Middle East. “Because they read from right to left,” gushed the disappointed mall worker. 

But we don’t have to travel halfway around the world to misunderstand or not accept the messages communicated. Cultural differences, which can cause considerable damage to your brand, can be found in neighbouring countries. 

At eVisions, we specialise primarily in the Polish, Czech, and Slovak markets and the DACH region, where marketing communications must also be conducted with great care and emphasis on careful localisation. But of course, we also help in the opposite direction – with localisation when entering the Czech and Slovak markets.

In addition to all translations, localisation also includes the adaptation of graphics, colour scheme, local currency, exclamation/touch, date/time format and many other details that are necessary for a positive perception of the product in a given country, region or language family. All this is also important for successful online expansion, avoiding conflicts with local culture, mentality, and customs. As Edward T. Hall says, “Communication is culture, culture is communication”.  

There’s no Rohlík like a Cucumber

It all starts with customising your name. Czech online grocery store, Rohlík, was also not expanded to Austria as a “roll” but as a “cucumber” (gurkerl), and even to Germany as a “crisp” (knuspr). The owners tested the sonority and associations of many potential names for many months beforehand. 

When Baťa went to Poland again, it lost the hook over the “t”, but Škoda kept it on the “s”. Why? Because Polish knows the phoneme /š/ and pronouncing the brand in the same way as in the original doesn’t sound foreign to Polish recipients.

Details are so important and you must pay attention to your market…

For example, the perception of colours in different countries (I wonder what they say in Mondelēz that in Thailand and Brazil, purple is the funeral colour?) or knowing the references, symbols and works. 

Here I am a human…

For example, claims based on local “public knowledge” usually make no sense at all across borders. Like when the drugstore, DM, uses its strange claim “Here I am a human, here I shop” (de: Hier bin ich Mensch, hier kauf ich ein). In German-speaking countries, where Goethe’s Faust is what Hašek’s Svejk is in the Czech Republic, it might win sympathy from a more educated target audience. However,  in the Czech Republic, it’s more likely to just raise an eyebrow.  

There are a large number of theories that concern only the analysis of the translation of corporate claims and the application of translation strategies ranging from the so-called adoption through modulation and transposition to equivalence and adaptation. Even in countries as close as Poland and the Czech Republic, we can see several significant differences. For example, in the Czech Republic, the established product placement is known in Poland as product placement (lokowanie produktu)

For the sake of interest, we have selected below some well-known claims and their localisation for the Polish, Czech and possibly Slovak markets, where you can notice – rather than literal translations – the so-called skopos theory, by which translators wanted to achieve acceptance in a given culture rather than translating the original. 

BrandLanguage of OriginPolish localisationCzech localisationSlovak localisation
Vichy Health is beautiful [en.]Zdrowie jest piękne (the literal translation)Zdraví patří i pokožce (the literal translation) ————–
Garnier Take care [en.]Dbaj o siebie (the literal translation) Pečuj o sebe (the literal translation) Staraj sa o seba (the literal translation)
AXARedefining standards [en]Więcej niż standard (adaptation)(More than the standard)A žijte v pohodě (adaptation)(And live in comfort)Viac ako štandard (adaptation)(More than the standard)
Deutsche Bank Unser Claim war schon immer mehr als ein Werbespruch [de.](Our claim has always been more than just an advertising slogan)Silny Partner w biznesie w Polsce (adaptation)
(Strong Partner in Business in Poland )
 Váš sílný partner v České republice (adaptation)( Your strong partner in the Czech Republic)————–
L’OREALBecause You’re Worth It [en]Bo jesteś tego warta (the literal translation)(Protože) Vy za to stojíte (the literal translation, modulation)(Pretože) Vy za to stojíte (the literal translation, modulation)
HondaThe Power of Dream [en.]The Power of Dream (Same)The Power of Dream (Same)The Power of Dream (Same)
MaybellineMaybe she’s born with it. Maybe it’s Maybelline [en.]Może to jej urok może to Maybelline (adaptation)(Maybe it’s her charm maybe it’s Maybelline)Možná se tak narodila, možná je to Maybelline (the literal translation)Možno sa taká narodila, možno je to Maybelline (the literal translation)

But even if you already have everything perfectly translated, you can still very easily go wrong, for example, with payment and transport methods, which are surprisingly often a stumbling block when entering unfamiliar markets. Or emphasizing benefits that one nation hears about but another is completely free.

Of course, we can help you with all of this…