Marketing and the Language Barrier

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‘A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds, adored by little statesmen and philosophers and divines,” Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote in “Self- Reliance.”

Had “brand manager” existed as a job title in 1841, Emerson could have added that to the list of professions enamored of consistency, though not necessarily of the foolish kind. Few things fire up marketers as much as the desire to present a consistent image for the brands they oversee. Consumers, they assume, equate consistency with quality.

There used to be one exception. Many leading brands in the past were managed differently across national boundaries, because every country had its own marketing staff with separate ideas about how best to connect with local consumers.

But globalization and the rise of the Internet have dealt serious blows to the idea of local brand management. Companies that used to swear by it, like Unilever, have backed away. And companies are adopting global advertising themes, even if many of them are tailored for local markets – an approach called “global-local.” HSBC, the London-based bank, epitomizes this approach, billing itself as “the world’s local bank.”

But, according to SDL International, a company that provides translation services to corporate clients and others, there is still one big barrier to international consistency in marketing: language.

Read more: Language 

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