It’s a monster task, with a suitably complex answer. Many global brands, which are headquartered outside of the region are looking at how they communicate with people here. The easiest thing would be to just dump your global site into Asia and translate it into local languages.

The result, alas, is like a badly lip-synched music video — a confusing headache that consumers will instantly mute.

It’s a Big World out There

Thankfully, companies are realising that this approach doesn’t really work.

And that, for example, having a Caucasian mother on a Chinese site talking about using turkey and cranberry sauce to boost your health is unlikely to get many clicks. Ideally, you need local faces talking about local foods to solve local problems.

As David Ogilvy, the man hailed as ‘The Father of Advertising’ once said: “If you’re trying to persuade people to do something, or buy something, it seems to me you should use their language, the language they use every day, the language in which they think.”

And yes, that’s not easy. Image-wise alone, the number of models you need would be quite complex — a photo shoot with north Asian talent won’t necessarily work in India or Australia, for example. And then there are the cultural differences plus the age-old question: what do consumers want? The answer to that question? It depends. An emerging middle class in Mumbai will have very different needs to an ageing population in Tokyo, for example.

I won’t hammer home why it is important to get this tricky process right; that much should be obvious. Let’s just say that the risk of catastrophic failure is always lurking. When a beauty brand launched a curling iron called the “Mist Stick” in Germany, for example, they had not realised that “mist” is German slang for manure.

And as the California Milk Processing Board itself has admitted, its famed “Got Milk?” slogan does not translate well into Spanish. As one executive noted, members of the Latino community “misunderstood ‘Got Milk?’ to mean ‘Are you lactating?’”

The Novus Approach: Three Key Points

1. Harvest existing content: In many cases, brands that have been active for a while will already boast some foundation content that can work across multiple markets. So it’s about cherry-picking the vanilla ice cream — the flexible content that everyone likes to consume — as a base. Then, you talk to the brand’s regional or local offices to target specific content aimed at each region — think of these as your sprinkles and special sauces. (Yes, the food metaphors are coming thick as gravy. Forgive me, I’m writing this near lunchtime.)

2. Think editorially: All this is much easier if you adopt a steel-strong publishing framework, working with people who understand the editorial process. You have to be able to work with multiple timelines, multi-platform editorial calendars and approval processes layered like a precarious wedding cake.

3. Start small: To manage that, you may decide to take a simpler approach. In many cases we’re advising clients that less is more. Get the content that you’re creating right. Make sure it’s optimised, make sure it’s aligned to your marketing and communications needs and make sure it’s relevant to the audience you’re speaking to.

With Asia being as expansive as it is, each of your markets will be hovering at a vastly different stage of the content marketing journey. Some consumers will be very sophisticated. Other markets will be at the ‘purely pushing product’ phase. That’s why we generally advise clients to create pilot campaigns with a laser focus, targeting just one or two markets at the outset. Get your success points and then roll out a larger campaign. You can then use your initial findings to set up a phase two that really works. 

Home-Grown: Why Localising Content is Key

BY Simon Cholmeley

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