Advertising Beyond Borders

Assumption College Undergraduate


Advertising a product or a service across different countries can present many challenges including language translation and different cultural standards. Many can still recall a few notorious campaigns gone astray. KFC’s old slogan “finger-lickin’ good” translated became “eat your fingers off” in China, or, American Airlines’ “Fly in Leather” translated “Fly naked” for the market in Mexico.

A recent issue of Marketing Insights Magazine discussed the intricate art of translating English slogans across a number of Spanish-speaking countries and regions in the U.S. In a piece titled “Insightful Translation,” Terena Bell, CEO of In Every Language, explains that slogan translation requires collaboration of both translators and marketers.

For example, McDonalds’ product name, “Big Mac” or smoothie slogan, “Refreshingly real,” took a team of experts to come up with an appropriate translation that not only sounds as it should but is also sensitive to local Spanish culture.

“Marketing smoothies—a largely American treat— to a diverse Spanish-speaking audience meant that marketers had to introduce not only the slogan but the actual concept of the smoothie,” writes Bell.

A true cross-cultural campaign goes beyond fitting translation and appeals to culturally diverse audiences in a way that is resonant and memorable. It’s then no surprise that Japanese carmakers like Toyota and Honda produce distinct commercials for their domestic and U.S. market.

Eric Drouart, Assumption’s visiting Assistant Professor, has authored and presented his 2013 paper titled “Influence of Cultural Differences on Marketing Cars to U.S. and Japanese Consumers.” His research shows that cultural differences between the countries greatly impact the various aspect of an advertising campaign. For example, “while Japanese car commercials are focused more on creating a mood or atmosphere, American car commercials are focused more on the car itself.” Similarly, “collective ideals are more obvious in Japanese commercials, whereas American commercials tend to depict individual gratification.”

The motive to implement a cross-cultural campaign comes down to numbers. Julie Davis, Marketing Insights staff writer, wrote: “Research shows that localization makes a big impression on consumers…75 percent of consumers will choose to purchase a product with information provided in their own language.”

Assumption students pursuing degrees in business can choose from a number of courses to gain deeper understanding of cross-cultural communication and its business implication. Some of the exciting courses available to Assumption students include: MKT 306 International Marketing, INB 320 European Business Practices and INB 318 Asian Business Practices.

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