Wednesday, February 4, 2009

"We" or "You" in International Marketing

Gunnar Brune recently highlighted the increased use of "we" and the increased used of the familiar form of address in international advertizing (AdAge 1.28.09). But how do we make marketing more effective through use of language?

Those who are sharp (or not American) will notice the date in the first sentence. This immediately confuses or puts off most of the world, as America seems to be the only country which puts the date month/day/year. This highlights that there's a lot more to international marketing than a word or two. Not that Brune says there isn't. He does however seem to give one factor a little too much weight in my opinion. He rightly states that the growth of social media has greatly accelerated the move to the "one world family" feeling. He then cites recent ad campaigns which either include "we" or familiarize" ("Du" in German, "Tu" in French/Spanish, etc.) he appears to suggest as the "way to go". This is the conclusion I would clarify.

I believe it certainly helps with branding if one can gain the dominant image in a country or community. Imagine if it was as natural to the average Greek to identify "Greek" with your product in the same way he or she identifies "Greek" with the national Greek Orthodox Church. But how can we get there, or is it even desirable to get there?

There are many cultural issues that need to be confronted for the marketer. "We" and "Du" won't work by themselves. For example, what do you do in a language and society that is very highly structured with many different levels of address? This would be the case with Korean. In Korean younger siblings still address older siblings with great respect. How would this "instant familiarization" play out there? What image would your brand have? What effect would that have on sales?

Another area to consider is the growing "primary culture" or less technical world market. "Group think" already exists and does not need to be reinvented. However, there are generally gatekeepers who still demand certain protocols. This may seem foreign in the West but the same is true here too. Consider the fashion industry. The Fashion gatekeepers decide what's "in". They have to be addressed in the right way. Fashion conscious buyers still adhere primarily to these gatekeepers' opinions.

Lastly, if our brands follow everyone into the "melting pot" what will set it apart. It's a balance to be sure, but as well as recognizing the present, we need to plan for the future.

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