International communication: copying and pasting is not enough, you will need to learn the jokes too

Ambitious businesses usually do not limit themselves to their familiar spaces and are always looking for development opportunities abroad.

Lately, the businesses in our country are doing quite well: they are taking bigger steps outside Lithuania. Even over the past year, the country’s export volume increased by 17.8 percent. However, with the expansion abroad and the desire to conquer export markets, there comes a number of challenges, including communication.

Two brothers, both are different

The development of most Lithuanian companies abroad usually starts with neighbouring countries. It may seem that geographically or culturally close countries rely on the same communication or marketing strategies.  A Lithuanian to a Latvian is a brother (the rule does not always work the other way around), therefore, the mentality and values seem to be the same. On the other hand, the differences appear quite quickly, but it is interesting that sometimes it may be easier to communicate with the Italians rather than with the nearby Estonians.
It is no surprise that many famous communication agencies in different countries accept exclusively only locals to their teams. In order to create a truly good and in some markets influential advertising or communication campaign, it is necessary not only to be able to think conceptually, see the big picture but also to perceive the subtleties: read cultural codes, understand specific symbols, jokes. And it is not so easy when you are not living in that country.

Local filters

Trying to find easy ways out – good, but in order for the communication abroad to be effective, simply copying and moving your strategy to another country will not be enough. You will have to put a little effort by adapting it to the local context.
This is greatly facilitated by the professional partners that understand the local market, who will help you to check whether your ideas are in line with the values of the target audience and are not creating false associations that you did not wish for. It is important that those team members could also boldly tell you that some of your ideas are simply “lame” in their countries.
By the way, sometimes even the greatest ideas can be ruined by poor translation. This is why not only translators but also editors should work on the adaptable promotional and communication texts in order to return the initial idea that you intended to impart to the translated text.

Flexible, but consistent

By adapting communication to other countries and regions, it is important not to lose the brand identity and integrity. It must maintain its structure, idea and core values. In other words, communication needs to be flexible, but not turning away from the essence of the brand.
It is the company’s marketing or communication manager who has to control this process, ensure that the integrity of the brand is maintained when implementing the communication activities in different countries. First and foremost, this requires clear communication and a smooth distribution of tasks between the business units and partners in different countries.

Funny to a Lithuanian, incomprehensible to an Estonian

Knowledge of a country’s culture can help prevent numerous misunderstandings: when a lame joke is told, a topic sensitive to another culture is mentioned, or other nuances are underestimated. While in Lithuania we are fighting with those who do not know how to recycle, environmental friendliness can be the most important criteria when choosing a product in Scandinavia, sometimes even overtaking the price.
Humour is yet another area where you need to be cautious and understand another culture. For example, our humour for Estonians is often incomprehensible, whereas we can have a good laugh together with the Swedes or Finns as for them the more pungent jokes are understandable.
Of course, there are those countries where humour is better avoided, especially in Asian countries. For instance, the Japanese do not have comedy traditions at all that we Europeans cherish from the times of antique comedy in ancient Greece.
As for the bravery of the communication ideas, the Germans are often more conservative. The opposite for Germans are Spanish and Portuguese who love originality and creativity in communication. It is probably no coincidence that it is the ideas of southerners that win laurels in the international advertising awards.

What do locals read?

Finally, before communicating abroad, it is important to analyse the country’s media market and trends. At the very least – evaluate the number of different media and their ability to reach the target audience.
Even the popularity of social networks can vary greatly in different countries. Media and communication channel analysis in every country enables not only more effective communication but also allows planning marketing and communication budgets more rationally. For some time now, in Lithuania it was talked about the Internet media overgrowth, whereas in France or Italy newspapers have a great deal of authority, that are being read with the morning coffee, then the current issues are discussed with a neighbour or a waiter at a local café.
When preparing communication in foreign markets, it is also useful to plan more time not only for market analysis but also for implementing actions. In a new communication environment, things may not go as smoothly as in the local market, therefore, you need to have some time for corrections.
Communication in foreign countries is a challenging but very interesting project that allows you to not only learn about the new cultures, but also to take a look at your own culture.  This is often lacked when only focusing on small everyday details.

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