Understanding the barriers in crafting a global content strategy

Updated: April 19, 2019 12:17:54 PM

Content strategy involves casting the net a bit wider in a bid to reel in more fish. But once the net is cast overseas, things can get hazy quickly. Adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work.

Understanding the barriers in crafting a global content strategy Understanding the barriers in crafting a global content strategy

By Karthik Nagendran

Content strategy involves casting the net a bit wider in a bid to reel in more fish. But once the net is cast overseas, things can get hazy quickly. Adopting a ‘one size fits all’ approach doesn’t work.

Some brands have been successful in using content to widen their global reach. For example, Toshiba proved that content can be leveraged successfully even as a B2B strategy. To promote awareness of its renewable energy solution, the company optimised its SEO for the keyword ‘smart community’ to boost rankings. This generated 16,000 global followers on LinkedIn.

Lost in translation
Localisation is a challenging tenet, since employing linguists rather than translators is tough, but worth the effort because of their culturally appropriate knowledge in written and visual components. A notorious brand blunder occurred with Pepsi’s ‘Come alive with the Pepsi generation’ tagline from the 1960s. When launched in China, the literal translation was: ‘Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead’. Obviously, it caused quite a stir.

Having a global playbook and team would ensure demographic relevance and execution, while the local teams take charge of the creation process. In terms of cross-cultural differences and linguistic breakthrough, brands must lead the due diligence to resonate in a positive manner across
cultures and borders.

Heineken aired an ad where a bartender slides a beer across a few African people and eventually to a woman, with a tagline ‘Sometimes, lighter is better’. Although the intended meaning of ‘light’ was less calorific value, it was accused of being racist. The campaign started in Europe with zero backlash, but sparked outrage in the US. “What sometimes is acceptable in Europe isn’t acceptable in the US, and I think, a lot of time, not really evaluating the impact that it is going to have in a region leads to failure,” says Ahmad Islam, CEO of Ten35, an agency that specialises in reaching multi-cultural, millennial and Gen Z consumers.

Such marketing howlers are common; so ethnicity and cultural accuracy must be addressed or they might offend one region while be thoroughly engaging in another.

Leveraging AI effectively is still sparse among smaller brands, and automation is expensive. AI assistants such as IBM’s Lucy automate labour-intensive tasks and convert data into a quickly searchable source of insights. For instance, Lucy can provide useful insights into queries such as demographic and contextual targetting, competitor analysis and insights, personality traits and behaviour .

Concrete action
‘Who are you trying to reach?’ seems like a no-brainer if you already know your market. But what happens when you explore uncharted territory? Start with granular research, and lots of it: What is their cultural background? How to engage in a meaningful, productive way? What problems do they need solved, their demographics, and what are they passionate about?

Start by revisiting the current platforms used to target customers. Then ask: What are their communities? Can we add value via billboards and videos?

Where do you reach people? What do they read? Can a blog offer a solution to a niche they are struggling with? When is the best time to reach them?

Having an editorial calendar is key to publishing timely, useful content. A few questions to ask at this stage would be: How often should we engage with customers? What type of content and channels are we exploring? When should it be published?

The phrase ‘Think global, act local’ sums up the challenge of devising a consistent global strategy to ensure uniformity of brand messaging that adapts to different cultures and regions locally.

The author is founder and CEO, Thought Starters

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