Cross-cultural Consultancies

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Cultural adaptation

Culture has a huge effect when considering localisation for marketing assets. A multitude of different aspects must be considered when localising to new markets. Research on local markets' cultural differences is crucial and sourcing local knowledge will simplify this process greatly. Aside from translation issues, key visuals should be adapted to suit local culture also to ensure that local audiences fully understand the brand's message and won’t be offended by any unintentional miscommunications. Horror stories from even some of the largest brands with failed localisation have a lasting impact in markets where sufficient research was not conducted and this can easily be avoided by following some simple advice.

One example of this is the use of flags in marketing. Flags in some cultures depict a proud and patriotic emotion. For example in the US and Italy where flags are widely used and worn on clothing with pride by consumers. However in the Middle East, there are stricter “rules” about how the flag should be used. When brands placed Middle Eastern flags on shoes and footballs it was considered deeply offensive in the local culture and a sign of disrespect to symbolically kick or step on their nation's flag. Some easy access to local cultural knowledge would have told them this and avoided potentially catastrophic marketing blunders.

Some companies have come under large global criticism when removing women from advertising in some Middle Eastern countries. The role of women is arguably the most controversial cultural difference and should be treated with extreme caution when executing localisation. Although the localised versions were intended for markets when it would be more culturally appropriate to not show women unveiled when these images were seen by other markets it caused uproar and ended with a public apology by the brand. When localising assets, the adjustment must not conflict with the brand's values as in today's globalised world digital assets cannot be contained locally. This is important to consider and weigh up before delivering locally.

Even your colour choices need to be adjusted culturally. Some cultures may connect certain colours such as red with a specific political alignment. You may unknowingly be polarising your audience. Even down to the finest details, you should be prepared to adapt assets to their local market.

Cross-cultural consultancies

Though language plays a pivotal role in cross-cultural consultancy, research shows that language differences represent just one aspect of cross-cultural communication. Corporate players in the international arena do not necessarily speak heir target markets’ languages, and while language acquisition is highly recommended, it is not always feasible. Linguistic interpreters and cross-cultural consultancy services can be called upon to bridge this gap. This summary of cross-cultural consultancy will exclude the linguistic domain and focus on less well-defined factors to showcase that it is more multifaceted than just individual corporation’s linguistic competencies.

Cross-cultural consultancy is primarily concerned with guiding businesses through the global marketplace and resolving matters that arise from cultural differences. It is interdisciplinary in nature, as it tackles values, beliefs and world views, how these are expressed and then reflected in various facets of business life for example finance, marketing and PR.

In most marketplaces, there are specialised consultants in each sector that offer in-depth advice for specific corporate problems. However, these tend to be locally oriented and too narrowly defined for general businesses seeking global solutions (for example, for general knowledge or common situations such as overseeing a multicultural work team). In cases when local specialists are not warranted, cross-cultural consultancy proves more valuable.

The purpose of cross-cultural consultancy is to help international business players who can’t independently manage multicultural asset production. This is typically due to lack of exposure, experience, cultural understanding, or linguistic knowledge. It can take newcomers two to five years of international experience before they can effectively and autonomously manage multicultural situations. During this time, cross-cultural consultancy can be used as an intermediary.

A corporate cross-cultural consultant's expertise is derived from a combination of factors. The first aspect is an academic background in intercultural or communication studies or a related field, with supplementary training and practical work experience. General business knowledge and professional work experience are also important, to instil an objective view of how the industry works.

In addition to a strong academic and professional history, consultants should be multilingual and have a personal cross-cultural experience. Only through a prolonged period of living and working within a different culture can one truly begin to understand its underpinnings and put them into practice.

Cross-cultural consultancy offers a multitude of services. Consultants may act as cultural interpreters, advising on best business communication practises and etiquette in order to avoid unnecessary communication breakdowns.

Finally, consultants may be appointed to anything else related to cross-cultural business on an ongoing basis as per the specific needs of the organisation.

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