Whether operating on a local or global scale, a personal touch is vital for brand success. Tailoring the various aspects of your brand to the local user is invaluable, and the employment of ‘culturalization’ could mean the difference between success and failure.
Yet with all its advantages, the concept of culturalization remains elusive for many organizations. Chui Chui Tan, the Founder and Director of Beyo Global, joined the Globally Speaking Radio podcast to discuss the importance of culturalization and its impact on building a global customer base.
What is culturalization?
In its simplest form, culturalization is a method used to tailor content for people from different cultural backgrounds and geographies. It goes above and beyond standard localization by gaining and applying a comprehensive understanding of specific demographics so that businesses can design products, services and communications that better satisfy their target customers.
In the podcast, Chui Chui explains the importance of making a clear distinction between culturalization and localization, since there is a widespread misconception that the two are synonymous with one another. While localization adapts language and content to local audiences, culturalization goes a few extra miles to understand how best to communicate with them to deliver optimal and culturally appropriate customer experiences.
Culturalization in practice
At the end of the day, customer loyalty is founded upon trust. Organizations that fail in this area will struggle to engage and grow their customer base. Chui Chui discusses the value of understanding the needs, motivations, behaviours and frustrations of local users to create defined strategies and brand propositions that build stronger connections.
Culturalization propels global brands towards gaining this customer trust by finding content in context. This process can be achieved in three general stages as shown below. Each stage increases in complexity while simultaneously improving the customer response.
Boosting trust and authenticity
Today’s customers demand a certain level of awareness to develop any type of rapport with brands. With this awareness comes the perception of sensitivity, trust and authenticity, all of which are critical to boosting engagement.
It also means customers can be lost in an instant, whether it be from an honest oversight or intentional disinformation. Chui Chui describes how, in 2018, a number of large-scale organizations mistakenly listed Tibet and Taiwan as individual countries. ”This is the kind of geopolitical mistake that a company could very easily make,” she states. And although the mistake itself can be easily repaired, reinstating customer trust is a much harder fix.
Meeting cultural expectations
As the culturalization process is refined, relationships with customers will naturally grow stronger. Incorporating cultural expectations is the customary next step following the development of trust and authenticity. ”If you get this respect establishment level wrong, it could very easily damage your business, and it’s very hard to recover from,” Chui Chui asserts. An understanding of basic cultural subtleties is a must and can include seemingly small factors such as:
- Currency – Using the correct currency and symbol for each respective market;
- Icons – Understanding how the use of icons changes from region to region; and
- Metrics – Having a grasp on the local units of measurement (for example, metric or imperial).
Chui Chui explains that getting these little differences between cultures right delivers a more seamless experience for local customers. In an increasingly competitive business environment with less room for error, this goes a long way in furthering trust and positive brand perception.
Enhancing the customer experience
At this level, businesses can leverage the full power of culturalization to truly separate themselves from the competition. History, context and culture are brought together to develop a unique selling proposition for the target audience.
For instance, a company’s product may have five unique marketable features. However, some of those features might be quite useful to audiences in some countries, but not very useful to others. Chui Chui stresses the responsibility of brands to carry out the necessary research, establish the precise preferences of each individual market and adjust marketing communications (and sometimes, even the products) accordingly to better serve local customers.
The vast amount of data that is available to businesses today facilitates this process. From website traffic to online forums, a huge library of market research is just a click away, explains Chui Chui. As such, leading companies are now taking considerable steps to attain actionable information.
Chui Chui brings up IKEA as an example. She describes how the company sent employees to live in India before penetrating the market. This provided key insight from the inside and helped the retail giant develop a unique perspective on the needs of the local customer base.
For instance, ”they know that Indian women are a bit shorter than Europeans and Americans, so they showcased their cabinets and counter tops at a lower height,” states Chui Chui. ”You are not just making changes to the products that you’re selling, but also operations, marketing and business strategy.”
This data was then used to inform all decisions the company made to ensure a successful launch in the country.
The most successful brands remain curious
Organizations that succeed in culturalization remain curious and constantly strive to understand their target market. “I think it’s good to always be observing something and wonder, what do they think about that? Or why do they do that?” says Chui Chui. This need to understand not just what the customer wants, but also why they want it, is critical to reaching the target market more effectively than your competitors do. Culturalization means that brands are in a better position to boost trust and authenticity, meet cultural expectations and enhance the customer experience.