What’s in a name? Getting your brand on the road to success in a foreign market

traffic conesThe road to getting your brand established in a foreign market often requires you to steer your way past the pitfalls posed by linguistic and cultural differences. Failing to take these factors into account when marketing a product internationally can harm your brand’s credibility among consumers. So, when moving your brand across the language border, it’s definitely worth giving some thought to how your brand or product names might be received by consumers in your target market. After all, as many companies have found out the hard way, a name that has a delightfully evocative ring to it in one language may – when introduced to speakers of another language – mean something else entirely.

Take the example of American Motors, which – in light of the social unrest in early 1970s America – decided to abandon the name “Rebel” for its mid-size car in favour of the name “Matador”, which was meant to suggest virility and excitement. This appeared to make sense – at least as far as English-speaking consumers were concerned. But when the company introduced the car to the Puerto Rican market, it seems the name was less well received among the country’s Spanish-speaking consumers. Why? Turns out that, in Puerto Rico, the word “matador” can be taken to mean “killer” – a rather unfortunate connotation for Puerto Ricans concerned about safety on the roads.

Another example – also from the car industry – is that of the Rolls Royce Silver Shadow. This luxury car was originally supposed to be named “Silver Mist”, but when the company realised that the word “Mist” in German means “manure”, it was concerned that this name might not appeal to consumers in the lucrative German market. Ultimately, Rolls Royce chose the name “Silver Shadow”. A wise move, as it turns out: the Silver Shadow went on to be one of the most successful models ever produced by the company.

As these automotive anecdotes show, it pays to do some research into the language and culture of the country where you plan to do business. If your brand or product name would cause confusion, embarrassment or offence in the foreign market, you’ll need to consider adapting it.

Have you encountered any odd-sounding brand or product names that really ought to have been more suitably adapted for the target market? Let us know!


Serious about growing your company? It’s all about export.

Euro globeA recent survey by Lloyds Bank found that a majority of medium-sized companies are not exporting and not intending to. The results have met with consternation, as it is widely accepted that increased exports are the key to sustainable economic success for the country – and for your company too. In an effort to boost exports out of the UK, the Government is even running a week of regional events designed to inspire and support all kinds of businesses looking to start trading abroad.

Once you have decided to take the plunge, it would be easy to think that success in your home market can simply be replicated abroad; in fact, you should take a more bespoke approach. A new market is almost like a new business, and it requires its own business model, and dedicated investment too. What you will take from your UK success is plenty of learned experience, and a solid base to strike out from. And if you do it right, you may reach the point where your new market becomes your core market.

You are likely to feel some trepidation in approaching a market without contacts, and perhaps unsure of where to find them; this is an area where you can make the most of the UK Government’s enthusiasm for exports. Your first stop should be at UKTI (UK Trade & Investment), the government department charged with improving overseas trade, where you can find a wealth of information. Their online portal has loads of free advice, and the chance to talk to an export adviser for advice tailored to your sector and your target market.

Having got as much help as possible before looking overseas, the next smart move is to forge a relationship with UK trade commissioners in the countries you wish to target: they can share unparalleled expertise in the local market, and probably get you started with building a network of your own, as well as the key legal and trading requirements.

If you think it’s time to think about exporting – while so many of your competitors aren’t doing so – take a look at www.exportweek.ukti.gov.uk, and keep an eye out for Export Week events in your area, 10-14 November.

Tips on going international – choosing a target market

Many factors can influence which countries you start with for exporting –  geography, language, personal connections… If you’ve already got a target market in mind, the first thing you should ask yourself is: “Will people there want what I’m offering, and what will influence their decision-making process?”

Consumer tastes and attitudes often differ across borders – sometimes significantly. Although success in the domestic market can provide an excellent  framework to build on internationally, it’s important to take these differences into account.

Take the US cereal Lucky Charms. You’d think that a children’s cereal would sell equally well to kids and parents either side of the Atlantic. Apparently not! It seems the cereal contains too many genetically modified ingredients for the Brits’ liking, and parents were outraged to find supermarkets selling the product. More thorough market research is key here in order to understand how attitudes differ on an international scale.

You might want to think about the following issues relating to your product when considering exporting:

  • What are the prevalent attitudes to key features of your product?
  • Are similar products or services available in the target market?
  • Is there an appropriate level of demand?
  • How much do the products currently on the market cost?
  • Who are your potential customers – are they the same groups as those you target domestically?
  • Could you do some market research – what do local people think of your products and services?

All of this is also important in making decisions about pricing and marketing, and whether any changes need to be made to your products or services before taking this step.

Options include visiting the country in question for research purposes, and carrying out surveys to get your questions answered by potential consumers. This may seem like an expensive option, but it’s worth it if it means getting it right when expanding your business!

What are your tips for deciding on a target market? Do you agree with the steps we’d take? Let us know!

Export Talk – Kristina S Bobs

Kristina BobsOur new blog series, Export Talk, consists of brief interviews with successful exporters. We’ll be bringing you their thoughts on exporting and their tips for international trade.

First up is Kristina S Bobs of Svaja. Her glass and linen design business supplies luxury hotels, company headquarters and boutiques around the world.

What do you find the most difficult part of exporting?

The most difficult part of exporting is the ability to close deals – to receive a purchase order and down payment. My experience working in the Middle East is that there can be lots of promises, lots of sampling, even site visits – but in the end it only counts if you manage to close a deal. The process can last a number of years – be patient and keep a close eye!

What is your approach to cultural differences when you’re trading in different countries?

Personally, I’m very cosmopolitan and well travelled, so it’s easier for me to approach and work in culturally different areas. You can only go to different markets if you are prepared to accept cultural differences, to be flexible and to learn about markets of interest in advance.

What languages do you speak? Do you do business in all of them?

I am a native Lithuanian speaker, and I have full professional proficiency in English and Russian. I also have elementary French and Arabic and can understand and read Polish.

What would your advice be to someone just starting to export?

At first, ask expert advisers such as UKTI. Make sure your product is suitable for the market and try to do a few small transactions before a market visit. Be focussed, dedicated and patient. Visit the target market and learn a few words of the language spoken there – that will make an impression and show that you are serious about entering the market there! Personal relationships and preparation are the keys to success.

You can find out more about Svaja on Twitter, Facebook and through the Svaja website and online shop.

Would you like to be featured in Export Talk? Contact us

You’ve got spinach in your teeth

We all need someone we trust to help us avoid embarrassing ourselves. The colleague who reminds you of an important contact’s name when she sees a flicker of panic in your eyes. The friend who tells you that you’ve accidentally drawn on your own face. The person on the next desk who tactfully mentions that your shirt is inside out.Spinach

What is great about these people is that they notice, and they care enough to tell you. When you’re in business, you never know which conversation is going to lead to something big. Knowing someone is looking out to make sure you’re looking your best and not about to put your foot in anything is really reassuring.

That’s the kind of service a language specialist can provide. We can offer so much more than a version of your document in a given language – we can:

  • advise you on the impression your marketing materials will make in a particular country
  • create multi-lingual vocabulary lists so you can be sure that you and your partners are talking about the same thing
  • write blog or advertising copy for you in a variety of languages

and much more. We’ve saved clients from giving their products rude English names, amongst other major faux pas – let us save you from going out with spinach in your teeth.