Adapt and improve, then adopt.

For years now I have seen firsthand and been impressed with the level of guidance and support that Business Finland offers to Finnish startups and SMEs. The group’s strong presence in Finland and abroad covers all aspects of international business development, from connecting entrepreneurs with expert consultants in foreign target markets to venture funding and legal guidance. Not to mention their focus on meaningful innovation. 

The last time Business Finland and the United States Embassy toured Kuopio I raised my hand and asked a question that had been on my mind: When companies seek growth opportunities in the States, why is so much attention, and funding, given to business strategy, networking, research and product development and so little given to honing or adapting their existing communications for their new ”local” markets? Clearly I was straying from the expected question-answer script. The Business Finland rep tried to get me back on track and offered, ”Branding and marketing are the company’s responsibility”. 

Of course Business Finland and other consultants and start-up accelerators can put you in touch with able communications professionals in foreign markets. But too often I’ve seen businesses, and even communications agencies, overlook this crucial step. Even after thorough market research many entrepreneurs and businesses don’t seem to bring the plane in close enough to see and hear how locals in foreign markets speak to and interact with each other. Thus their branding and messaging often falls short, tries too hard or just feels foreign – because it is. And just like people everywhere, locals detect it immediately. I think we found my pet peeve. 

How can a company spend so much on developing their business overseas but not put more effort into retooling their branding and communications to better connect with their new foreign target audience? Because from experience I can tell you that ”local” requires more than translation, it requires adaptation.

”Local” requires more than translation,
it requires adaptation. 

As I said, Business Finland and Expert Search do amazing work in foreign markets. And I guess I should note that helping Finnish businesses communicate better locally and abroad is a big part of what I do every day. Still, I’m sure we’ve all heard an experienced business professional say, ”And then we’ll get our messaging translated.” as if it’s a final small task to check off their to-do list. 

So I’ll offer the business community this. I’ll try to stop disrupting international business events with my off-topic questions, but only if you promise to tell all the entrepreneurs and marketing managers you know what the kind rep from Business Finland told me, ”Branding and marketing are the company’s responsibility”. If you’re going to go global, don’t forget to think, speak and behave like a local. 

– Ricardo Patiño is a Partner and Creative Director with Ahooy Creative, an independent creative agency who believe that creating a good brand is good for business.

Header photo credits: Photo by Drew Beamer on Unsplash

 

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