With so much information available online, people easily assume that they have a good knowledge of a specific culture or country, forgetting that culture is a broad concept with many mysteries and unknowns. Moreover, in this digital world, there are invisible barriers between languages, cultures and countries. Therefore, it is crucial for leaders looking to trade internationally to consider the different cultural nuances, specifically when a Western company enters the Asian market.
I am Hang Chau Phuong Nguyen; I am Vietnamese and studying in France at INSEEC Business School, currently on an internship with Janice B Gordon. I have the opportunity to study and experience the differences in culture, language and business behaviours between the East and the West. For this article, I will focus on bridging cultural understanding between the Western and Asian countries, especially Vietnam and China. I understand that the West is large and varied. However, many business practices are uniform and comparatively different from Asian cultures; I wanted to hint at these differences to help you transition in these markets.
Understanding the cultural differences in communication, whether verbal or non-verbal, is always a challenge for Western companies entering an Asian market. Communication is essential in terms of engaging, fostering a long-term relationship. In countries such as Vietnam or China, non-verbal communication is more indirectly and subtly rather than directedness of the West.
The right message must engage the local customer because language reflects the country’s culture.
Therefore, companies should review their messages before launching any marketing campaign, as the meaning is often lost in translation. For example:
In Taiwan, the translation of the Pepsi slogan “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation” translated to “Pepsi will bring your ancestors back from the dead”. Unfortunately, the meaning of the translation delivers the wrong message to the Asian market because respecting ancestors is an essential cultural belief.
When Procter & Gamble started selling its Pampers diapers in Japan, the packaging featured an image of a stork delivering a baby to parents. The package image is meaningful in the West; however, there’s no tradition of the tale of a stork carrying a baby to awaiting parents in Japan. As a result, the packaging caused much confusion for Japanese consumers.
Whether B2B or B2C, ensure the message conveys precisely in a foreign language to the local culture. To ensure you provide excellent customer engagement, your campaign must avoid being lost in translation, and your reputation speaks for itself.
Consider the Platform to Deliver Your Message in Selected Countries like Vietnam and China
- Use Locally Familiar Platforms: In Vietnam, customers prefer using Facebook, Instagram and Zalo for their business, while China is Weibo and WeChat. Leaders working internationally should be aware of which platforms to launch their campaigns. You need to choose the right platform to get the right level of customer attention.
- Use Less Automation: Social media automatic messages are not effective; when you want to communicate with local customers, people are self-aware and want to be treated in a personalised manner, as if you know and care about them. As a result, business needs to be more targeted in each country, investing in creating relevant and informative messages, engaging more with customers through their comments and feedback, showing that you care for them and their culture.
- Use Virtual Conferences and Meetings as a way to deliver your message and engage local customers. However, Vietnamese and Chinese people don’t enjoy showing their face on the screen, particularly during the online presentation, so when they are silent, don’t assume that your presentation is not interesting and your message is not received. There are other ways to engage with them, use the chatbox, or send out a survey to help them interact with your message.
- Use YouTube Video: In 2021, YouTube’s user base in Vietnam amounts to approximately 66.63 million users and will reach 75.44 million users by 2025, according to Statista, compared to the total 2 billion YouTube users worldwide. Vietnamese people prefer YouTube more than any other platform for their entertainment and business. Organisations must invest in creating informative and relevant messages related to the local culture.
There is a wide variety of platforms available, and the way different cultures consume them will be the difference in your message being received and understood.
Cultural understanding plays a crucial role when doing business internationally. When a company wants to implement any campaign in a new country and market, you must adjust your message to fit into the local culture. Then choose the right platform and the right method to deliver the message to targeted audiences. This will avoid the message being lost in translation and help the local audience engage with your message and ultimately buy your product or service.
INSEEC Business School 2nd-year student,
Currently working as an executive assistant with Scale Your Sales, London UK.
Hang Chau Phuong NGUYEN | LinkedIn