At Advertising Age, Al Ries published a column titled, “Biggest Change in Marketing in Last 50 Years Might Get Lost in Translation,” where the marketing expert discussed a challenge that may ultimately further expose the industry’s cultural cluelessness. Ries wrote:
What’s the biggest change in marketing in the past 50 years?
You could make the case for the Internet. Or Big Data. Or mobile marketing. Or PR. Or celebrities. Or a number of other revolutionary developments.
But in our work as marketing consultants, we find the biggest change is the shift from national marketing to global marketing. Our clients are mostly focused on building global brands.
Ries tapped a topic previously covered at this blog, most recently when Johnson & Johnson Chief Marketing Officer Alison Lewis announced her desire to create “one global idea for each megabrand” at her company.
However, Ries’ take on the situation seems insufficient and incorrect, as he believes “English has become the second language of the world. Any brand designed for the global market needs to use a word English-speaking people can relate to.” To simply think a brand’s name is key to success ignores the cultural differences that each market presents. For example, the skin-lightening products hawked in India—despite the Advertising Standards Council of India’s new guidelines—would probably receive a very different response from audiences in the U.S. or Africa, regardless of product monikers.
But more importantly, are any advertising agencies—particularly any White agencies that ultimately control the “collaborative” efforts—really qualified and culturally competent to concoct concepts that might communicate globally? Hell, U.S. White shops can’t even handle cross-cultural campaigns on a single continent. The goal of global messaging should clearly show the industry’s ignorance that is fueled by exclusivity. The question is, will anyone notice—or care?
The impending Tower of Babel scenarios should not be led by English-speaking, culturally clueless adpeople. And that’s no bullshit.