By Samir “Mr. Magazine™” Husni
So, you are thinking of taking your business globally? Well, proceed with caution. The world is flat may be an exgaturation, because flat it is NOT and differences are planty. As a magazine professonal and educator, I draw a lot of examples from the only world I know: the magazine world (no surprise here)! So, without an further due let’s go global…
An overseas friend of mine once told me that in a gathering for the editors of all international editions of Cosmopolitan the American editor-in-chief of the magazine at that time (and no, it was not Helen Gurley Brown), was reprimanding an editor of one of the international editions, simply because she did not have enough sex lines on the cover. Now, granted, Cosmo is a magazine known for its sexual uninhibitedness, especially on the cover. The international editor replied calmly, “With all due respect, you in America talk a lot about sex, we, on the other hand, just do it.” Had the American editor known her audience, and by that, I mean the specific country’s customers that bought the magazine, she would have known that sex is not that big a deal overseas.
Tip 1: Know your audience.
Do not try to sell sex in a country that has been doing it longer than you have. It just doesn’t work.
That was the first tip that I want to share with you when attempting to estabish your product, company or brand as a new entity in the global market. The tantalizing morsels I am dropping here are really just five common sense rules that must be adhered to if you want to maintain or garner success for your business.
There is nothing more rewarding for a business than to gain global recognition. For example, I was in Russia a few years ago and went into a book store. I was extremely anxious to pick up a “Russian” magazine. The clerk behind the counter was not exactly fluent in English, so when I asked her for a Russian magazine and she handed me Men’s Health, I thought that she had misunderstood. I repeated my request and she replaced Men’s Health with Cosmopolitan. It was then that I realized brand had crossed barriers, even in Russia. In the clerk’s mind, these two giants of the publishing world were Russian magazines.
Tip 2: Brand does matter.
You have to create your product, and then brand it as sure as any cowboy searing his steer. Until a Russian clerk who barely speaks English hands me your magazine when I ask her for a Russian one, you haven’t marked your entire herd. So, head ‘em up and move ‘em out. Time is wasting.
There was an Arabic edition of Reader’s Digest that was published back in the late seventies. At that time, Reader’s Digest was extremely popular here in the States. But when the magazine hit the Arabic markets, the articles had such an American slant that most of the Arab people couldn’t relate to content such as “How my cat survived the tornado.” For one, there are no tornadoes in the Arab world and secondly cats don’t live luxuriously there as they do in the States. It was as though the magazine was trying to re-culture the Arabic man or woman’s entire lifestyle. It wasn’t their best effort.
Tip 3: Yes, we’re becoming one world, but there are, and always will be, differences.
In order for your product to be appreciated, you must reciprocate. You must value your audience and study the culture of the world you’re trying to conquer. Flying by the seat of one’s pants will result only in a hole in the material that you may not be able to patch. The World Wide Web is a double-edged sword. Some see it as good, opening doors into domains that most of us have never known before. But there are those who believe it’s hurting their culture and way of life.
When you send your business on that global trek, you must remember that it’s not just about “putting something out there.” Your business has to be more than just another foyer that leads the way into a room your customers has visited a thousand times before. You can’t sell fish to a fisherman, but you can sell him worms.
Tip 4: No matter what you do, keep in mind that most products and brands are about experience-making.
In the magazine world I tell my clients, “You must become experience makers and not just content providers.” When you hand that fisherman a dead fish, he’s not all that excited, he has a dozen of his own in the cooler at his feet, but when you hand him squirming, shiny black worms; you have cracked the door for him to have an experience. One he can relish.
And finally, why did Men’s Health work in Russia, but not in Finland? Why do some magazines work in one demographic, but not the other? There has to be rhyme to the reason.
Tip 5: Study the different markets.
In the long run, it will save you many nights of sleeplessness. Prepare to be different. Prepare to be better. There is no such thing as unique anymore. There is only different and better.