Decoding Technology Marketing
Nick Louie loves exploring the art of storytelling to turn complex ideas and elusive values into a palpable, compelling message.
As marketers we’re tasked with understanding cultural nuances for effective engagement. But how often do we jump to cultural conclusions? In an attempt to be timely and relevant, do we sometimes set aside our better judgment or cut corners in market research?
One example fresh in my mind is marketing around Lunar New Year. Often referred to as Chinese New Year in North America, it’s a festival holiday celebrated by people across Asia and in Asian expatriate communities around the world. It’s bigger than any one county or population.
“Happy Chinese New Year” can be a welcome greeting if you’re Chinese, forging a sense of “they get me” and deeper brand loyalty. As someone with Chinese ancestry, I’ve felt this. But “Happy Chinese New Year” may feel irrelevant or ignorant if you’re Vietnamese, Korean, or of other Asian descent. When businesses extend this type of message publicly, it can be interpreted as thoughtful by some and thoughtless by others. We have the power to make people feel included and respected, so what’s stopping us? Nothing we can’t overcome with the right insight and context.
I’m guessing the NBA didn’t intend to disregard certain people with their Chinese New Year commercial. And I’m guessing McDonald’s didn’t intend to offend Muslims when they printed the Saudi Arabian flag (and, in turn, part of the Qur’an) on disposable take-out bags. It takes thoughtful research and contextual understanding to determine when audiences from different cultures expect the same, different, or nuanced inclusivity. Sometimes it also means inviting different cultures to the table, like Coca-Cola did for their “It’s Beautiful” campaign.
We have to admit we can’t win everyone over, it’s just not possible. But we can do our homework. It’s a great feeling when we’re able to communicate the right message and build a stronger relationship with our audience, so let’s resolve to do our homework and avoid cultural gaffes. Why risk taking on a reputation for thoughtlessness when, with some research and even a few different words, we can celebrate the common thread?