Thursday, May 20, 2010


He is more popular than Jesus… well, at least on Twitter and he is just 16 years old. His mom posted a video of his on YouTube, which triggered a series of events and shot him to fame. Today every girl from the age group of 7-16 dreams of how it would be to be his girlfriend.

She did in 18 months what Madonna took nearly a decade to accomplish. She is 23. She features in the 2010 Time Magazine’s listing of the 100 most influential people in the world. Who are these people? How will they affect business?

Get to know them better
Welcome to the new world. Generations come and generations go and they leave their impact on the world. The generation of ‘Baby Boomers’ is retiring and a whole new, and totally different one is emerging, ready to take on the world. Look around you they are everywhere, in sports (Maria Sharapova, b.1987), in business (Mark Zuckerberg, Founder Facebook, b.1984, Ivanka Trump, Donald Trump’s daughter, b.1981), in music (Britney Spears, Miley Cyrus of the Hannah Montana fame, b: 1992, and of course Justin Bieber, remember he is more famous than Jesus, and Lady GaGa, who beat Madonna in her own game) in Hollywood (Daniel Radcliffe of Harry Potter fame, Megan Fox, b.1986 , Hilary Duff and the very pretty Scarlett Johansson, b.1984). They are even the new face of Royalty! Move over Lady Diana, it’s time for Princes, William and Harry. These are the people who are not just bringing the gold medals for sports, but also the Oscars, and the moolah for businesses.

In fact, they seem to be popping-up just about everywhere. Look at more characters being modeled behind them. In the fi lm ‘Up in the Air’, the young recruit changes the whole work place and shakes up George Clooney, as he gets a close view of the way this generation functions. He realises that they nowadays use SMS to even break up a relationship. Look at movies like the Devil Wears Prada, (500) Days of Summers etc. and you will get to understand them better. The latest ad of Intel in some way mirrors this new generation’s thought process. The tagline goes – “they come from around the world. Then they go out and change it”. Intel: Sponsors of Tomorrow. The copy of the advertisement goes on to explain how the company uses these young minds to solve tomorrow’s biggest challenges. Look, even scientists are getting younger. Mover over, old, wild Einstein, the image of a new scientist is a smart, cool, kid! These are the “Millennial”. Just a few years ago, you watched them zip by in cars driven by their parents with the ‘Baby on board’ stickers on them. You fought with them across the dining table to fi nish the vegetables on their plates. Today, you are meeting them in the boardrooms, and in the market place, and you cannot ignore them, for according to a survey done by Pews Research, this is America’s most educated generation, and the one with a large spending power. This is the first generation that grew up with computers, mobile phones, and got iPods & Nintendos as Christmas gifts. They are multi-taskers, they live on the Internet. They don’t go to the stores to buy things – they first check the website. This is also a generation that grew up in stable homes, is closer to their parents, who are more like friends (remember it was Justin Biebers’s mother who posted his first video on YouTube & is the one who travels with him and he is proud about it). This generation likes large families and is more tolerant. Most importantly, it’s very hard working, talented, confident, connected and open to change. It even voted for “change”. Don’t forget this is the generation that made the impossible happen and voted Barack Obama to power. And yes, he may not be Elton John, at least not yet, but 16 years old Justin Bieber got to perform at the White House.

With billions of dollars in collective purchasing power, this generation will affect business and market in a big way. But they are different and need to be handled differently. As the research done by The Economist magazine states, no generation in history has been so prepared at so young an age to use technology as an agent for change… business need to adapt to be able to connect with them, to personalise the customer experience, or else it would be WOMBAT (a waste of money, brains and time)

Get to market them better
It’s the Baby Boomer generation (1946- 64) that has been calling the shots from the 1960s till now. The Boomers lived by: Just Do it, the Gen Xers (1965-80) lived by: Why Do it, and the new Millennial (1980-date) live by: Just Did it. They need to be marketed differently and the one lady everyone is looking up to is Lady Gaga. In an era where no one buys CDs anymore, the woman sold 8 million copies of her album and 20 million of her singles, all thanks to her army of 2.8 million Twitter followers and more than 5.2 million Facebook fans. Mac Cosmetics went to her to help launch their new lipstick. The launch day alone generated 20 million unique views in traditional media. The launch outsold any launch in Viva Glam’s 16 year history. Mac Cosmetics and Estee Lauder must be mighty pleased. So much so, that now Polaroid is trying to revive its dead market with the help of the Lady and her accurate understanding of the Millennials!

It’s simple – if you know what drives their purchasing behaviour, you could plan a successful marketing campaign. A wine company realised quickly that this generation drank for fun not abuse; they liked wine more, for it could be shared with family and friends. A quick research and they knew what to put in their marketing campaign – colorful labels, smaller sized bottles, mid-priced, with the ads focusing on family & friends, and yes, people of diversity of race & age. If you could throw in something that was ‘environment friendly’, your campaign was bound to be a big hit.

This new generation is not just your new consumer, but also your new employee. It’s a breed that was brought up by doting parents, who taught their children to not just be successful, but also be fulfilled – to be what they, want to be (now wonder 3 Idiots set the box-office on fire, for it struck the right chord with both parents & children!). This generation never learnt to lose, for modern schooling says ‘everyone is a winner’. Dealing with such employees could get unnerving. How do you handle them, reprimand them, and most importantly retain them for they are bundles of talent? Companies like Ernst & Young were actually hiring consultants to teach them how to deal with this generation which did not learn to take ‘No’ for an answer.

C. H. Robinson Worldwide, allows these new employees to choose their own titles. Another company gives more personalized rewards to them, for that works better. For a generation that’s extremely tech-savvy, doesn’t care much about ethics, but how much difference they are making in the world, for a generation that’s expert in multi-tasking, prefers to climb Mount Everest than do summer jobs, one needs to think differently and plan differently.

When you start work on your marketing campaign, ask yourself how millennial ready are you, for that’s the future. If aliens may not be as sweet as ‘E.T.’ or ‘Jaadoo’ according to Stephen Hawkins, for they may rip our earth for their own good, neither would these millennials be good for your company and the market, if you don’t handle them well. It’s the new force. You better be prepared or they are coming to get you.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


American Airlines spent tons of money reupholstering seats in their entire fleet and then of course spent more publicising this fact. They ran ads in all leading newspapers and magazines with the headline “Fly in leather”, for now they knew they had an edge over their competitors. Excited by their terrific ad campaign they decided to take it across borders and share it with their potential Spanish speaking customers. Of course, this time they translated it in Spanish, so that it would have a wider appeal. However what they got was rather unexpected. A lot of Spanish speaking people complained about these advertisements. Much to the horror of the airline, when they looked at the Spanish advertisement & translated them back again in English they realized, their snappy headline “Fly in leather” had changed to “Fly Naked”!

Don’t Translate
Just because you have a great ad-campaign, does not guarantee success in all markets. Since business today is done in multiple markets, each different from the other in terms of culture, language, religion et al, it makes sense to be ‘culturally sensitive’ while doing business.

As a starter – don’t translate – if you want to avoid global mishaps and embarrassments. The Dairy Milk Association learnt it the hard way. After its hugely successful campaign “Got Milk” popularized the benefits of milk in US, the company decided to continue its victory march to Mexico with the same campaign. However it had to beat a hasty retreat after it realised that the Spanish translation actually read – “Are you lactating”. Wrong translations landed Parker Pens in trouble when the ads which were supposed to say “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you” turned into “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant”. Coors beer wanted to show you how you could let your hair down and have fun with Coors, when it made its tagline “Turn it loose”. The Spaniards were not pleased when they saw a beer that helped you “Get loose bowels”. The Chinese too got really suspicious of this drink which promised to “Bring your ancestors back from the dead”. The various Chinese characters had distorted the phrase “Come alive with the Pepsi Generation!”. Unfortunately, no one in China (which is already heavily populated) wanted to bring their ancestors back!

Today, every brand is on the lookout for broader markets – mostly international. Many times, it is the language barrier that can harm a campaign & even the overall brand. To reach new markets, mere “translations” never work. From the obvious, hilarious faux pas, to the serious marketing blunders, everything can be avoided if we look beyond translation.

We need to look beyond the language and into the cultural differences in languages. We need to “transcreate”. Quickly defined, it would mean “not just translating content, but ensuring it is culturally relevant as well”. Such a measure will take care of the cultural differences & language nuances.

One size fits all?
‘Think global, act local’ is an oft quoted statement. Transcreation helps you to localize your content. After all, it’s true that each country is different and within each country, different ethnicities give different regions unique flavours. Transcreation helps you and your brand become a part of the local culture. Just see how “Spider-Man” was localised to suit the Indian comic buffs. Peter Parker became Pavitr Prabhakar, Mary Jane, became Meera Jain, Aunt May was Auntie Maya and uncle Ben, became uncle Bhim. Your brand, your advertising campaign, should metamorphise in much the same way, if they want to win market share. You need to learn from the videogame developers who were the first to realise the benefits of adapting to local cultures. They had to vary the amount of violence and explicit language to comply with the cultural and legal requirements of different regions of the world.

One product will not work everywhere as Pepsodent discovered with its teeth whitening toothpaste, which didn’t fare well in South Asia where many cultures value chewing betel nuts which darkens teeth. In Japan, during the 12th century, blackening was associated with coming of age. Later on, in the 18th century, it was associated with nobility & the Samurai.

Just creating good ads & good products will not guarantee success. Today, one needs to ‘Transcreate’. A transcreator has the ability to connect with the audience and its feelings. It must have been the work of a transcreator who changed the dull, dowdy American campaign of Coca- Cola from “The Real Thing” to “Thanda Matlab Coca-Cola!” to make the product rock in India.

Adapt to survive!
Last month a massive survey was done in US by the market research firm CSA (Common Sense Advisory), which confirmed that reaching new markets through transcreation was the most demanded service, with the highest growth potential.

Be it healthcare, or mobile phones, cars or cameras, the benefits of each need to be communicated effectively, so that it is both culturally & linguistically appropriate. However famous your brand name, however successful, if it’s not adapted to suit the local culture, it has very high chances of failing.

No wonder big brands are employing firms to specifically examine their product names in multiple tongues. After all it’s very expensive to create a brand identity and you don’t want to be stuck with a brand name that won’t work in other cultures or languages.

Volkswagen realised ‘Jetta’ in Italian was pronounced as ‘letta’ which meant ‘misfortune’. The ‘Matador’ didn’t do well in Puerto Rico for it translated to ‘killer’. ‘Trafi cante’ an Italian brand of mineral water could not sell in Spain for the word meant ‘drug dealer’ there. Toyota realised that its MR2, which in France is pronounced as “merde”, meant ‘crappy’. Rolls Royce decided to change the name of its car, the ‘Silver Mist’ to the ‘Silver Shadow’ before launching it in Germany for ‘mist’, means ‘manure’. The Scandinavian vacuum manufacturer tried to sell its goods in the American market with the slogan “Nothing sucks like an Electrolux” – just imagine how much good a little better knowledge of English could have done to it!!!

‘Transcreation’ is the new buzz word for doing business, for it’s not just about making your advertising messages, or brand communications better understood, but it is also about producing the same ‘reactions’ from the audiences anywhere in the world.

Culture Concerns
To prevent your bottomlines from getting a ‘culture shock’, it is absolutely important for you to become culturally sensitive. The world is changing. There are now ‘global’ markets, and ‘global brands’, and sometimes even ‘global marketing campaigns’, but however much we are influenced by other cultures, American or European or whatever, we still retain our local identities. So, there never will be ‘global consumers’. For we may go to Mc- Donald’s, but we eat the Aloo Tikki burger there. This is the only land where you will find tandoori pizza, and it is here that I ask for ‘Thanda’ and get Coca-Cola. It is here that Ford had to be the ‘josh’ machine to appeal to the crowds.

Every country has its unique identity। So nothing can work ‘across’ all borders. To succeed, one needs to adapt. No wonder, the first step that marketers are taking, is checking how their campaigns, brand names, marketing communications will work in other cultures. They are investing in ‘transcreating’ – for that’s what translates to bigger profits.