What does the Owl symbolize in your culture? We hear some saying wisdom, knowledge, intelligence, education, but hear others saying death and pessimism! Have you launched a new product in Brazil and had your printings designed in purple? Did you know that purple is associated with mourning in Brazil and other cultures like Thai? What looks standard in one part of the world or in one culture may be totally offensive or inappropriate in other cultures.
The era of local centric products/services has passed. Now products/services are designed or developed in one side of the world then used on the other side. Closed economies relying on local production is no longer an option, a product/service can contain components developed in many countries before reaching the end-user.
In absence of a globalization strategy and internationalization concepts, we frequently see localization processes start after products/services have been developed; so design and development were executed without considering cultural aspects. The localization service providers struggle to adapt the content for local use, and although they do their best the results are always limited by the boundaries of the product/service design.
Products/services may be of excellent functionality fitting for the needed purpose but, on the other hand, they are culturally not acceptable for many reasons. Users are looking for products/services that are designed and developed with their needs and cultures in mind. Traditions, principals, languages, religions, ethics, geopolitical aspects, weather, environment, calendars, product names, colors, logos, slogans, characters, greetings, numbers, naming conventions, etc. All are factors being considered by users when evaluating products and services.
The costs associated with improper cultural assessment & adaptation can be huge. Costs could encompass changes, replacement, withdrawal, loss of reputation, and bad positioning. Although there are many examples of improper cultural consideration it is still continuously recurring.
The stories about the two famous Japanese car models illustrate the dangers of not paying attention to cultural differences. In this example, the names of the models were inappropriate in different countries and both manufacturers had to rename the models. Those stories are commonly known examples of the cost of inattention to cultural differences even with major aspects like model names. There are many other examples where the direct and indirect costs were much higher.
Products and services that are meant to be sold worldwide have to be open for local requirements in a way that facilitates the localization, marketing, and sales processes. Marketing and sales people have to be very much aware of the cultures were they are selling.
Cultural diversity readiness is a key component of globalization and internationalization strategies that has to be adapted starting from products/services design phase going through development, localization, marketing, sales, after sales support, and open for customer feedback. This concept should be considered part of products and services quality standards.