One product can often appeal to multiple different markets. But will the same packaging work? Not necessarily.
In social identity theory, Turner, (1975) suggests that the more people identify themselves with a group, the more likely that their individual self-identity becomes inseparable from their social identity.
Chinese consumers who identify with popular social groups may favour products that appeal to this wider group as theorised by (Lee, Poon et al, 2010). So far, so theoretical.
But brands looking to break into new markets could be well advised to target their packaging at the preferences of social in-groups.
A counter-argument for brand managers to consider is that, with the rise of globalisation, consumers in overseas markets are familiar with global brands such as Coca-Cola. Would it really benefit Coca-Cola to localise their packaging, when so many consumers already recognise the brand’s iconic red and white labelling?
There isn’t one clear-cut strategy to packaging strategy. Different practices are necessary for different products and services – in localisation, there’s no point in trying to fit a square peg into a round hole.
You must understand your target market’s awareness of your brand and be mindful of cultural differences.
In this article, we’ll look at examples of brands that have done packaging localisation right, and the reasons why their strategies have been successful, particularly in how they leveraged language translation services.
Three brands who have done localised packaging right
The best examples of packaging localisation strike a fine balancing act between making consumers feel comfortable with local cultural cues, while at the same time not losing the identifiers which originally made their brand successful in their home market.
Guinness Foreign Extra Stout traces its recipe back to an 1801 West Indian porter. These roots make it very apt that Guinness has had great success in localising the packaging for this signature drink around the world.
In Singapore, Guinness added local iconography to their packaging, including the Keong Saik Building and local food favourite Kueh Tutu, with packaging designed by local artist Ben Qwek.
This association is important because it adds authenticity to Guinness’ brand strategy in the eyes of local consumers.
In their packaging, global confectionery brand Cadbury used their knowledge of the importance of good fortune in Chinese culture. On all their packaging, Cadbury use their original English name, alongside a Chinese translation, which uses Mandarin characters which roughly translate to ‘auspiciousness’.
Cadbury used the characters 吉百利 to appeal to the local Chinese market’s positive associations with brands that remind them of good luck and fortune.
The much loved fried chicken franchise created custom messages on their buckets in Japan. In a strategy similar to Coca-Cola’s tactic to use popular first names on their bottles, KFC tagged their buckets with cultural sub-group identifiers, such as ‘movie lovers’, ‘brothers’ and ‘new generation’.
This is a good example of Turner’s identity theory coming to fruition for a major global consumer brand. As the bucket slogans refer and appeal to popular social groups, the brand has enjoyed great success, and consumers feel like they’re understood by the brand, which in turn, helps develop positive associations with KFC.
Are there different rules for different markets?
As you can see from Cadbury’s Chinese wordplay, there are different considerations for each new market and its unique culture if you want to boost your brand’s potential for success.
How religious and cultural differences impact packaging
A study into food packaging aimed at Muslim consumers looked into symbolic interactionism theory, to determine the influence that religious symbols on food packaging have on consumer perceptions of foreign products.
The study found that religious symbols do increase consumer purchase intentions, especially for those of high religiosity.
The lesson here is that packaging, when correctly targeted, can have a great influence on buying behaviour. However, Western brands looking to expand overseas must be careful to understand the drivers, wants and needs of each specific territory before following through on a half-baked marketing strategy.
Hedonic vs utilitarian products
Studies have shown that for hedonic products (i.e. snack foods, perfume, alcohol), the use of foreign language brand names can have an effect of stimulating a desire for a product.
The theory to explain this effect comes from the belief that foreign language implies exotic cues for consumers. Conversely, when hedonic products are marketed in a consumer’s local language, the excitement generated by the product is diminished.
This goes a long way to explain why luxury hedonic products such as cars or perfume are marketed with exotic and alluring foreign language names, often in French or Italian, to convey a sense of something precious and attractive.
Utilitarian products, on the other hand, fulfil basic functional needs (i.e. laundry detergent, home appliances), and therefore benefit from packaging that is simple and quickly rationalised and understood.
Translating utilitarian packaging appropriately boosts the understanding of local consumers of how to get the best use out of a product – this is absolutely essential for a successful market entry.
A study in the Journal of Product & Brand Management looks at the impact of localising foreign food brands for Muslim consumers in Pakistan. The study confirmed that the role of packaging is more powerful for hedonic products, while local participants preferred standard packaging for utilitarian products.
Brand likeability was also rated higher for products using their standard packaging.
Know your market
When considering whether to localise product packaging for an international expansion, there are a few questions brands should ask themselves. Firstly, it’s critical to examine your target market to work out what other brands in your industry are doing. Research can also help determine the marketing preferences of local consumers.
Ask which cultural and religious identities make up the majority of consumers in your target market, and analyse whether your products and services are more hedonic or utilitarian for this target market.
Finally, before making your move into a new market, contact the experts. Here at Bubbles Translation, we’ve helped large and exacting multinational clients and their brands with language translation services. With our thousands-strong network of local language translators, we can tap into your target market confidently and accurately.