Large global businesses are beginning to think differently about their marketing strategies. Fundamental shifts are occurring in how products are marketed and even those in the B2B space are starting to think about consumer-style messaging, bringing a more human touch to their products and services.
This is always going to come with its challenges, but working with international teams and operating campaigns in many different countries means using translation services strategically. The more human you try to make your messaging, the greater the risk for misunderstanding between cultures and countries.
But with these great challenges come great opportunities. 3M is one business that has taken upon itself to roll out a massive new B2C marketing campaign across the world.
3M has, until recently, been a largely B2B business that manufactures and sells products that professionals working in industries such as engineering, electronics and health care use on a daily basis. But last year this $30 billion global player targeted individuals as consumers in their own right, with their ‘Wonder’ campaign. Let’s take a closer look:
Who is 3M?
3M is a Fortune 500 US-based business that produces everything from Post-It notes to respirators. It has divisions ranging from electronics and health care to energy and infrastructure, and operates in 200 countries, employing tens of thousands of people.
The business has always divided neatly into a consumer-facing division, producing products like sandpaper, Post-It notes and Scotch tape; and a business-facing division. It’s the latter that accounts for an enormous 85 per cent of its business, with its industrial products arm leading the way.
How is 3M changing its approach to marketing?
3M’s tagline is ‘Science applied to life’ and this simple message is behind its latest ‘Wonder’ marketing campaign. The campaign is intended to focus on how science touches everyone’s lives every day. From the nurses and doctors who use 3M products at work, to the mum using the bus to pick up her kids from school – everyone can ‘wonder’ about how science can help make their life simpler.
The entire campaign is based on results from a truly global piece of research 3M carried out in 2018: it’s State of Science Index. 3M’s researchers questioned some 14,000 people in 14 countries and found that people have little understanding of how science actually impacts their lives. The business realised that in order to change this, 3M’s marketing should start to engage with everyone as consumers.
Paul Acito is the CMO and vice-president of corporate marketing and sales at 3M. He spoke to Marketing Week about the campaign: “Even though only 15 per cent of our revenue comes from consumer products, everybody is a consumer. So really the campaign is a double play where we want to show that even in your day-to-day personal life, you’re encountering 3M everywhere.”
He added: “It follows on from us seeing the consumerisation of B2B and so that’s why we’re going to find our target customers in their personal life. We’re humanising the brand.”
3M has rolled out the Wonder campaign across 13 countries and in nine languages, translating its marketing videos and localising other supporting marketing content. Acito told Marketing Week that it was vital that the campaign was global as two-thirds of the firm’s revenues are generated outside the US.
The entire campaign is about communicating the contribution science makes to in our everyday lives. It’s about humanising science and making consumers and users of 3M products more aware of the way we are all impacted by science and the way life can be enhanced by the innovations made by businesses like 3M.
Acito explained: “The whole point of the campaign is that it’s the newest chapter intended to broaden how people know the company by highlighting all the different ways we are in their lives.”
Here’s where it gets tricky …
The basis of the Wonder campaign is a selection of short videos available in nine languages in 17 markets. These are then supported by international marketing teams that work semi-autonomously in their local markets. Acito explains that having a strong core brand, marketing strategy and ethos helps to enable businesses to work this way with success.
In the case of 3M, innovation is, perhaps, the key focus of its marketing message and the various national marketing teams know that this must feed into everything they do. However, the application differs in each market, with local experts taking care to communicate a core message using language and visuals that they know will best connect with that specific culture.
Here at Bubbles, our translation services have helped a number of large businesses including those with a tricky angle to communicate or an awkward, technical challenge to navigate. We have vast experience in manufacturing, engineering and electronics businesses. They need to be able to market their products and services in a way that will appeal on a human level, which is a challenge in itself. On top of that, using consumers’ own native language in context and localising marketing efforts is a fundamental part of the process. We’ve said it time and again – translation is much more than direct, word-for-word conversion.
Making it local
3M’s clear message about how science plays a part in everything they do helps to drive its entire international marketing effort. Its marketers in-country can be led by this clear message, which allows them to work without directly reporting to Acito himself on a regular basis.
Each market has its own social media accounts with posts made in the local language by the local team. This allows them to comment on, and link to, local stories, media and video content, supported by the local hashtags. On the 3M Brasil Twitter account, for example, an International Women’s Day post contained the #DiaDasMulheres hashtag.
These may seem like small things, but it’s these localised touches that really reach consumers and make them respond in an emotional way to a brand and, after all, that’s what marketing is all about.