I came across an article about Horlicks on the BBC News website the other day and it really got me thinking, and not just that I haven’t had a Horlicks in years and used to be quite partial to one. In the UK Horlicks has always been positioned as a nourishing, soothing drink to help people drift off and get some quality Zzzs. In India it seems to be quite the opposite. There it is instead sold as an energising, fortifying drink, given to children at breakfast time to set them up for the day. The product, wherever you are, is exactly the same – a hot, malted drink full of vitamins and minerals. But the same product can be marketed differently to different people.

In a similar (but completely opposite) marketing/translation/localising vein, the latest Lavazza coffee TV ad had me very confused. It’s odd. So, so odd. The words don’t fit the music, the actor’s faces don’t fit the words of the song, it rhymes then it doesn’t, and it even implies mild bribery of the police, which on its own could be amusing but in an already odd advert, just no. So I looked it up on YouTube, and on Lavazza’s channel, there’s a Singaporean version, a Czech version, a Greek version, an American version…all completely the same with just one place name changed in order to localise it, and it really, really does not work.

Presuming your audiences are the same the world over doesn’t cut it (Horlicks demonstrates perfectly how to do it the right way). Which brings me to my favourite example of how doing so can go very wrong. Back in the 60s, when Pepsi was trying to break into China, they used a direct translation of their American slogan for the Chinese market but didn’t take into consideration some things don’t translate. Apparently, ‘Come alive with Pepsi’ translates into something like, ‘Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the dead’! I should add ‘allegedly’ to all this, I cannot vouch for the validity of this story but nonetheless it’s a good one for proving a point. Tailoring your marketing and speaking in your audience’s language is not just relevant on an international scale. The same principle applies to marketing on a local and micro level. Cut the jargon and industry speak and instead highlight what is important to your customer in a way they understand to make sure your brand is the strong Horlicks of your industry, not a wishy-washy decaf with a diluted message.

Tailoring your marketing and speaking in your audience’s language is not just relevant on an international scale. The same principle applies to marketing on a local and micro level. Cut the jargon and industry speak and instead highlight what is important to your customer in a way they understand to make sure your brand is the strong Horlicks of your industry, not a wishy-washy decaf with a diluted message.