International marketing: the risks of not adapting your product

G8 Labs
G8 Labs
Aug 2, 2017 · 4 min read
Brian A Jackson/Shutterstock

When drawing your international marketing campaign, never dismiss product adaptation. Yes, in some contexts, and considering some well-established and well-known brands, adaptation may be held to a minimum. However, in most cases, and specially if your company is in its evolutionary stage, your motto should be ‘Adapt or die’. It may sound dramatic but it can actually mean the rise or fall of your brand.

Risk of not translating your brand name

When you don’t take into account the importance of brand and slogan translation in your international marketing campaign, your company can end up being the laughingstock due to offensive word use. Best case scenario, your brand doesn’t convey the meaning intended. As a result, your company could be throwing away the money invested in the marketing campaign. So take the time and invest in quality translation services.

What you need to look for in a translator:

  • Deep understanding of target language and culture
  • Knowledge of the tone, personality and meaning of your brand and marketing content

Tip for success: Don’t breathe down the translator’s neck, if he is a professional, he will try to convey the same meaning and feeling in the target language. Allow some space for creativity.

Risks of not changing the package/presentation design

If you don’t take a minute to consider the possible impact of your package design in the target country, your international marketing screws are definitely loose. You’re jeopardizing your revenue by mere inattentiveness.

#1- Risk of overlooking target market’s education

For example, if you’re selling your product in Africa, you should take into account that you must include images of the product in the package because, according to UNESCO, 38% of African adults are illiterate.

#2- Risk of not considering cultural design

Let’s start by saying that not every culture considers red to be the color of passion or white to convey purity. That being said, and knowing the effect the right use of color can have in your target audience, you should start off by establishing the color palette for the package.
For instance, did you know that yellow signifies mourning in Latin American cultures whereas in the US it symbolizes hospitality? A poorly chosen color palette can discourage sales.

Color and culture quick guide:


  • Latin America and Thailand: sorrow
  • North America, Eastern, Asian, Middle Eastern and European cultures: wealth and fame


  • North America and Europe: death, formality and mourning
  • Latin American, Eastern and Asian cultures: masculinity
  • Middle East: death, rebirth and evil


  • North America, Europe and Latin America: peace and purity
  • Middle East: mourning and purity
  • Eastern and Asian cultures: death and misfortune


  • North America and Europe: reliability, tranquility and masculinity
  • Eastern and Asian cultures: immortality
  • Latin America: religion, serenity and mourning
  • Middle East: spirituality

Risk of maintaining the product design

Due to manifold factors such as climate, measuring systems and electrical standards, you may need to modify your product for it to be of practical use in the target country. An international marketing campaign requires focusing on details that may be customized to serve the buyer. When this is overlooked, the product can be impractical and even its quality can be depreciated.

Things to take into account for product redesign:

  • Electrical standards: An electrical device can very well be rendered useless in a different country due to differing electrical voltages.
  • Dimensions: The US, for instance, uses feet to measure distances and this is a particular characteristic. The safest way to go is to use the metric system.
  • Climate: The weather of a target market can change the efficiency of the product. Take, for instance, air conditioners in Egypt. A Western company will have to include special air filters to prevent the air conditioner from having a reduced life span than in other target markets.
  • Average height of users: Different cultures, different heights; this can affect the convenience of a product. For instance, a Chinese bus company cannot sell the buses with the same dimensions to Germany. Chinese people have an average height between 1.58 m and 1.69 m, while Germans are between 1.65 m and 1.78. It would be impractical for German use.

Risk of not reviewing consumer safety standards

You know how the saying goes: when in Rome, do as the consumer product safety standards do… right? This may mean incorporating new security gadgets or changing your product formula when it comes to food or cosmetics.

Some country regulations may include particular consumer information, for example, in Chile, all products that are high in sugar or cholesterol must say so in the package following strict rules regarding the color and the size of the “High in sugar/cholesterol” banner.

You now know how adapting can be the defining factor between failure and success. Adapting is elementary, my dear Watson. Work hard and sell hard!

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