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Cultural barriers in localization

One of the biggest barriers when enterprises consider entering into the Japanese market is definitely a cultural barrier. Normally we understand cultures only where we have grown up or where we’re familiar with. Above all, cultures between Japanese and European are totally different.

Having participated in multiple projects on cross-functional and multicultural teams, I have become more aware of how cultural differences can affect team dynamics. While at European companies, I was responsible for managing projects between the headquarters in Europe and the Tokyo office. The headquarters often tried to execute the same marketing campaigns in Asia as in Europe. However, these marketing campaigns tended to be ineffective in Asia because they were designed for European demographics. Although I tried my best to liaise between the two sides, I often struggled to explain each side’s rationale to the other and was torn between conflicting demands.

Even when we well the same products for European and Asian countries, selling points of products are totally different. When working at an Education company, I managed marketing activities for language abroad program. The point I was impressed and felt interesting was that, while European students study abroad in order to explorer new cultures or learning cultural differences among countries, Asian students study abroad to purely acquire the English language skills. Concretely, while European students already have sufficient English language skills and don’t necessarily feel study English, Asian students don’t have such a high level of English language skills and need to improve their language skills. Thus, although the company sells the same products both for European and Asian customers, its selling points were completely different among countries.

More precisely, even among Asian countries, cultural backgrounds are often quite different. When working at a gaming company based in Tokyo, I belonged to a marketing division which dealt with marketing strategies for different countries. What interested me was that, while Japanese people are quite familiar with video games since childhood, Chinese people were completely not. Thus, we had to create different marketing messages between Japan and China, considering their cultural backgrounds. These cultural backgrounds are quite important. In addition to this, even when dealing with countries which have close cultures between Japan and China, we have to consider an aspect of native experts in each market.

All in all, People in foreign countries have different backgrounds, different values, and different customs. Thus, understanding cultural background is the first step into entering into a foreign market.

At Digital Havas, we offer digital marketing services focusing on the Japanese market. All of our staff are experienced native Japanese. Thus, we can provide suitable marketing campaigns for various industry and various products. We will help you enter into the Japan market, or even if you’re just considering enter into the Japan market but still not have specific plan yet, we can advise you on each phases of your business.

Please feel free to get in touch with us and get the latest trends in digital marketing for the Japanese market!