Culture

Family Business Conference

 While learning a new language (Turkish), and deeply getting involved in understanding the whole culture, I had some great realizations.
First of all, learning a language is not only about learning its words, and knowing how to formulate sentences. There is a deeper understanding of culture and values that is necessary to be able to really speak and interact in a certain language. During learning, and while developing an understanding for that culture, it struck me that a new person is also developing inside me. That new person was born the day I started my quest, and just as a native baby would be, I started mingling in that culture and a "Turkish personality" somehow evolved in me. When you go deep in a certain culture, you not only assimilate with them, but the words, phrases, values and norms set forth a certain way of functioning that you don't use while speaking other languages. You can observe this with people who lived abroad and are really familiar with that country. The funny thing is that you become German when speak German, and you become Japanese when you speak Japanese! Of course this depends on how deeply you understand the language/culture.
The learning could also be applied to learning in general, and we can also see that the more one spends time on a certain activity or trade, the better they are at it. I also realized the importance of family businesses and the inherited knowledge that comes with it, based on decades and generations of experience. 
Being in the third generation of a family business, I can immediately identify with this. I have naturally learned the trade, and was able to slowly grasp the values under which our business is run. I didn't need excessive training, I just went there whenever I had the time, and was able to make my own mistakes, and learn in a safe environment. The discussions at home and the general outlook on work was also teaching me how to run the business. But since our industry as a whole is not developing, I'm not involved in it any more. But I can immediately go and start working tomorrow if needed.
Although I still beleive in the importance of stability in a person's life, and its role in hard-wiring all the things he has to learn, I'm starting to question the validity of this thought. At least in some situations.
The Family Business Conference has validated my idea through the different speakers an dspecialists who showed how relevant this type of business still is. One of the charts proved the effectiveness of family businesses by showing the superior performance of family-owned businesses over other ones, which was depicted on a graph that showed that the former out-performed the S&P ratings in the last decades. This is the result of the long-term focus, ownership, and the deep learning and lifelong understanding that came with being raised in a specialist family. By the way, Beethoven and Strauss came from musical families, and Picasso's father was an artist too.
The conference that was attended by Jordan's prime minister Dr. Maarouf Bakhit, had several international contributors who specialized in this field. Several were actually spending years with certain families and their businesses working on how best to devise the structure, how to deal with the technical and legal issues, and most importantly how to make a smooth transition from one generation to the next.
It was really surprising to me how relevant and timely these issues still were. Some speakers stressed the fact that the issues faced by family businesses are universal in nature, and are almost the same across cultures. Haluk Alacaklioglu made a good comparison between the general practices in different cultures.
Two very interesting consecutive speakers gave us an in-depth view of Gezairi, a second generation company transitioning to the third generation. The first was by Dr. Renee Ghattas, outlining her scientific study of the company's different struggles and challenges throughout the years, and it was great that we had the director of that company, Mona Bou Azza Bawarshi, to give us the personal side of the company and how she manages it.
To me the general discussion was about familiar things, but the approach of dealing with the different challenges was totally new to me, not to mention the legal aspects of family businesses!

How to Translate an Ad

Many times I see meaningless ads formatted and written in a tone that does not touch any aspect of our lives. Often times, these are poorly translated ads, that were translated by the dictionary, not by culturally-aware human beings.
Not only do these ads fail at conveying the right message, they sometimes backfire in certain societies.
Here are some tips to take into consideration while translating an ad or any other form of copy, written, audio, or visual:

  1. Don't translate!: yes, you read it right. The first thing you DON'T want to do, is take a dictionary, and go word-for-word, or sentence-for-sentence. While this might work well with normal prose, it is quite dangerous with ads. What makes this process more delicate, is the limited space usually provided for advertisements. You usually don't have enough space to go around idioms and phrases, and you have to create something that fits. Don't translate, transcreate. Here is an article that sites different instances of successful transcreation in literature and art.
  2. Think culturally: Thinking about the cultural implications while you write the new copy is necessary to make sure you get your message to the people. There is a website that talks about similar stuff, but the name of the website is the key for this tip: Don't make me think! This site talks about the Internet users' experience and how it must be improved by being simple, to the point, and easy to understand. When you write a transcreated ad, don't make your audience think.
  3. Find the corresponding idiom: Many times, smart ads make us of certain idioms or puns on certain words. This is where you are really transcreating. The pun cannot be translated, and the idiom might and might not have a counterpart in the target language. In this case, you should find the idioms that are used in the target language and find ways in which they can click with the audience.
  4. Test: You should always ask regular non professionals to see the ad and check their reaction. This is also a tip for writing regular ads for your own audience also. Many of us get swayed with the greatness or beauty of a certain pun, or fall in love with a certain idea, that we forget that we are writing to certain people, and even forget that they need to understand! This is an example by Olay.
  5. Check the positioning: An American diapers brand had a commercial showing how easy it is to use their diapers, and how much it saved time. The same ad was adapted for the Far East, and it backfired, as those mothers came through as uncaring. "Why would a mother want to spend less time caring for her babies?" If you don't take this into consideration, you will do the opposite of what you actually want.
  6. Let the people decide: Another safe (and free) method of doing this, is by passing the concept to your target audience and seeing how they deal with it. Post a thread on a forum, and discuss your brand or message. Observe what words people use to describe certain concepts. You will be surprised at how differently people use words for concepts. Try to check if they are using any cultural references or similarities. This is the language they are most comfortable using. Use it in your ads.

The main idea is that you should take the concept, and work with it. Giving it a fresh and local touch, and making sure your audience understand and like it at a glance.

As advertisers globalize, they will need to focus on local partners who understand the culture, instead of just copying and pasting their offices to new locations.