Of branding, translation, stereotypes and advertising: yes, they all relate.

I was recently talking with a friend about the fact that brands often come across as ‘labels’ for the people we are or want to be.

That implies that, for instance, someone drinking Starbucks coffee ‘has’ (or wants to give) a different image of him/herself. Like a statement, like the famous status symbol. Of course, maybe this person just really likes Starbucks coffee (or any coffee, for that matters) and just happened to be around that shop at the moment of craving – it happened to me!

Still, there’s a sort of aura attached to brands – clothing, jewelry, cars, tech gadgets – that wrongly make the others identify you as a certain person. Another example is the neighborourhood you live in or the party you’re voting… I could go on for ages. But why do I want to touch on this on my #RainyBrandingTuesday?

Just because the same is true with stereotypes, in branding.

I have come across this ad on the Ocado magazine the other day (yes, I shop at Ocado, how stereotyped for a Londoner, uh!) and it made me think.

Italians tend to have pasta every day, I can guarantee...

Some Italians tend to have pasta every day, it’s not a myth after all.

What did I find?

  • Classic Italian flag colours
  • Term Italian very abundantly used (I counted it x times)
  • Picture of reassuring owner to underline tradition
  • Keywords: italian words, Mediterranean, real, Southern Italy, authentic, flavour
  • Easy-to-pronounce brand (good por SEO purposes too)
  • Massive picture of food in the background
  • Promise of real Italian ingredients

Don’t get me wrong! I’ve not tried this brand and maybe, despite the bad advertising or poor graphics, the product is outstanding. All in all, it just made me think about how sometimes products can come in disguise – you remember the scandals of Parma ham in Canada or the German blue mozzarella and the examples are plenty more. Back to the stereotypes though: Dolmio is another brand that caught my attention. The brand’s ads feature some typical Italian stereotypes and even add a thick accent to it. Far from being funny in my opinion, I’ve read headlines and comments on these commercial where many consumers identified them as racist or highly stereotyped.

But…all in all: is that bad or good for a brand?

Stereotypes are everywhere. I’m sure that you can tell stories of how people around you thought that because you’re a freelance translator, you don’t have a real job, you must be spending your time reading books in a library, etc. Been there? 🙂

As read in the LRW Blog

When people hear the word “stereotype” they think of something bad, and this makes sense given that this word is usually used in the context of social groups.  While the content of social stereotypes can be unfortunate, the underlying cognitive processes are important.  Our brains are categorizing and stereotyping machines, using mental shortcuts to organize, predict, and react.  This process is what told our ancestors that each saber-tooth tiger is as dangerous as the others or that specific berry is as poisonous as others like it.  These categories and their characteristics are represented in our heads.  Stereotypes can also shape reality – serving as a prism on what we see and experience.

but we should be able to leverage on them:

Brands are also stereotypes in the same way.  Brands are representations in our heads of products or companies that influence what we see or experience and how we evaluate individual offerings. It means we can leverage 70+ years of stereotyping research by social scientists for brands.

The Marketing Spot has a really good point: find strategies to make sure you stay away from stereotypes but still make the most of them, positively. The examples on the blog is a used car dealer business but we can apply it to our industry too.

  • Branding mobility: downsize the impact of the stereotype in your industry. e.g. you offer translations – just try to communicate it differently and make sure that your identity is perceived as you want. ‘I offer flawless content management and translation services that can help your boost your business in this and that country’
  • Branding creativity: of course, positioning yourself above the rest is key. Be creative, make sure you stand out from the crowd because you can offer something the others don’t. You are an interpreter on the marketing industry? It won’t hurt if you can prove why you’re the best at it, maybe being a member of an association in this industry, for example.  Or doing things other translators don’t do or are not expected to be doing such as visiting clients on site! (People like chocolate, I’m telling you!)
  • Branding competition: change the status quo. Translations are sadly seen as a commodity these days so make sure you can revert this and change the game. e.g. ‘Translation is very much underrated but think of how your communication could improve with my services’ – then prove it to them!

The blog ends with this great sentence:

After all, branding is about being different. And that’s an absence of stereotype.

So, do you think there are labels out there that can be detrimental to our business?

Here my food for thought:

  • Industries and branding are affected by stereotypes.
  • Try to identify yours and see whether they’re positive or negative for your business.
  • Is your target language seen in a specific way? What are the good / bad elements?
  • Are YOU affected by a specific stereotype? Write it down and try to defy it.

Further reading:

  1. On Burberry and chavs http://www.economist.com/node/17963363
  2. Personal Branding Blog http://www.personalbrandingblog.com/stereotypes-can-derail-your-personal-branding/
  3. Types of stereotyping http://smallbusiness.chron.com/types-stereotyping-advertising-11937.html
  4. You are not your country http://www.nationalstereotype.com/you-are-not-your-country-top-10-national-stereotypes/
  5. Interesting reads on marketing stereotypes http://www.ingentaconnect.com/content/pal/bm/2004/00000011/00000006/art00007
  6. The Chinese and luxury brands http://www.businessoffashion.com/2014/02/5-stereotypes-chinese-luxury-consumers-debunked.html
  7. And to conclude, an extract from Miguel Llorens’s blog (RIP): http://traductor-financiero.blogspot.co.uk/2011/11/think-differentdifferently-is.html



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