Has the Colonel Gone Racist?

Posted on January 14, 2010 by 11 Comments

Over the past week an Australian KFC commercial showing a white Australian cricket fan in the midst of black West Indies fans handing out fried chicken caused a lot of uproar.

YouTube Preview Image

The controversy started when the commercial was (illegally, I might add) uploaded to YouTube. The negative reaction it received in the US surprised many people around the world, as outside of the US, people are not too familiar with US stereotypes (and why should they?). Americans saw the ad as racist since it depicts a white person handing out fried chicken to black people, because he tried to make himself feel more comfortable. An African American eating fried chicken is a very common stereotype in the US (but US only).

Before anything, let me ask you this: Do you really think that Australian producers of an Australian commercial for the Australian market would implement a US stereotype that nobody in Australia knows about to make fun of African Americans?

The US public criticized the commercial with such force that KFC decided to stop airing it in Australia, but by doing that another stereotype is being fed. The US is seen as a bully by many countries around the world and getting a company to pull the plug on a commercial that was not even meant to be shown in the US feeds exactly that stereotype.

There are many things we can learn from this: First of all, with today’s technologies nothing stays local or regional anymore, but is accessible worldwide. We learned that the hard way when it comes to airplanes and contagious diseases. With services such as YouTube, Facebook, Twitter, etc., videos, information and opinions can reach even the furthest corners of the planet, but does that really mean that content, no matter for what region it was created, has to go through a worldwide cultural audit, because somehow, somewhere, someone could take it the wrong way? Think about the added costs for even the smallest projects. The commercial has not received any negative feedback in Australia and I am sure it would have been changed to fit within our cultural guidelines, if there had been a plan to air it in the US as well.

US commercials use stereotypes all the time, Germans in Lederhosen, comes to mind, so why ridiculing a foreign commercial that wasn’t even meant to stereotype or even insult? Or do you hear of any uproar in India, because US commercials show that hamburgers are made from cows?

People just try to read too much into it. Political correctness and cultural audit is a good thing, but in this case goes too far (and that comes from a guy that enforces cultural audits on a daily basis). Sometimes it is really just what it is, a fan within a group of fans of the opposite team trying to enjoy the game. In this commercial the team colors are important not the color of people.

Twitter is the Internet’s Water Cooler

Posted on July 6, 2009 by Comments Off

Tac Anderson, Digital Consulting Director

An office water cooler with a reusable 5-gallo...You can’t monitor the whole Internet. Nobody can, not even Google. So what do you do? It’s obvious that you can’t ignore it. You need to be monitoring something.

“But I don’t have budget for fancy monitoring tools.” You don’t need any budget. There are dozens of free or nearly free tools to use but you could probably just monitor Twitter if you had to.The easiest and cheapest way is set up your team with TweetDeck, let it run in the background at work and run a search for your keywords.

I’m not advocating that you only monitor Twitter (and the above solution only works while TweetDeck is running) but I think if you only did one thing, it should be to monitor Twitter. Why? Why not blogs or set up alerts?

Twitter is the water cooler of the Internet. One could argue that it’s becoming the World’s Water Cooler. But they’d be wrong. The world has many Internet Water Coolers.

Facebook is the World’s Largest Water Cooler.

The Facebook Water Cooler started off as a brand of water bottles exclusively sold at college. It quickly became the favorite water cooler brand in the U.S. and has quickly become the favorite at all of the Internet’s international offices as well. After a redesign of the water cooler people complained that it released too much water too quickly, but eventually they got used to it. People do get really uncomfortable when they run into both their ex-girlfriend and their mom at the Facebook Water Cooler.

Twitter is the World’s Noisiest Water Cooler.

The Twitter Water Cooler is not the largest but is by far the noisiest water cooler in the office. This is the water cooler that people who don’t drink water hate having a desk too near, and put up signs outside their cubicle wall reminding visitors that there are people working, asking that conversations be kept to a minimum. The Twitter Water Cooler used to run out of water all the time but it’s been much better lately. It also has really, really small cups.

FriendFeed is the the Geekiest Water Cooler.

The FriendFeed Water Cooler is where IT support hangs out and bitches about everyone else. It has superior filtration and state-of-the-art cooling, and is more energy-efficient. In fact, it recently implemented new water reclamation from the air, but only a few people know how to use it.

Internet vs. the World

While there are many water coolers, for what’s happening in the world, Twitter is the one that everything on the Internet passes through. If there’s big news in the office everyone, including PR and HR, goes over to the Twitter Water Cooler to find out what’s up and then goes back to their water coolers to talk about it.

So some of you are rightfully thinking, “Tac, the Internet *is* the world.” Yes, it is. But many things in the world don’t rise to any significant level of awareness on the Internet. My wonderful wife spends more time on Facebook than any other Internet site. She gets news about what’s happening in our neighborhood, in our community, and in our friends’ and families’ lives. That stuff doesn’t make it on Twitter and you don’t need to know about it.

US Airways Flight 1549 Plane Crash Hudson in N...

But if a plane crashesa celebrity dies (or one allegedly dies), a nation revolts or your marketing campaign tanks, the Twitter Water Cooler knows about it. If you’re going to monitor only one thing right now, Twitter will get you 90% of what you want faster than anything.

Top Image via Wikipedia

Bottom Image by davidwatts1978 via Flickr

This article was cross posted on New Comm Biz

Globalization: Let’s Do It Right

Posted on June 3, 2009 by Comments Off

Chris Kirchhof, Localization and QA Manager

So, you think you know what globalization really is, but you believe it is only for multibillion-dollar corporations? Think again. In today’s market, with the influence of the internet, even small companies with fewer than 50 employees are looking across the borders to see what opportunities other markets have to offer. Many of those multibillion-dollar companies actually got there because of globalization.

Globalization still seems to be the great unknown. Everybody has heard the term, but few know what it really means, and even fewer know how to successfully execute it.

Is it because globalization is the new hype? It can’t be that new, I just read “Small Companies Going Global” from 1989.

So here we are 20 years later and there are still many companies struggling when they take their products overseas, after a quick market research showed that there is a need for their product in the targeted markets. They even invested a lot of money to get the marketing campaign that was so successful in their home market translated for the new market. They are now present on the market but can’t seem to find a way out of those low sales numbers.

What happened?

There is much more to globalization than just a market research and the translation of a marketing campaign. Remember you are dealing with a foreign country and that means you are dealing with a foreign culture. Don’t assume that the marketing campaign you launched successfully in your own country will guarantee success with consumers in foreign markets.

Too often I heard “We even translated all content into that language, but still the results are disappointing”. Translation is just not enough. A different culture, means different habits, different traditions, different likes and dislikes and of course different laws. These are very important factors companies must have solutions for before they venture into a new area for their business. The product and website appeal to the consumers in the native market, but do they really appeal to the folks overseas?

As an example, compare http://www.zdnet.com and http://www.zdnet.com.cn:


Do you see the difference? It is not just a copy in design and content; it is adapted to the local market.

It is all so obvious to you, isn’t it? Why is it that there are still far too many companies not adapting to cultural differences?

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