The Apple School of International Marketing: 5 Strategies Worth Stealing

Last week, Apple made history when it became the first US company worth $1 trillion. How did they do it? Certainly not by selling their products in only one country using only one language.  In fact, since 2010, the share of Apple’s revenue generated outside of the United States has hovered between 55% and 70%.

What makes Apple such a coveted brand around the world? And what lessons can other businesses learn from Apple’s success? Here are 5 international marketing strategy ideas from Apple that are worth stealing (even if you aren’t Steve Jobs).

Maintain a consistent brand across cultures.

No matter what country you’re in, Apple’s products are the same. Their products, their adverts and their website use the same clean, minimalist design the world over. Apple iPhones all have the same features. The visuals on the website are the same no matter what language option you choose.

We talk quite a bit about the importance of customising your marketing and your website to account for different cultural preferences. But it’s also important that your brand maintains an underlying consistency.

Apple is not known for catering to their customers. When you buy an Apple product, you’re buying Apple’s vision. So, it makes sense that they would customise their content and products less than other brands. 

Use localisation to support a consistent brand and a consistent customer experience.

Apple’s international marketing has been described as “one size fits all,” but that’s not really accurate. Their brand depends on providing a consistent customer experience, every time someone interacts with the company or with their marketing. No matter where that person lives or what culture they’re from, they should come away with the same impression of Apple and their products. Here’s the thing: There’s no way to ensure that kind of consistent, high-quality experience across different languages and cultures without localisation.

For example, consider Apple’s stores. Some elements remain the same, no matter where in the world you are, like the Genius Bar, or the play areas for kids. However, the store experience is specifically tailored to each region, in terms of architecture, appearance, and customer service. By customising their stores to appeal to local tastes, Apple avoids the type of missteps that doomed Walmart’s attempt to expand into Germany.

On their website, Apple protects its customer service reputation by making it easy for people to get help in their language, with local customer support phone numbers and live chat for each country.

For more on the importance of speaking your customer’s language in customer service, read 6 Truths About Multilingual Customer Service.

Use customised content to make customers feel appreciated.

For many Western companies, the Chinese market is an especially hard nut to crack.  That’s not true for Apple. In fact, a fifth of their revenue currently comes from China.

One way that Apple appeals to Chinese consumers is through customising content. For example, when they updated their GarageBand music creation software to include Chinese language support, they also added traditional Chinese instruments like the erhu and the pipa.

According to Common Sense Advisory, “This striking act of “radical localization” projects an image of China’s importance to Apple users elsewhere in the world and keeps customers in Greater China happy.”

Transcreation is the cornerstone to a successful international marketing strategy.

On the Apple website,  content in other languages is professionally translated or transcreated by local copywriters. This ensures that it’s just as effective in the target language as it was in the original English.

Not sure what transcreation is all about? Read What is Transcreation?

Apple also transcreates its TV advertisements. For example, take a look at this 2015 Christmas ad from Apple:

Now here’s the Chinese version:

As you can see, it’s the same basic storyline:  a young girl takes her grandmother’s favourite song and remixes it, adding her own vocals and guitar.  But the details have all been changed to make them congruent with Chinese culture. For instance, there aren’t any visual references to Christmas in the Chinese version of the ad. The scenery is different, the song is different. According to Fast Company, the Chinese version was directed by Hong Kong director Ann Hui and Christopher Doyle, the cinematographer of many of Wong Kar Wai’s films.

To make the transcreation process easier, plan ahead.

According to Chief Marketer, Apple’s ads are made to be easy to translate and transcreate, right from the start:

“In addition to choosing one image that can be nuanced worldwide, it employs a minimum of text in the original English. So, even if there is a play on words that must be transcreated to remain relevant in other markets, the phrase usually does not require too many words in other languages to express a similar idea.”

This helps keep marketing costs down and ensures a more consistent final product.

Are you looking for help with marketing translation or transcreation? Our  expert team of translators, marketers and local copywriters is ready to be your voice in another language. Take a look at the services we offer, and feel free to contact us.  We’d love to hear from you!

0 replies

Leave a Reply

Want to join the discussion?
Feel free to contribute!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.