The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

The Frustration Of Working With Clients Who All Speak Different Languages …
January 15, 2008, 7:30 am
Filed under: Comment

 = apple

… is that occasionally you get requests like this one …

Can you create a strategic flowchart using pictures instead of words incase countries don’t understand what we’re trying to say?”

Hmmmmn, so I’ve now got to turn a strategy document into a ‘Read It With Mother’ type-of-book! That’s the rest of the day written off then!

To be honest, while this sort of thing is a pain, it’s incredibly important because people tend to get fixated on individual words rather than how they work in the context of the overall idea – so before you know it, you can end up being sucked into huge, debilitating debates rather than getting on with the task in hand.

Saying all that – while this is going to take me bloody hours, I wouldn’t have it any other way because Asia is way more challenging, interesting and rewarding than if I was stuck back in an office in London / NYC or Sydney.

At least that’s what I keep telling myself  🙂

25 Comments so far
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This post brings back some interesting nightmares for me, like the time I spent 6 hours in a presentation because after every sentence I had to wait for the translator only to learn she had completely misinterpreted what I’d said and the client refused to believe it so all our hard work went to pot.
Good times. Oh no they weren’t 🙂

Comment by Pete

I just had a similar conversation yesterday over our pitch. We need to go back in and I tried to persuade my colleagues that we shouldn’t get hung up on brand words and that all we had to fix was tonality. Music or pictures could convey that. I’ve been suggesting for a while now that a possible new brand model has ‘feelings’ or ‘tonality’ in the center and the second circle (or concentric ring) has messages.

Fuzzy stuff first. Logical stuff second. There I’ve said it now!

Comment by Charles Frith

I came to a realisation about 2 years ago that the ‘logical stuff’ [or should I say the stuff the client wants to say] is done more for internal ego/morale reasons than anything else.

It’s as if they want to say …

“Hey guys, we’re proud of you and will spend millions telling everyone that fact [plus how good we are] even if the only folk who’ll really care are the board of directors and the 11 guys involved in the project”

Of course logic has an important role to play in communication – but how it is said [tone] and where it is said [channel] need much more thought because otherwise it could turn more people off than attract.

Comment by Rob

WTF is a strategic flowchart?

Comment by John

ha! i always have the opposite problem – i present the visuals and people want the words. then when you give them the words they whinge about not understanding them..

Comment by lauren

And while I totally agree with the tonality argument, what about the possibility of different cultures interpreting the same picture in different ways?

Comment by John

If you’d be stuck in NYC, you would however have been able to attend the magnificent seventh annual no pants subway ride.

Comment by John

John – are you drunk?

You started off so well and then ended up in the subway rant which I found most confusing/amusing.

You are – of course – completely right that a similar issue could arise using pictures instead of words, however with the symbolism that is inherent across the region, there are certain pictures that are uniformly accepted as having a ‘specific definition’ which will be much easier for certain markets to ‘get’ than the ambiguity of words. Worse, the ambiguity of ENGLISH words.

As for what a strategic flowchart is … maybe you’d like me to respond in pictures 🙂

Comment by Rob

Better yet, what’s a “strategic”?

Comment by Age

I wouldn’t say that in your upcoming review Age!

Comment by Rob

I nearly got cross reading this but you saved yourself towards the end of the post. Only just mind.

Comment by Marcus

I should point out that when I said “ENGLISH WORDS” in one of the above comments – I meant that it was understanable people in Asia didn’t have a uniformed understanding of certain words when we’re communicating in a language other than their own. I don’t want people to think I was spouting some Colonial bollocks!

Comment by Rob

After years of learning how to take the time to write and say less, I’m re-learning the art of more = better. It isn’t though.

Comment by np

no, NP, it isn’t. better is better.

Comment by lauren

Hang on … this post wasn’t about the seemingly common practice of writing loads to look like you have worked hard – it was about how to ensure consistency of understanding when you’re dealing with countries that speak multiple languages.

However you do raise an interesting point and the thing that has always bugged me about this ‘quantity trend’ is planning/communication should be about simplifying the complex … not in a way that makes it ‘lowest common denominator dumb’ … but in a way that allows you be interesting, relevent and motivating to the people you wish to communicate with.

I am proudly a “speak less / say more” kinda person and I think the best example of this is this post I wrote about SONY

Comment by Rob

In line with your policy of brevity, I am sure I am not alone in thinking that your use (in the 3.15 comment) of the qualifier “colonial” was superfluous. We all know what you were spouting.

Comment by John

Are you insinuating I’m British Hitler, John?

I don’t have enough hair.

Comment by Rob

No I was saying that bollocks was a sufficient description of what you had written.

Comment by John

Is this about my ‘onion bag’ pants?

Comment by Rob

They just make people cry!

Comment by John

Gentlemen please!

Comment by Marcus

Onions or my pants? Actually lets stop this conversation line here 🙂

Comment by Rob

Flickr hunting then?

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Yes I was Mr M … but not because I was procrastinating [for once, I’m upto date] but because the only photos I have in my collection tend to be totally inappropriate, ha!

Comment by Rob

I can imagine, though its probably best not to 😉

Comment by Rob Mortimer

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