Hairy fat fingers
Most companies I work with market and sell their products to customers abroad. The amount of effort we put into this varies. In the early stages, our resources are usually maxed out just building business domestically, so we have to be content with taking whatever international business finds us through our English-language websites and mostly-US marketing efforts.
But even in this stage, we try to be welcoming -- or at least not offensive -- to potential customers from other countries.
We know about finding a local partner in the countries that are most important to us. We rely on these partners to translate our marketing materials and give us guidance to improve them.
We know about testing product names with our local contacts, to avoid choosing names with negative connotations in languages we don’t speak. This includes British English, by the way – we once narrowly avoided choosing a company a name with an unfortunate resemblance to a vulgar British slang word. (A dictionary isn’t enough; you need someone “on the ground” who understands the nuances, colloquialisms, and current jokes and jingles.)
We know about taking photos with the product positioned next to a “universal” object, when such an object is needed to show scale. We try to choose an object that is recognizable to tech workers across cultures, such as a computer keyboard rather than the obvious American coin. This improves the chances that our product announcements and pictures are picked up by non-English trade journals and websites.
We did not know about “hairy fat fingers.”
One customer’s product is distinguished by its small size. It looks great resting on a person’s fingertip. Or so we thought. Then we got this note from our partner in Asia:
I have to say, a picture of hairy fat fingers is not liked in Japan. If you have a next chance to take a picture of the product, I was hoping you would take pictures of the product with angelic fingers. :-P
So. Now we know.
We also know that we have a good local partner in Japan, who is not afraid to give us the candid feedback we need to do better.
It was a good day.
Lisa Schaertl is president of Tech Savvy Marketing, specializing in marketing and PR for high tech companies.