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Adapting for Russia: 3 Things You Must Know for Business Success

Adapting for Russia: Three things you must know for success

When adapting to your new global markets, one size does not fit all. While it may be tempting to have a generic product that fits all markets and only requires direct translation, this is not advisable. Instead, you should carefully plan how to adapt your product — including messaging, tone, even content type — to each of your target markets, with focus on their particular needs. In this post, we will address Russian marketing.

But adaptation doesn’t stop at a market’s needs. You also need to consider cultural norms and even legal codes. This process, called culturalization, is part of the localization process and allows your company to understand your new market’s context and adapt accordingly. Every country is unique, but here are three domains that need particular consideration when localizing your Russian marketing.

  1. Make your product not about the US.

Economic sanctions against Russia and resulting hostility towards the United States create a current political climate where everything that specifically evokes the US should be replaced for something more neutral. This includes the American flag, Uncle Sam, elements of the American lifestyle – even the word American itself! Change an eagle to a bear in your logo, replace the currency signs in your cloud service, transfer the action of your computer game from San Francisco to Moscow, and avoid using symbols illegal or viewed as immoral in Russia (like a rainbow flag) for best results.

  1. Understand the legal lay of the land.

Regulations and laws in Russia don’t require equal opportunity statements on your HR page; in fact, notes like this look inappropriate and irrelevant in Russia. The same goes with overt statements supporting the struggle against sexual harassment and other kinds of discrimination. LGBT rights are a particularly delicate issue. Anything that could be interpreted as LGBT promotion is outright illegal in Russia. Many Russians are also strongly and explicitly anti-gay. For example, after Apple CEO Tim Cook came out as gay, a Saint Petersburg memorial to Steve Jobs that looked like a giant iPhone was demolished by “volunteers.” Knowing the laws and norms will help you tread carefully on what can quickly become legal thin ice.

  1. Anticipate gender norms.

That cheerful, easy-going male character in your game or ad campaign? He needs to go. Even a man smiling should be replaced; Russians don’t smile often, especially by American norms. Russian masculinity definitely tends towards machismo; a “real man” will always look superior and cold, never show a single glimpse of a smile, and be proud. Consider that Russians loved the show House and its title character played by Hugh Laurie, a genius physician who lacks empathy and is a real jerk. Understanding gender norms and roles is a huge part of culturalization that can ruin a launch if not handled correctly.

No matter where you’re looking to launch, whether Russia or Brazil, Thailand or Spain, there are cultural norms to consider when creating your globalization strategy. Make sure you’re putting your best foot forward by working with experts who know your target customers. Need some help getting started? Contact Venga today to talk about your project or request a free quote for translation and localization.

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