Tips to make it work when you’re doing a project across time zones and cultures

 As China-based global agency, we have a lot of projects that involve both the headquarters – based in the US or Europe – and the local marketing team, based in China. As a brand and communications agency, keeping everyone aligned and on one page can be extraordinarily challenging. And it not’s about the time zone, it’s about cultural differences and working styles, even within the same companies. We’ve seen the same patterns across dozens of cases, so we decided to put together a few tips from our experience.

Here are typical examples:

The run-around

The Global Client insists on checking each piece of translated copy, word for word. The local Chinese team, frustrated, starts changing the Chinese without telling Global and meanwhile keeps sending in “approved” English translations. The entire system of approvals becomes meaningless.

Control crazies

The Global team, following the brand guidelines – which are not necessarily well adapted for China – comments and edits every single piece of marketing collateral developed in China. Eventually the Chinese team starts to do the “run-around.” 

WeChat copycats

The local team tries to follow trending content too closely and the WeChat account starts to look less and less like the corporate brand, until it is eventually unrecognizable.

Slow pokes

The China marketing team moves at the speed of light and expects everyone else to do so as well. Meanwhile, Europe is on vacation and the US is “waiting for feedback” from the top.

Any of these situations sound familiar?

 

Tips for Global Teams

Develop a local brand guideline

Don’t let the local team guess about fonts, logo usage, English vs. Chinese naming conventions, and general layout.

Allow localization – but keep it close to the brand

It’s easier for B2B brands to stick closer to their global corporate branding, but there should still be some leeway. Define the parameters and what’s allowable. 

Understand it’s a completely different language

Sometimes the wording in Chinese sounds bizarre in English.

Regular conference calls

We know it’s a pain, but a regularly scheduled call, following an agenda, keeps everyone on the same page 

Photos and images

It’s helpful to have a bank of local images – work with the marketing team to get shots that are local, but also follow the global photo style.

 

Tips for Chinese Marketing Teams

Stay on brand

There are brand guidelines that you should be following. 

Don't do an end-run around Global

It doesn't help anyone if you are completely unaligned.

Work with the agency as a partner

The agency is on your side and can help you align with Global. 

Submit drafts early and keep on a schedule

Last minute submissions for approval are never welcome.

Update the Global team

With news about current trends and marketing practices specific to China

  

What tips do you have? Leave a comment below or drop us a line, we’ll update the article with your thoughts.

 

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7 Tips for B2B Marketing China