I was recently fortunate enough to take a trip to Riga, the capital city of Latvia, and I learned a lot about the country while I was there that can be applied to marketing. If the United States is a multinational behemoth then Latvia is an up-and-coming tech startup, which is probably why two Latvian entrepreneurs were on Forbes’ 30 Under 30 list. Not bad for a country with two million people.
Latvia celebrates its centenary in 2018, but half of that was spent under Soviet oppression. As you might imagine, that wasn’t great for fostering diversity and innovation, but they’ve maintained an underdog spirit and made the intervening years count. It reminds me of how B2B brands like HubSpot have managed to grow at scale in a short space of time by playing to their strengths.
The Latvian literature scene in particular is worth mentioning, because they found a way to go one step further and to take a historical weakness and to turn it into something that tells their story. They’re behind the #IAmIntrovert campaign which takes a perceived weakness (the reluctance of many Latvians to promote themselves and their work) and makes it something to be proud of.
Localisation, Localisation, Localisation
It’s only been a couple of posts since we talked about the importance of localisation, but that was underscored by my visit to Riga because of the unique ethnic makeup of the country. That’s because only 52% of Latvia’s residents are actually Latvian thanks to the diaspora and the forced deportation of Latvians and immigration of Russians during the Soviet occupation.
This means that while Latvian is the country’s official language, Russian and English are also widely spoken. Most people use Latvian, but people (and businesses) are so used to the complex linguistic and cultural situation that they’ll switch to Russian depending upon who they’re doing business with. Some of the country’s authors publish books in both Latvian and English or Latvian and Russian, depending upon their target audience.
Translation and localisation brings up another potential issue, especially when it comes to the books. Translated texts are looked at as something different to the original work, a bit like how a cover song is sort of – but not really – the same as the original. That’s because there’s not always a direct translation, so translators and authors often need to work together to make sure that nothing’s lost. It’s worth bearing that in mind when it comes to content creation and distribution.
Marketing lessons are everywhere if you know what to look for. Marketing thought-leader David Meerman Scott and Hubspot co-founder Brian Halligan once wrote a whole book on marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead. As marketers, we need to make sure that we’re always learning, and a little travelling can be a great way to broaden the mind. And it’s even more important when you’re running international marketing campaigns that need to get results in a number of different regions.
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