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Getting your ethics right, how hard can it be?

English may be a lingua franca, but when it comes to laws and ethics, there’s no blanket solution. One of the issues internationally operating brands face today is that most countries have different standards. In order to implement a universal code for all their branches, they must adapt to the culture and people of the country in which they are operating. Often, this is easier said than done. For instance, in Saudi Arabia, women are not allowed to meet men who are not family, in public. For brands operating in the country, this means that they cannot send a female employee to have a business lunch with a male client. Moral principles and expectations can be influenced by external factors such as money, power, and social norms and it’s important that brands be able to manage market expectations. But what’s the best approach for brands to source this kind of insight? Creative Culture lays out the three main steps your brands should be taking.

1. Do your research

Whether entering the market for the first time or repositioning, the first step for an international brand is to get their facts straight. Cultural experts can be costly, but raising cultural awareness can come in many forms. Organising a Cultural Awareness Workshop (CAW) is one solution. As Nelson Mandela so famously said, “education is the most powerful weapon you can use to change the world”. To make sure your ethics are right, educate your teams. Workshops can focus on a range of topics, whether it be a specific aspect of a culture or a general overview of a country. Participants can learn the ins and outs of the market through a combination of group breakout sessions, role plays, deep discussions and best practice.

2. Build your brand’s foundations

Once you’ve grasped the landscape of the market, it’s time to start looking into how your company can get it right.

When developing your code of ethics, use the insights gained from the CAW to ensure that the brand is mindful of different cultural customs. If you need help with drafting the codes, bringing on a team of copywriters may be a good option. Once the first draft is done, internal checks can be carried out, allowing the copywriters to make small tweaks and adjustments for copy approval. Copywriting in the brand’s lingua franca allows teams company-wide to approve the codes, ensuring that the message is the same, no matter what the working language is.

3. Ensure your message crosses borders

Now that the codes have been approved, the next step is to distribute the message to all of your brand’s international teams.

With something as important as a code of ethics, your best bet would be to enlist a team of transcreators. Not sure what the difference is between translation and transcreation? Read our blog to grasp the basics. To put it simply, while translation simply converts the copy from one language to another, transcreation adapts the text to ensure that the message is maintained and that the tone-of-voice is relevant. This means taking things like idioms, form of address and cultural nuances into consideration when working on the copy. For example, did you know that there are three levels of politeness in Japanese? Determining which level to use depends largely upon the audience you’re addressing and the expectations of the target audience.

A brand’s code of ethics acts as the cornerstone of how its employees should conduct themselves. It is important to ensure these codes convey the brand’s key values, while still resonating with the target audience, allowing them to feel like fully-fledged members and representatives of the brand.