If you consumed some form of digital media in the past month, chances are you’ll be familiar with a social experiment dubbed “Perceptions of Perfection: Part ii”. The initiative, rolled out by UK based online pharmacy Superdrug Online Doctors saw graphic designers from all corners of the globe retouch the same image in line with their culture’s image of the ‘perfect man’. Once all the images were sent back, the project’s founders were left with nineteen versions that were all vastly different from the original, as well as from each other.
Each different designer’s unique interpretation of this concept emphasizes just how differently we see the world around us.
Participants were given artistic license as to how they could alter the image, which resulted in changes being made to skin color, body hair, eye color, muscularity and even underwear. In an effort to demonstrate that there’s no such thing as an universal ideal, the project’s press release said: “Watch [the image] evolve based on each culture’s beauty standards and ethnic norms: barrel-chested or slim, muscular thighs or sinewy legs, wide eyes or hooded lids, a smattering of body hair or a baby-smooth body.” While Perceptions of Perfection aimed to highlight the importance of health over image, as well as to promote body confidence – regardless of what your particular body looks like – the findings aren’t only of interest to anthropologist and socialist, but to companies looking to localize their products too.
So what can we learn from this demonstration on the unique characteristics of various cultures?
The biggest takeaway from the way the designers altered the image is that cultural sensitivity and nuance is a subtly entrenched aspect of every single culture. But that’s where the similarities end. While all of the retouched images still resembled a man, their subtle (and in some cases, glaringly obvious) tweaks emphasized the fact that no two cultures view the world in the same way. Just as there’s no such thing as a global ideal of how the perfect man should look, there’s no one-size-fits all approach when it comes to branding, images, colors and messaging. If you showed China’s rendering to someone in, Russia, for example, upon insisting that this was in fact, the very definition of an ideal man, you’d have a hard time finding anyone who agreed with you. Hop on plane to China however, and most people would probably concur with you.
The interpretation of both visual, written and audio content is completely dependent on the culture at hand.
Our cultural climate influences our relationship with myriad things: from a photograph, joke or common turn of phrase, to an instructional video, press release and even, product packaging. For companies in the process of expanding into a foreign market, being cognizant of cultural sensitivity should be top of mind. Unfortunately, this is not always the case. Countless instances of cringe-worthy localization abound. One such example saw the Helmsley Palace Hotel in New York equate staying at their establish with a ‘stay’ at the Taj Mahal, According to Translation Directory, What their marketing department failed to realize however, is that the Taj Mahal is in fact a mausoleum, which is probably the last place any living person would want to spend a night.
Make sure that all of your product localization prioritize cultural sensitivity by contacting us today to learn more about how we created quality localized assets that seamlessly fit into the culture at hand.
Image Credit: onlinedoctor.superdrug.com