My first day in Poland this past June, I was hungrily walking through a little village on the outskirts of Warsaw, trying in vain to read things. Like many people in our industry, I’m familiar enough with Western European languages that most of the time, I can get the general gist of signs, menus, labels and other basics. Not so in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). I couldn’t ascertain the difference between roadside signs for automotive work and signs for delis. Finally, after enough wandering, I got to the center of town, where I could tell food was sold.
I broached a tiny café-stand and spotted a case of drinks, labeled in Italian. I was so excited I could make out the words that I purchased one on the spot, despite the fact that it was approximately four times the cost of most Polish drinks you’d buy out of a village refrigerator. Bio, pompelmo rosso, frizzante, con polpe, I made out. It was sparkling, organic Italian grapefruit juice with no added sugar. I bought some food as well, and meandered over to an empty parking lot in front of a church, where I sat and drank possibly the best soda I’ve ever had.
I was supremely grateful that this product had not been localized, but had been kept foreign to (presumably) signal that it was worth more money. Marketing, it seems, is not just about ensuring that locals can read the labels. It’s about ensuring that everyone can.
Ethnic marketing is about personalizing your products so that immigrants — and perhaps temporary transplants — want to buy things too. We cover that in this issue with an article on Ethnic Polish marketing in Ireland, along with three other focus pieces on CEE. As far as marketing for tourists broadly, with the gig economy this will likely become more widespread. I was staying in a highly-rated Airbnb that day, although there were no tourist services for miles.
CEE is the kind of place that proves localization takes global thinking. And if I could find another one of those Italian juice drinks, I’d gladly toast the prospect.