Post Editing: Taglines and target demographics

Sometimes I think that the lessons we learn in localization management should be applied in just about every aspect of business — namely, learning the shortest, most efficient route to connecting with customers in a way they can understand.

I was recently talking with someone who was asking for advice about an ad he wanted to put in a publication local to North Idaho, specifically about whether the term “Forest Bathing” would get across the message he wanted to convey. He was referring to a practice that he said was popular in Japanese culture, going out into the forest on a leisurely therapeutic walk. This is supposed to counter the effects of hectic city living. In Japanese, the practice is called Shinrin-yoku, and was first proposed in 1982 by the Forest Agency of Japan.

  I told my friend that in rural Idaho, using “Forest Bathing” as a tagline would be sure to evoke the image of taking a bath in the forest — which locals have been known to do on hikes, scrubbing themselves down with moss or a nice pinecone for good measure. I sincerely doubted that anyone would think of the Japanese practice of spending time in nature to readjust and calm oneself. To begin with, being surrounded by mountains and lakes on every side, we don’t need all that much readjusting.

More importantly, if I hadn’t interpreted his catchphrase correctly, it was very unlikely the average citizen of Idaho would. He didn’t like this response, and sent me several links explaining what Forest Bathing was. “I think it’s very clear,” he said.

  So here I was, explaining to someone who had lived in the United States his
whole life that grabbing a cultural practice from a foreign locale didn’t exactly ensure that it resonated with his target demographic in the United States. The discussion had nothing to do with localization management, and yet it seemed similar enough that I had to laugh.

  In this issue, we have five articles on localization management. They cover subject matter experts, computer-aided translation tools, online security, key performance indicators, collaboration — a veritable smorgasbord of corporate catchphrases to feast your eyes upon. We are also introducing Localization Business School, a new column from Andrew Lawless. It seemed fitting for this issue.

As for my friend, he hasn’t decided what his new ad tagline is going to be. I think I’ve convinced him not to use “Forest Bathing,” however.