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Exporters branding products for offshore consumers need to balance brand integrity with multinational appeal.


Malcolm Dale, practice manager at design house gardyneHolt, has a good story to tell about the potential hazards of packaging and design for offshore markets.

“Sip” seemed a safe enough name choice for a café in the Dusit Princess Hotel chain in Dubai. A check with the Arabic translation was deemed acceptable, too.

The café’s brand was all ready to go until a local from the United Arab Emirates came to know about it. It turned out that in UAE dialect, Sip has a meaning too dreadful to mention, Dale says.

“The Dusit had to rebrand the café completely. Dialect traps are easy to fall into.” Sip eventually became JoyBean Café.

In another instance, at his former company Montana Wines, there was a project to brand a Chilean wine. The label “Al Pico”, meaning “mountain”, was deemed catchy in local translation.

“The labels were on the press ready to be printed when a native Chilean man chanced upon it. He was horrified and told us we can’t use the label as in Chile the word is local slang for a man with an enormous erection!”

The wine label was subsequently rebranded with the feminine form – La Pica. “One way or another, if you are a New Zealand company producing for the local market, lack of local knowledge can lead to many traps,” Dale says.


One of the most challenging tasks for Kiwi companies packaging for and communicating about a product overseas is maintaining the integrity of the Kiwi brand while trying to adapt to foreign tastes.

gardyneHolt had the experience of designing packaging for a company selling mussels to Chinese seafood suppliers.

The client, Pure New Zealand Greenshell Mussels, wanted the packaging to communicate the quality of the product, it had to appeal to Chinese distributors, convey New Zealand’s clean/green and reliable image and get across the authenticity of the product against Chinese copycats.

Armed with market research done by the client, gardyneHolt was able to tackle the packaging design. “You need to understand who’s doing the talking, who you are talking to, figure the client’s limit – what they are able to do in terms of reaching and aiming for the market,” Dale says.

“There is no easy answer to that.”

Asian markets have certain quirky colour and image preferences. Asia, in this case, is not a homogenous market but a tapestry of multiple cultures and languages.

Good Health Products’ brand manager Kim Batley says one of the most time-consuming issues is getting labels translated accurately for different markets. Good Health sells to China, Indonesia, Korea, Taiwan and Thailand.

Her advice is to ensure documentation is signed off with local partners before going ahead with any artwork. “This is to deal with the issue of the amount of changes that will happen.”


Good Health’s Asian clients like European-looking children on packaging. “In New Zealand we tend to like lifestyle shots. Asian countries tend to want European-looking people. And for slimming products, there is a tendency to focus on the physical attributes of the image being marketed,” Batley says.

The Chinese, for example, like glitziness, gold and anything embossed in their colour schemes. “We’ve had to change to a gold label – for them, that colour represents quality,” according to Batley.

In one case, a client in Asia wanted a colostrum product in yellow while Good Health’s original packaging is bright blue. “We did not concede as that didn’t fit our brand,” Batley says.

Indonesian distributors, for example, like to have sample sizes for their customers – something quite localised.

GardyneHolt’s Dale reiterates that the trick is balancing brand integrity with authenticity.

“You want your product still looking like a New Zealand product yet to appeal to the respective local market.”

A notable feature of the packaging of New Zealand-made vodka 42 Below is that it doesn’t resemble a traditional vodka bottle.

“Although they are selling vodka, the bottle doesn’t look anything like traditional Russian or European vodka packaging. It was a product designed to appeal not only to New Zealand but the wider market.”

gardyneHolt works closely with several language schools to design their promotional and communications material.

“With the language schools, sometimes we have to do two or three versions of the same brochure,” Dale says, adding that Middle Eastern material would not feature girls with bare arms, while material aimed at the


German market would portray young people engaged in outdoor activities.

Once you ship your product to an Asian market, you may find the need to tweak your product based on the client’s feedback.

In MadeBlunt’s case, the company’s umbrellas have caught the Japanese market’s imagination. However, the Japanese distributor has asked the company to include a sleeve for the commuter-centric market, and to supply curved handles.


There was also a request to cater to the female market with umbrella made from fabrics that reflected the seasons. Currently MadeBlunt umbrellas are made using plain fabrics.

MadeBlunt managing director Scott Kington says the company is in the process of introducing patterns, but on New Zealand terms.

“The thing is the umbrellas still have to look European, or Western. We have asked an Italian fabric pattern designer to produce several patterns for the Japanese to choose. That’s our compromise.

“The reality is you don’t want to create products by tick boxes. You have to meet demand in a way that you are comfortable with. We are adapting to the specifics of the Japanese market without losing the essence of who or what we are.”

Whether marketing mussels or wine, the important message is your point of difference and how to communicate that, says gardyneHolt’s Dale. Then there is the job of matching that to market demand. [END]


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