A lesson we could learn from sushi.

Did you know that, up until 1971, sushi wasn’t popular in North America? That’s right – it wasn’t until Chef Hidekazu Tojo flipped traditional sushi rolls inside out, wrapping the rice on the outside to conceal the seaweed, that this Japanese seafood trend caught fire in the western world. He also began filling his rolls with ingredients Americans and Canadians were more familiar with, like cooked crab, cucumber, and avocado, to help them sell. And look where we California roll fiends are now.

As advertisers, the evolution of sushi is an excellent reminder of what it takes to sell something globally – be it a product, a service, or even an idea. Here at Crowley Webb, we work with international brands like ESAB and recruit patients from all around the world for our Praxis studies. So if we don’t take the cultures we’re working with into account, then all our work would be a waste.

For example, when Pampers released its stork packaging to sell diapers in Japan, the cute bird illustration had no relevance. That’s because in Japan, giant floating peaches bring babies to their parents, not lanky, long-billed birds.

So whether it’s checking if Egyptian children also count sheep to fall asleep, or confirming that the Portuguese translation of “shop ‘til you drop” isn’t offensive, it’s important that we do our due diligence to make sure a concept, visual, or line of copy works in a country other than our own. Just like how Chef Tojo recognized we might not be quite ready for raw fish and visible seaweed.

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