What Cockatoos and Localization Have in Common

by Annette Obermeier, Sr. Director Global Marketing


by Annette Obermeier, Sr. Director Global Marketing

I still remember the day as if it were yesterday.

After a swift 24-hour trip, an hour or two in immigration, and a short twenty minute cab ride into the city, I checked into my questionable hostel to drop my bags. I didn't know anything about the country beyond the basics, but I did know I wanted to change my life.

At 26, after 5+ years at IBM studying Business Information Systems and working in sales in Germany, I knew that life wasn’t for me. I wanted to experience something new and unexpected, and I wanted a change in my career. So I decided to do something radical. I quit my job and jumped on a plane.

I picked my new home strategically. I knew I wanted to improve my English, live in a big city, and use that move as a catalyst for change. With that in mind I had three options:

  1. London, UK - Too close to home and not enough of a culture shock
  2. New York, NY - The financial crisis didn’t do me any favors in 2008, so after trying to find a gig for a few months I dismissed that option
  3. Sydney, Australia - A bit far away from home but great weather.

We had a winner. Destination: Sydney, Australia.

So here I was in Sydney, jet-lagged, but exhilarated to live near the beach and start a new chapter in my life. I dropped my bags to make my way down to Bondi Beach. I had heard that was the place to be.

“G’day honey”, said the bus driver as I got on. I was well on my way to see the pacific and breathe in that fresh ocean air.

As I got off the bus with a few other passengers yelling “Thank you, driver!”, I set myself down on the grass overlooking the ocean. The air was crisp that April, being fall in the southern hemisphere, as I watched my new neighbors go about their day. Walking their dogs. Running along the beach. Hanging out with friends by the water. Surfing and dipping into the waves. What a lifestyle and what a perfect day. I congratulated myself on a good decision.

Just as I was about to rest my eyes to enjoy a snooze in the fall sun, I saw a cockatoo casually land a few steps away from me. He was pecking away at the grass knob or maybe he was looking for worms in the damp soil.

I sat up. All I could think was: What was I going to do?

Someone must have lost their pet bird and I needed to help. But how could I get this poor creature reunited with its rightful owner? I lost my budgie (parakeet for my U.S friends), Sisi, as a child and recalled it was tough day in my young life. So I thought if I could help this bird, I decided I would. And it seemed like a reasonably easy endeavor, since the bird would surely be used to being handled by humans.

I plotted to capture the poor lost bird in my oversized bag with a plan to go to the nearest vet and solicit his or her help to locate the owners. After about five minutes of deliberation I was ready to make my move. As I moved in on the “Bird in Bag” plan, a cockatoo landed next to my target. I was perplexed. What a coincidence! Then another landed, and another, until about a dozen cockatoos were leisurely pecking away at what the Bondi grass knob had to offer.

It suddenly became clear the cockatoo was not a pet. THEY LIVE HERE IN THE WILD. Wild.

Growing up in Germany, you can probably appreciate how I could only envision a cockatoo in a cage or a tropical rainforest. And whilst this embarrassing story of me settling into my new life may amuse you, it also illustrates how important it is to adapt your actions and your message to your audiences around the world.

Not only language, but culture and daily life differ from place to place. Our goal as marketers and brand ambassadors must be to adapt our carefully crafted messages just as thoughtfully outside our home market to stay relevant. It’s easy to assume and to not alter them to fit the circumstances but sooner or later, those birds will get you.

If you are a marketer wanting to reach new audiences outside of your home market, or you are hoping to improve the performance of your content abroad, join my webinar next week during the annual Smart Insights Digital Summit.

I’ll be sharing the latest trends around localization and arm you with practical advice to help you reach your audiences in any market. I will debunk some common misconceptions about localization and arm you with three best practices to help you refine your content strategy, on brand and within budget. And the best? You will be able to apply those straight away. It may sound impossible, but I will show you how.

Hope you can make it.

About Annette

Annette Obermeier is the head of marketing at Smartling, responsible for managing, directing and overseeing the company's global marketing initiatives and brand. With over 16 years in the technology market and extensive international experience working in various leadership roles across Europe, Asia and North America, Annette most recently headed up marketing and business development at Episerver for the North American market.