As a copywriter, I always thought I was a Jaguh Kampung, loosely translated from Malay to mean ‘Village Champion’.
It is a term normally used in sports, referring to the inability of Malaysian sportsmen and women to compete in an international level, even though they are champions locally; hence Jaguh Kampung.
Well we are waiting for our first Olympic gold medal aren’t we? I wish they would just introduce squash in the next Olympics so we can really kick some ass.
Since I became a copywriter about 13 years ago, I have only written for the local markets. Maybe there is an exception of a couple of odd jobs here and there, but nothing too serious to dent my Village Champion reputation.
But copywriting is like that. You need to be in-tune with the local markets; constantly observing trends, gathering native knowledge and be able to communicate to the masses in a simple, localized manner.
Writing in a foreign market changes the rules for a village champion like me. Though the fundamentals remain the same, local insight is critical to help ensure a message is effectively delivered and understood.
Or so I thought.
When I was in South Korea recently on a job, I had absolutely no knowledge of the local markets. What motivates the Koreans? What compels them? What are their taboos? And how the hell was I going to translate my local Malaysian knowledge in a country where even English is hardly spoken?
Then I realized something. Even if I was tasked to communicate and appeal to Koreans, they are after all, humans. While I looked very different (bordering on exotic), I realized that Koreans are motivated, inspired, awed and surprised by the same things.
All it took was to keep things clear and simple; with a little bit of reward thrown in to compel action. Yes, translating everything into Korean also helped, but we translate pretty much everything into Chinese and Malay here as well.
So it doesn’t really matter where you’re from; all it takes is a little bit of human insight.