The toughest part of being in China, or any other country that uses a completely foreign language to native English speakers, is finding a way to communicate for products you are looking for. Some products are available and some aren’t, brands are often called something different for different markets, and knowing how to ask for something by name can be a very difficult challenge. One thing I wished for often in Beijing was some sort of a foldable brand picture book. My idea for this is essentially an international folding map series customized by country. For each country, the map would have a combination of common phrases, gestures and items pictured (so you can point to the pictures instead of trying to describe an item), as well as a grid of brand logos for brands that you can find in the country.

The last part is the real secret, because often when you are in a new place, you know what you want but you aren’t quite sure how to explain it to someone. And even the same brand could be marketed under a different name in different countries.  In this map, you would have logos for all sorts of products, from candy bars to laundry detergent. The point is to be able to ask for something quickly and to get familiar with the top local brands all at once. I would definitely NOT want to be the person negotiating with all these brand’s legal teams to get usage rights for all those logos, but if someone could tackle this monumental hurdle, this could really be a picture book series (or folding map) worth talking about. It might not help you find your way to the Temple of Heaven in Beijing, but at least you could find the Chinese equivalent of Band-aids when you need them.

About the Idea Bar: Working in a creative team, the life of our business is new ideas.  We come up with them every day for clients, but sometimes there are ideas that just don’t fit a client.  They are too big, too different, or just not quite right. Inspired by John at Digital Influence Mapping Project, the IdeaBar is a category of posts that are meant to be "open source" and offer new ideas for marketing.  Take them and use them … all I ask for is a link back to this post if you find these ideas useful and talk about them.  Read more IdeaBar posts on this blog.