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Scaling the Language Barrier: Why Global Localization is Here to Stay

72.1 percent of consumers browse the internet primarily in their native language. And 72.4 percent report feeling more likely to purchase from a company with product information and marketing materials translated into their mother tongue.

The same study also found that nearly 60 percent of consumers would spend more money just to buy a product in their native language. As these stats show, global localization matters.

Read on to learn more about localization strategy and how you can use it to gain customers all over the world.

What is Global Localization?

To compete on the multinational level, you’ve got to “translate” your content and products for each target locale. This starts with communicating in the right language and continues with:

  • Addressing local regulations
  • Addressing local legal requirements
  • Converting your content and product materials to local requirements (e.g. units of measurement, currencies)
  • Adapting your product design and layout to fit your translated text
  • Custom-tailoring content to suit the consumption habits and preferences of your target markets
  • Adapting graphics to fit your target markets

Today’s global consumer expects products custom-tailored to their needs, language, and culture. The same goes for the marketing materials that promote these products.

Your Ultimate Goal

The ultimate goal of localization is to create products, packaging, and marketing materials that appear to have been crafted for that target market alone.

But what do you need to do to achieve this level of personalization? It requires lots of extra work. After all, so much of it hinges on adapting to cultures and languages different from our own.

But the alternative, standardization, has cost major brand names millions of dollars. Don’t let it cost your company future customers.

Don’t believe me? Let’s check out how standardization can fail. That way, you can avoid similar issues down the road.

When Standardization Fails

Standardization refers to the practice of using the same template, product, and/or service model for multiple markets. It saves time and money. And it leads to a single, unified brand worldwide (such as Nike).

But standardization can also lead to serious marketing issues. In fact, Pepsi, Chevrolet, Colgate, Gerber, and Electrolux have all found out firsthand.

They’ve all had to clean up PR nightmares after standardized marketing led to serious misunderstandings.

The truth is, some things just don’t translate well. Imagine what the marketing crew at Mexico’s Bimbo Bakeries goes through everyday. How would you turn Americans into consumers of Bimbo Bread?

Of course, one of the most infamous fails remains the transliteration of “Coca-Cola” into Chinese in the 1920s. It resulted in an assemblage of characters that roughly meant: “bite the wax tadpole.” Yummy.

The Localization Difference

Fortunately, localization lets you avoid linguistic and cultural missteps. How? By emphasizing local concerns during every step of the marketing process.

Of course, localization comes with its own set of problems. For example, it can prove difficult to maintain brand identity while localizing brand names into other languages.

Besides linguistic considerations, culture can have a massive impact on your marketing efforts, too. Take numbers, for example. In the United States “13” and “666” have negative associations.

But some edgy brands such as “Lucky 13” have actually capitalized on this to appeal to their risk-taking, taboo-shattering demographic. That said, a church hymnal publishing company would do well to avoid these numbers.

Similarly, in Japan, the word for the number four sounds like the word for “death.” As a result, the number is seen as inauspicious. When a US golf ball company started selling four-packs there, the balls proved about as popular as death itself.

A Geographer and a Spy

So, how do you avoid putting your foot in it on the international level? By wearing your cultural geographer’s hat. Learn about your target market’s culture, language(s), demographics, religious beliefs, countercultures, and more.

This means knowing which brands dominate their market and understanding your competition. In fact, a little competitive spying will tell you much about what is and isn’t working in your target location.

It may also provide you with insights on new directions to pursue in a given locale. Or, provide pain-free lessons on what not to do based on other company’s marketing mistakes.

Getting Crafty with Localization

Companies should also use local consumer preferences to localize their:

  • Product sizes
  • Product prices
  • Retailing infrastructure
  • Logistics
  • Distribution
  • Merchandising

To appeal to local markets, some multinational companies have changed everything from packaging to product sizes to price points.

For example, in Southeast Asia, Colgate sells small packets or “sachets” of tooth powder and toothpaste in rural areas. Why? To appeal to price-sensitive local populations with less disposable income.

When it comes to logistics and distribution, thinking outside-of-the-box has its advantages, too. In India, companies like Nestle and Coke rely on non-traditional distribution channels to transport their products to remote villages and small towns.

What do we mean by “non-traditional” distribution channels? Everything from rickshaws to small boats to bicycles.

Localization Matters

When it’s all said and done, localization circles back around to the number one rule of marketing: “Know your customer.” Only then can you connect with them and build trust through your marketing materials.

You need to know what your customers are thinking. You need to understand their motivations. You need to know which problem(s) they hope your product(s) solve.

You need to understand what keeps them up at night…

If you’re a marketer, I’m not telling you anything new. But let me add this caveat.

You also need to use their native language. You need to understand their culture. And you must have familiarity with the unique circumstances associated with their geographic location.

You need to understand your customers on a local level and communicate with them accordingly.

Let Us Help

Localization strategies can prove complex to implement because they involve multiple layers of information. They require linguistic and cultural specialists. With millions of dollars at stake, don’t leave anything to chance.

Our team of certified translators have worked across multiple industries from Manufacturing to Travel & Hospitality and can provide you with the tools you need to develop and execute a successful global localization strategy.

Contact us now for more information on how we can help you expand globally.