Localization Insights
Localization Insights

Unlocking Global Success: Decoding Localization in Marketing

If you want your business to compete on the world stage, you need to be thinking about localized marketing campaigns. In a digital age, international expansion is no longer the preserve of enterprise-level organizations. With localization marketing, even modest operations have a real shot at penetrating global markets

However, companies large and small tend to underestimate just how challenging it can be to break into new territories. This is usually down to a failure to research cultural differences and delivering half-baked marketing campaigns that don’t land with new audiences. 

While each country offers lucrative revenue streams, every territory presents unique challenges to overcome. An effective marketing localization strategy can help address each of these, allowing for faster market penetration. 

However, it’s an increasingly competitive field. According to one survey, 84% of marketers are increasing their spend on translation and localization services. While there’s never been a better time to explore foreign markets, your localization strategy needs to be on point. 

What is localized marketing?

In simple terms, a localized marketing strategy involves adapting marketing content for a product, service, or entire brand for a new audience. This can require a significant amount of repositioning, with many different elements tailored to appeal to the specific needs of a local market. 

One of the key aspects of an effective localized marketing plan is the translation of marketing collateral from one language into another. However, even the design and layout of marketing content need to be fine-tuned to meet the demands of new target markets. Colors, image assets, and more need to be considered when it comes to localized marketing strategies. 

What’s more, brands need to rethink the social platforms that they’re using. Just because the likes of Facebook and TikTok have served you well in North America, doesn’t mean that those same networks are the right choice for reaching potential customers in Asian territories. 

Key components of localization

An effective localization marketing strategy relies on several elements. Target markets need to be researched for cultural differences first. Only then can marketing translation and content customization get underway.  

1. Cultural adaptation

This is the most important and time-consuming aspect of marketing localization, whether it is the localization of your website, or something different. If you’re expanding into untapped markets, there’s a good chance the target audience won’t share the same cultural norms as the one you’re catering to now. 

If you want to engage local audiences with your marketing efforts and establish brand authority, your marketing collateral and messaging need to be finely tuned to synchronize with cultural nuances. 

When going global, you can’t apply a one-size-fits-all approach. Everything from the opening lines of email newsletters to the influencers you work with online needs to be carefully considered. While this takes work, the rewards speak for themselves. A brand that has invested time into localizing and adapting its content marketing for a local audience can enjoy increased conversions, improved retention rates, and generate lucrative word-of-mouth recommendations. 

2. Language translation

Once the research phase has been completed, you can start focusing on actively translating your content from one language to another. In some cases, you may be able to rely on translation to reposition text for new audiences. However, it’s rarely as straightforward as producing word-for-word translations. 

Planning on expanding into multiple territories where Spanish is the official language? Don’t assume your messaging is going to land the same way in every locale. When localizing your marketing strategies, your focus needs to be regional, rather than on languages. If you fail to do this, the translated text is going to lack the nuances and cultural relevance required to strike the right note with your target markets. 

In many cases, the original text simply won’t work in a new language. As such, you’ll need to think creatively when adapting marketing assets for a new territory. Naturally, you’ll want to preserve the heart of the message during translation management, but you need to give linguists some flexibility to make the final text as culturally relevant as possible. 

3. Customization of content

All aspects of marketing content need to be adapted to meet the needs of a multi-market audience. As well as adhering to cultural preferences and translating text from one language into another, you need to consider things like seasonality. Are you launching an ecommerce brand on the other side of the world? Don’t assume you’ll be able to kickstart your spring collections at the same time in North America as Australia. 

While customizing content tends to be easier if you’ve invested in a multilingual marketing strategy from the off, adapting your assets at a later point is still feasible. 

Looking to implement localized marketing strategies to unlock new revenue streams? At BLEND, we can help you position yourself as a market leader. With thousands of linguists working in more than 120 languages, we’re the localization experts you can trust to get the job done. 

Benefits of localization in marketing

Unless your brand is already a global player, you’ll encounter some barriers when moving into new markets. Even enterprise-level organizations need to consider market adaptation. 

Marketing localization reduces the number of hurdles you’ll need to overcome, allowing you to gain a foothold in new countries more quickly. It can also help brands secure authority and build rapport with target audiences. Consumers are far more likely to engage with brands that speak their language. 

However, providing marketing material in their native tongue also helps you connect on a personal level, attracting more first-time customers and turning occasional buyers into lifelong supporters. 

Adapting marketing campaigns also saves you the embarrassment of your marketing messages falling flat and getting lost in translation. IKEA, Coors Beers, and Mercedes have all fallen foul of second-rate translations

The localization process

Marketing localization isn’t a simple process, but it’s by no means unattainable. Wondering how it all works? Below, we break down all the steps you’ll need to take to pull things off to perfection. 

Researching target markets

If you want to strike the right note with a localized marketing campaign, you need to research your target market. While you can handle this in-house, it’s often best to bring in the services of a third party. 

You’ll need a clear oversight of audience demographics and languages spoken, including any colloquialisms and regional dialects. However, audience research needs to be deeper than this. Cultural norms and region-specific values need to be ascertained. You’ll struggle to get accurate findings if you employ researchers coming from the outside. Native speakers are the only way you’ll gain accurate insights. 

What’s more, avoid treating entire countries as a single unit. Unless you’re angling for a share of a very tiny market, you’ll need to break territories down into audience segments and retool your marketing campaigns accordingly. 

Adapting content and visuals

Adapting your marketing content for new audiences takes time. Translating text accurately is the most crucial aspect. A simple word-for-word translation won’t do. Instead, you’ll need native speakers with a firm grasp of language nuances and colloquialisms. Sometimes, original messages will need to be tinkered with considerably. 

All those visuals and on-page design elements will also need a rethink. Consider your website graphics and decide whether they’re suitable for the local audience. If your marketing content contains specific information, such as units of measurement, these too will need to be adapted in accordance with local standards. 

Tailoring messaging and tone

It’s tempting to stick with the same slogan that’s served your brand well for years. However, don’t assume the usual lines are going to work well everywhere in the world. 

When fast-food giant KFC expanded into China, they launched with the time-honored slogan, “Finger-Lickin’ Good.” Unfortunately, the direct translation led to KFC’s marketing to instruct diners to literally eat their own fingers. 

Humor can be even more of a challenge. If your brand relies heavily on light-hearted messaging, you’ll need experienced linguists to handle localization. Sometimes, it’s not even worth retooling a joke from one language to another. Have your marketing campaigns historically used idioms? Translating these into new languages often leads to facepalm moments. 

Considering legal and regulatory requirements

Navigating legal regulation is a key part of the localization process. Staying compliant is vital when expanding and a failure to do so can land you in serious trouble. In 2012, Singapore airline Tiger Airways was fined more than $100,000 for failing to adhere to Australia’s Spam Act

Thinking about expanding into the Middle East? While territories like the United Arab Emirates have the potential to be lucrative, you’ll need to keep a watchful eye on the content of your marketing campaigns. Advertising principles in Muslim countries can be incredibly conservative. While your audience research should have flagged any major no-gos, it’s always worth taking stock before launching a campaign. 

Implementing localization strategies

Research is one thing, but you eventually need to start putting your localization strategies into practice. 

Website and online presence

There’s no point thinking about a global marketing strategy if you haven’t invested in website localization. While your marketing messages might catch the attention of a potential customer, it’s your website that makes a lasting impression. 

Your website needs to be optimized for a global audience, providing local variations for each territory you’re operating in. Many major brands like American Express and Coca-Cola offer website support in dozens of world languages. A multilingual website isn’t just a luxury anymore, it’s an essential asset that you need to maintain a competitive advantage. According to one study, 40% of people won’t buy from a website if it isn’t available in their native language. 

However, you need to think beyond text translation. The entire user interface needs to be adapted for non-native speakers. This involves adjusting things like currencies, number conventions, date formats, and more. Dynamic layouts are handy here, allowing you to accommodate for the varying space requirements of different languages. 

Visual elements like colors, icons, and graphics may also call for a rethink. Ultimately, your aim here is to deliver a first-rate customer experience that’s on-brand and in adherence with local norms and cultural requirements. 

Social media and advertising

When adapting social media for new markets, you need to think locally. It’s one of the most important tools you have available when tapping into new territories. 

Thankfully, reworking your social media channels for new markets isn’t particularly difficult. You can use the same localization processes that you have elsewhere. However, you do need to consider which platforms are most relevant. 

In the United States, Facebook is the social media platform of choice. In China, it’s WeChat. In Japan, it’s LINE, with more than 94 million active users. Once you’ve determined which channel is most relevant, you can start focusing your efforts in the right place. 

Targeted advertising is something else to think about. For brands, targeted ads are a cost-effective way of getting marketing messages in front of the right people. Most consumers prefer them, with the personalized approach resulting in higher conversions and more repeat purchases. 

Product packaging and labeling

Adapting product packaging might seem like an unnecessary expense. However, unless you’re an established brand with global reach, it’s something you can’t avoid. When executed well, product packaging can be a powerful marketing tool, especially if you’re looking to make an impact in stores. When localizing packaging, there are a few things to consider. 

First, consider overall aesthetics. Packaging is a tangible design element that can convey a lot about your brand. If the materials you’re using carry unwanted connotations in a target territory, you might need to consider an alternative. 

Color is also important. Are you marketing planet-friendly products to eco-conscious consumers? Chances are, you’ve been relying on green packaging up until now. While this color evokes similar reactions across many cultures, it carries negative connotations in South America. In some countries here, it’s often associated with death. In Islamic countries, the color green also holds religious significance. 

Products also need to be labeled correctly. Regulations vary depending on the country, but if you’re selling perishables or cosmetics, labels need to include things like manufacturing methods, manufacturing date and location, size or amount, and composition. 

Customer support and communication

A localized marketing campaign is all well and good, but if you want to position yourself as a market leader, you need to offer exemplary customer service as standard. 

Surprisingly, only 19% of brands offer this level of support to their customers. While an omnichannel support center catering to customers from multiple countries might be out of reach now, you can still deliver first-rate customer service. 

Live chat functionality is one of the cheapest and simplest integrations you can make to your online presence. You can employ human agents to maintain these or investigate the potential of AI-powered chatbots instead. The benefits of live chat are obvious. You provide 24/7 support to customers, and, if you’re using automated tools, you can field questions in many different languages. 

Multilingual chatbots can dramatically reduce resolution times. In some cases, a chatbot can point a customer to the right solution in moments. However, most of the time a human agent will need to step in and pick up the case. In either scenario, less strain is placed on your human teams. 

Localized product documentation also deserves some attention. Accurate translations are essential here. Image-heavy user manuals can be effective in many different countries, but these are mainly only useful for things like self-assembling instructions. If you’re selling electrical goods and want to remain compliant and ensure safe operation, you’ll need to go deeper. Adapting specialized terminology and acronyms takes time, but it’s an unavoidable part of localizing documentation for a new market. 

The future of localization in marketing

More marketers and brands than ever before are investing in localization and translation services. Despite being relatively cost-effective, content localization can deliver significant returns. The rise of AI-powered content creation and machine translation is driving this trend, overcoming the limitations of manual localization processes. 

While MT output can help businesses scale and reach new markets faster, it’s not perfect. What’s more, it’s not particularly reliable when it comes to crafting compelling marketing campaigns that strike the right chord with non-native speakers. 

If you’re looking to scale across new markets and need help with localization, it’s time to speak to BLEND. We work with thousands of professional linguists producing content in more than 120+ languages. Our teams can help you localize your marketing content to take your digital campaigns to the next level. When you work with our certified specialists, you don’t need to worry about overcoming the language barrier and adapting your messaging for cultural nuances. 

Eager to learn more about how BLEND can help you? Get in touch today.

author post

Rotem Leibovitz-Maman

As BLEND’s VP of Growth Marketing, Rotem offers global marketing expertise from her years of experience in driving innovation and growth at international startups and hi-tech companies.


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