For most global brands, English is the language of choice when it comes to creating content, crafting mission statements, putting out social media posts, etc. However, a great nemesis awaits those who only write brand content in English: customer alienation. After all, as a Customer Sense Advisory survey found out, 56.2% of consumers think the ability to obtain information in their own language is more important than the price.
This brings us to the topic of the day: brand localization. Now, localization isn't just about putting out content in a language that suits your local audience—it goes much, much further, as we'll get to in this blog.
Brand localization — A quick overview
Brand localization, or localized marketing, is the process of adapting your company's offerings, messaging, and content to new global markets and countries. At its core, localized brand materials are meant to give off the same look and feel as your brand - only adapted to a specific regional audience. Having a well-thought-out brand localization strategy ensures every aspect of your company's branding is in the good graces of every local market.
Important branding considerations for marketing localization
Your branding is an impact-based representation of everything your company stands for and believes in. It's crucial to consider all brand elements during the creation of your localization marketing strategy. So how do you make sure your cool, sparkling brand image has the same effect in the additional countries where you have a presence?
Here are four aspects of your branding that you might have to adapt when you enter new global markets:
1. Brand voice
Brand voice is the way you connect with your customers. It's how you communicate your brand's personality. It's the way you share your company's values and motivations. As you enter new global markets, you'll likely need to adapt your brand's tone of voice, because audiences from different cultures have different expectations of how brands should communicate with them.
A confident brand voice may seem arrogant in an environment where people are more reserved. Similarly, an individualistic brand tone may come off as selfish in a collectivist culture. However, this doesn't necessarily mean that you need to change the brand's personality. It simply means refining and readjusting the tone of voice so that your brand is perceived as intended.
Closely related to brand voice, is brand culture. A culture-aware brand localization strategy is one that expresses personality without rubbing the target audience the wrong way. That means adapting your outward messaging by focussing on what the relevant culture values.
Motorbike brands are a good example of how brands adapt their approach to different cultures. In collectivist countries, motorbike brands talk about responsibility and how their brand and its products support society and family. When they venture into more individualistic cultures, the narrative changes altogether. Here, they communicate values such as freedom and adventure.
"If you talk to a man in a language he understands, that goes to his head. If you talk to him in his language, that goes to his heart." (Nelson Mandela)
There's no bigger reason for creating a localization strategy than that. Your brand might be going global, but as the saying goes, "all business is local."
In order to attract more people and convert more leads into sales, you need to speak to them in their native language. After all, studies show that 70% of the world's web users don't speak English. Aside from a general language, you also need to think about dialects (for instance, with Arabic), and vocabulary (think fries vs. crisps). Translating and transcreating in other languages opens the door for creativity, so don't be afraid to join forces with native speakers and find out new ways you can connect to your local audience.
4. Brand name and taglines
Though it's always possible to keep the company name in the original language for stronger brand recognition, like Nike, you can also choose to change your company's name to adapt to different markets, like Mr. Clean.
When deciding on a company name, it's important to consider how your brand name can be received in different markets. These questions should get you going on the journey to finding the perfect brand name:
- Does the meaning of your brand name remain the same?
- Can your brand name be pronounced by your target audience?
- Are there any similar-sounding words spoken by the target audience? Do they have good or bad connotations?
- Are there any existing local brands with a similar name?
Brand localization examples: 3 brands that nailed their local marketing
"Think global, act local." These three brands took this slogan seriously and went on to create show-stopping, industry-shaking localization strategies. Here's their story:
Coca-Cola as a brand has become incredibly recognizable. It packs the "American Dream" in its bottle, which is a symbol of creativity, vitality, passion, and optimism. But even with this American background, Coca-Cola runs a very impressive localization strategy.
Take Coca-Cola's iconic "Share a Coke" campaign. The campaign was first launched in Australia in 2011 and involved printing 150 popular names on Coca-Cola product labels and other promotional material. The motive behind it all? To encourage the idea of sharing a Coke with someone. As you'd expect, the campaign was a huge success, particularly because the idea of "mateship" is very central to the Australian culture.
In retrospect, the same campaign wouldn't do so well in China, and Coca-Cola knew this from the start. That's because first names are culturally very significant to the Chinese, and they wouldn't be okay with them appearing on the front of a Coke bottle. Coca-Cola had no option but to adapt its campaign to fit the Chinese market. Instead of printing actual names on bottles, the bottles in China sported titles like "close friend" or "classmate."
By making these adjustments, Coca-Cola reached a far wider global audience and subsequently earned more profits.
Another global brand with a successful localization strategy is Netflix. For every movie or series that Netflix produces, they keep one eye firmly fixed on consumers' tastes and preferences. Since people prefer to watch a movie in a language they understand, Netflix provides subtitles based on the needs of their target demographics. Even the homepage and movie recommendations vary depending on a user's language preferences and location.
For example, in a keynote address at Content London in 2019, Erik Birdman, vice president of International Originals at Netflix reiterated the brand's commitment to put out content that's authentically local:
"In terms of programming strategy, where we are coming from has to feel true and authentic to the country it originates from. If we do a show in India, it has to feel loved in that market first for it to have any strategic value for us. Sacred Games [the Hindi-language thriller that debuted on the platform in July 2019] feels sincere and real and there's something different our customers are experiencing."
Few brands can boast global acclaim like Starbucks. The brand operates in more than 80 countries and is, for many, the leading roaster and retailer of specialty coffee in the world. Starbucks makes it a point to carry out extensive research on the history, culture, and locals' taste preferences before it decides to partner with coffee companies and participating stores available locally. Its localization strategy is solid. They refine the coffee formulas and packaging to make the most sense for the local market.
They also build their locations in a way that reflects local culture and habits. In Japan, most local buildings have indirect references to Shintoism, which is the country's state religion. Starbucks hired local designers to create the right atmosphere in their locations. For instance, the Starbucks store in Fukuoka used 2,000 wood blocks that interlock to give a forest-like feel to the place and honor nature, in reference to Shintoism. By doing so, Starbucks was able to easily enter the local Japanese market.
3 Tips for crafting an outstanding brand localization strategy
Now that you have read a bit about top-performing brand localization strategies worldwide and have hopefully gotten some inspiration in the process, it's time to put together your own localization strategy. These three tips will help you put your best foot forward:
1. Leverage local marketing channels and influencers
Aside from big-name, international channels, people also value their local newspaper, radio stations, or town newsletters. These channels might seem a little less sexy, but people grativate towards content that is geared towards them. Adapting your marketing to fit the local newspaper is just another way of localizing your content. And it's a good one.
Engaging and collaborating with local influencers is another valuable tactic to connect with your target audience. Micro-influencers tend to have a more engaged audience than mega-influencers with the differences in engagements rates being 6% versus 1.98% respectively. Customers are also more likely to buy a product if a trusted influencer has promoted it. All in all, partnerships with local influencers can lead to lasting bonds with your local audience, so don't underestimate your local heroes!
2. Consider your multilingual SEO
A more behind-the-scenes tip, but important nonetheless; don't forget about multilingual SEO when sorting out your content localization. There's no point in translating all this content and imagery if your brand isn't going to be found in your new target market. Localizing your SEO also improves accessibility through translated meta-tags and tags.
These five key steps should help you optimize your website content for multiple languages:
- Use dedicated URLs that include a language indicator;
- Apply hreflang tags;
- Stick to one language per page;
- Translate your metadata as well;
- Make your language menu easy to find on your pages.
3. Keep your (country-specific) brand guide up-to-date
Lastly, future-proof your localization strategy using an online style guide. Style guides are incredibly important to brand documentation, so if you don't already have one, you are at a clear disadvantage. An online style guide gives you the advantage of making quick changes where needed, without everyone in the organization having to download another PDF or print another paper version. Much more sustainable as well.
A good style guide includes information about your tone of voice, writing style, visual style, approved logos, colors, layouts, etc. But adding in chapters with information specific to the different countries or regions your operate in, is a very handy reference to have on hand.
Localized style guides can include info on the four elements we mentioned above, specific translations in text and logo's, different creatives, etc. The risk of rogue marketing is greatly diminished by having a guideline not just for your overall brand image, but also for when it comes to your local marketing.
Your global brand can't wait — Let Marvia help you with local marketing
Building a global brand means more than just reaching a wider audience. It means engaging customers with content in the language and context they relate to. But building the right localization strategy is far from a cakewalk. That's where Marvia comes in.
It would be helpful to think of us as a localization company. After all, we're the #1 platform for all things local marketing. But above all else, we truly care about helping you make the most of your localization marketing. From the brand templates to the digital asset management workflows to the campaign distribution. We offer tools for localizing brands, distributing campaigns, and managing digital assets so that you can distribute them locally with ease.
Want to know more? Find out how our tools help your brand with local marketing or request a demo to check out our platform in action.