14 Localization Best Practices for Marketing Global Brands

Last Updated April 27, 2021

Localization can drastically expand the reach of your products and services. Learn how to overcome the challenges your company will face in global brand marketing with these best practices and helpful tips.

When developing your company’s brand, you think a lot about where you are now. But what works where you are now may not work where you go later.

A brand is what makes your company unique. It’s present in every aspect of your business, from the initial impact of a company logo to customers’ interaction with your website and their ongoing engagement via social media.

Your brand provides customers with the reassurance that inspires loyalty and boosts retention rates.

Reaping the rewards of a comprehensive and consistent brand requires ongoing planning and proactive maintenance.

But as your company grows into new markets, your brand will travel across international borders. Creating a brand that holds up in multiple languages and cultures is big challenge.

In this article, we’ll look at some of these challenges and offer best practices and additional tips on how to overcome them.

Global Brand Marketing Challenges and Problems

A McKinsey study into global marketing showed “brands that have moved swiftly to master digital channels—gaining a deep understanding of customer preferences, crafting digital experiences, and improving offerings via social feedback—are establishing a competitive advantage that may be difficult to beat.”

To not only survive but thrive internationally, a brand must be able to fit in seamlessly with a variety of very different environments around the world.

Let us begin with two historical examples of real challenges to global brand marketing to get you thinking.

A Killer Mistake

The American Motors Company’s release of the Matador was a unique blunder. To most of the world, the word ‘matador’ may signify bravery or strength— great features to have in a car.

But once they sent the car out to Puerto Rico, the word took on a whole other meaning. In Spanish, matador translates into “the killer” as a noun or “killing” as an adjective.

That’s not going to be a popular name for a vehicle.

Pepsi Raises the Dead?

Another marketing misstep occurred when Pepsi decided to push its “Come Alive! You’re in the Pepsi Generation” campaign abroad.

That may sound like an innocent statement, but it had an unfortunate ‘lost in translation’ moment when the team that took it from English to Chinese made the mistake of changing it to “Pepsi Brings Your Ancestors Back to Life.”

These examples demonstrate how creating a localized marketing campaign is not just about translation. Instead of just typing your slogan into Google Translate, you need to have someone who understands the meaning.

Are there steps that could have been taken to avoid these mishaps? Absolutely.

14 Tips for Global Brand Marketing

Global brand marketing is a big step to take for any company, and the integrity of your brand and product should be handled well every step of the way.

With these tips in your back pocket, you and your team will be ready to tackle the challenge of taking your product from ‘here’ to everywhere!

1. Internationalize Your Names & Slogans

The name of your brand is important and it’s something that you need to be satisfied with for the rest of your company’s lifetime. It also needs to be something that can stay consistent across culture and language barriers.

Will you keep it as is? Translate it into other alphabets? Translate it directly or phonetically? This is where localization comes in. You need a version of you brand and slogan that both makes sense and works in the countries you are heading to.

Ensure it brings out the same feelings and values, not just the same sound. A localization expert is not just a translator, so they will ensure that your slogan will be well received no matter where it goes.

2. Don’t Forget About Spacing

Let’s say you do the impossible and create the best slogan in the world. It translates well into every language and is super catchy. Your design goes up and it’s perfect. You’re just about ready for release.

But you forgot one thing.

You need to test the design in those different languages, and you realize that there’s not enough blank space for every language. While some languages, like Chinese, tend to run shorter in translations, others run longer, like German.

This can cause trailing off, shrinking of text, and a lot of other headaches. We recommend you ensure there is enough space on your designs for every lingual translation you plan on using.

3. Create a Style Guide and Glossary

Give your localization team background information on your brand in a style guide.

Style guides are crucial in maintaining any brand identity within an organization, and a necessity for global brand consistency. A style guide should explain basic things like fonts, logos and colors.

We recommend adding an in-depth analysis of your values, mission and raison d’être so your brand is perceived the same across all domains.

Giving your localization team access to the thought behind a slogan can inspire similar ideas in other languages.

4. Set a Positive Tone

The more you define what you want your brand to be, the easier it will be for your marketing team and localization engineers to carry the tone and style over.

If you lay out the tone you are looking for upfront, your team can help choose the best and most appropriate way of phrasing.

For example, in English we only have one word for “you,” it could be used for 1 person or 10. In French, there is a word for singular “you” (tu) and a word for plural “you” (vous) used for different cases.

Figuring out the significance in the plurality or formality of the statement in English is needed to introduce it into different languages.

5. Pick the Most Effective Images

Images are important and have a way of eliciting an emotional response from the viewer. When you are selling a product, you want to be certain that your audience perceives your message the way you meant it.

To do that, you need the right image for that cultural context, because the right image for one culture might not fit as well in another.

For example, the dove is a symbol of hope and peace for most of the western world. But in Japan, that idea is much better represented by a paper crane. It is important to utilize culturally specific symbols and images when possible.

6. Be Aware of Policies and Procedures

Make sure you follow all the laws and customs when creating a localized campaign. Every culture has a different comfort level with how one should look and behave in public.

Get a good grasp on what would be appropriate for your target market before you create something.

7. Keep Your Potential Customers in Mind

It’s not just about the images or making sure the language is correct.

You need to make sure it all goes together to create the best advertisement, not just mimic your English version as closely as possible.

Localization specialists will be able to help you create an ad that will appeal to the local market in ways you simply could not do on your own.

8. Outline Your Review Process

By now you have learned that creating this campaign is a multi-step, multi-faceted endeavor which lends itself to plenty of human error. If the budget permits, hire an editor to check that everything meets the standards you expect for your brand.

When hiring localization specialist for this task, ensure they have experience in marketing localization so they are able to not just translate your ad for new languages, but also for new markets.

9. Update Your Tracking History

Making a mistake once is understandable and often forgiven by your market. Making a mistake twice is less so and may earn your business a bad reputation in markets where you’re seeking growth.

Our free localization testing checklist will help you run a translation quality assurance process smoothly, from start to finish.

10. Budget Wisely

How many languages are you translating to? How many cultures are you localizing to? Make sure you ask the right questions and know which actions you’re taking so you set up the appropriate budget.

You don’t want to spend too much, but at the same time you don’t want a product that’s only halfway there in terms of localization. Planning appropriately will ensure a strong outcome for both your localization and your spend.

This is where an experienced partner can play a vital role. The Internet has brought international markets within easy reach of even the smallest business, but without expertise in localization, the path from domestic to global trading is almost impossible to navigate.

As a bonus, the following four points represent the process of rendering your brand relevant in every part of the world.

The aim is to localize to the point of personalization, where individuals receive timely, on-brand communications that make them feel part of the brand’s community.

Here is what you need to do to get started.

11. Localize Your Language

According to a study by CSA Research involving 3,000 global consumers in 10 non-English-speaking countries across Europe, Asia, and South America, 75% of online shoppers prefer to buy products in their native language and 60% rarely or never buy from English-only websites.

Translation is clearly critical when building a global brand. Localization, however, goes far beyond simple translation to consider cultural nuances and social norms.

As any user of Google Translate will testify, word-for-word translation can result in errors, especially when idioms and colloquial expressions are involved. Even a brand name can cause problems, as we saw in the earlier Pepsi example.

12. Localize Your SEO

With more than 50% of all Google searches being performed in languages other than English, and with Internet use in non-English speaking parts of the world accelerating at a blistering pace, a multilingual approach to SEO is essential for any global business’s online strategy.

When non-English speakers search for products and services in their native language, search engines prioritize websites with content in the same language.

So, translation is a must—but not just the visible content. The site’s hidden metadata (such as alt image tags, source descriptions, and URLs) must also be optimized for the native language.

Google and most other search engines now rank web pages according to quality and relevance rather than simply the quantity of keywords incorporated. The only way to ride high in the rankings, therefore, is to incorporate highly targeted keywords into well-crafted writing that resonates with each target market in their own language.

Furthermore, everything from the destination of backlinks to the latest local trends need to be analyzed, adapted, and woven into the content.

Your website will now be seen by your target audience in each international market. The journey continues once they reach the site.

13. Localize the User Experience

Anyone traveling outside their own country will encounter differences and difficulties beyond simple unfamiliarity with the language. Likewise, your company’s website or app will feel different and difficult to a consumer if it does not offer them a natural, native experience.

In contrast to simply translating your company’s online presence, localize the experience so that it feels personal, relevant, and authentic to customers in every market involves taking such action as:

These usability factors recognize the fact that what is easy and expected by customers in one market will not necessarily be the same for customers in another market.

14. Localize Your Social Media

Social media is a key element of most modern businesses’ brand. The content posted via your company’s social media channels, as well as by relevant influencers, can spread awareness of a brand’s personality and build relationships with potential customers.

Localizing social media content involves shaping every aspect to the local market. The people posting should be relevant to the recipients (not living a very different life on another part of the planet).

Text, images, videos, external links… all must relate to local consumers. For example, using local people, local appearance (like clothing), and local environments—while always respecting the cultural norms of the region.

If you have the resources, creating social media accounts for each country or language will reap the best rewards.

Alternatively, features integrated into popular social media apps, such as Facebook’s Global Pages and Instagram’s Geotags, let you connect with your international audiences.

Let us help!

By managing all aspects of localization, Summa Lingue Technologies can make global markets truly accessible. That frees you to focus on making the most of an amazing opportunity to grow their brand.

In today’s bustling, global business environment, strong branding is more important than ever.

For an effective strategy to overcome your global branding challenges, contact us today.

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