With so much competition out there, a good business should always be eager to adopt the best marketing practices and strategies to stay ahead of their competition. With that in mind, localization is one of the ways you can achieve that, particularly in the global stage. If you aren’t familiar with localization and what it can do for your global marketing strategies, you’ve come to the right place! 

Many people often think that translation is all they need to enter global markets. But the truth is, localization is an integral aspect in any successful global marketing strategy. It might seem counter intuitive, but the best way to go global is go local!

What is Localization Exactly? 

In the simplest of terms, localization is about adapting to a specific audience/market by taking note of their norms and preferences. Localization is often grouped with related concepts such as globalization and internationalization in the context of global businesses. Although they differ in more ways than one, they are simply different vehicles trying to reach a similar destination; global success. 

Regarding localization, it became an actual business practice during the early 1980s when computer manufacturers were looking to expand to foreign markets. Despite localization being relatively new, it’s now a proven concept used by all global industries not just in their marketing strategies but in nearly all levels of their operations. Judging from its definition alone, you might be thinking that localization is pretty straightforward right? But if it was, then why do professional localization services exist? 

That’s because you can never get all the information you need on Google alone. Heck, this article isn’t an all-you-need to know guide to localization either. But you can still look forward to reading the rest of the article as to why localization is more complicated than one might think and where you find actual localization specialists if you ever plan to go global. 

Requesting Localization Services From a Professional Translation Agency 

You might be wondering how can a professional translation agency can come into the picture of localization since judging from the name, they only provide translation service? As a matter of fact, a professional translation agency is sometimes listed as a localization agency since their list of services also includes professional localization services. 

A professional translation agency/localization agency has a global network of language professionals from translators, interpreters, to localization specialists. Like translators and interpreters specializing in select language pairs (ex. English to Spanish), localization specialists choose a specific market or two to specialize in such as the Chinese market, Japanese market etc. In the context of marketing, they can peer into the local's psyche and find the best angle to capture their attention relative to the message at hand. 

Factors in Localization that Businesses Need to Pay Attention To 

Here’s a detailed outline on what goes in localization and you’ll see why you need actual localization specialists on your team. 

A. Adjusting to the Market’s Native Language and Its Nuances 

We already talked about the importance of translation but we can go into deeper context here. A foreign audience has no use for anything not written in their native language which means you will certainly need professional translators on board. But like all services, people are naturally looking to get the best deal they can find. By best we mean cheap. 

However, you can easily find plenty of ‘horror’ stories online of translation and localization faux pas. One of the most common ones are Chinese translations—mistranslations to be exact. 

Translating to and from Chinese is notoriously difficult be it with English, Spanish, French, etc. Tragically, some people assume that they can get away with English to Chinese and Chinese to English translations with Google Translate alone. Not only will they get highly inaccurate translations, but gravely inappropriate ones as well. 

To make it more difficult, China is a highly multicultural country with a population that speaks hundreds of languages (classified as dialects by the Chinese government). A one-size-fits-all translation will definitely not work for a complex and linguistically diverse market such as China. If you’re marketing to a specific Chinese province or city, then ensure that your translations are thoroughly localized to its native speakers’ dialect.  

B. Local Tastes and Interests

A localization specialist must always stay updated with the prevailing  trends that’s capturing the locals’ attention. Trends come and go so it pays to keep a watchful eye on what’s happening time after time with your target audience. 

C. Cultural and Social References 

The difference between this and above is that cultural and social references are deep-rooted in the country’s society. This is where localization becomes particularly important and why it ought to be done by localization specialists. 

Depending on your marketing message, you ought to align it with what they value culturally and socially. But your localization specialist will also advise you on things that they consider taboo. You can’t ignore this since some countries have even legally banned the display of certain images and messages. 

D. Aesthetic Preferences  

A crucial factor in marketing is presentation. As the usual saying goes, first impressions matter. In this case, the choice of colors you use matter. Your target foreign audience is likely coming from culture and society that assign different meanings to different colors. 

For example, you might come from a culture that thinks of red as an auspicious color but your target audience views it in a negative light. Of course, this depends on your marketing message but it’s a factor that you can’t ignore. In the end, you want to use colors that are received positively by you and by your target audience.  

Upgrading your Business Marketing Materials Through Localization 

Localization can manifest in many shapes and forms. It’s up to you to decide what works for your business and your marketing goals. In this section, we’ll be focusing on popular but effective ways to integrate localization into your marketing strategies using the technologies and digital marketing platforms we have today. 

1. Developing Multilingual Websites and Providing Localized Content

Websites are probably one of the most valuable assets for any business to own and is a crucial indicator of professional brand authority.  In this context, you want your brand to be accessible to a multilingual foreign audience. To achieve this, you will need to translate your website to multiple languages with each having its own localized content. 

Consult with your translation agency to see if they also provide website translation services and website localization services. You will be needing both as attracting organic global traffic cannot be done without website translation. But retaining them is what website localization is for. 

2. Social Media Marketing Content 

Even if you have reservations about social media, you can’t deny that it’s extremely useful as a marketing tool. You can adopt a similar strategy on deploying multilingual websites by also deploying multilingual social media pages. 

Of course, you can’t forget about localization here either. Since social media users can easily customize their social media feed, you want to make sure that you’re providing relevant content to each of your target foreign audience. 

3. Translated Video Content 

Quality videos are the current trend in marketing be it on the local or global stage. It’s tough to see it dying down any time soon considering the limitless possibilities in video marketing and what it can do for your brand. That being said, not only should you craft quality videos, you should also translate your video’s closed captions and subtitles. This way, you can make your videos accessible to an even wider foreign audience. 

However, a professional translator has to be responsible for your translated subtitles and closed captions. Not only is YouTube’s automated translation feature unreliable, it also can’t accurately detect and translate informal speech and linguistic nuances such as slang, idioms, metaphors, humor, accents, etc. 

4. Product Packaging

If you offer physical products, you’re already aware as to how important packaging is to your product’s overall marketability. With this in mind, you should pay attention to your target audience's aesthetic preferences in order to localize your product’s packaging. Incorporate positive colors and relevant illustrations  that not only fit your brand’s image but most importantly, resonates positively with your target audience. 

Final Takeaway 

It’s worth noting that there will be times when the localization process might not align with your brand’s image and goals. However, depending on what’s at stake, you will have to compromise. This is true for both established and new businesses out there in the market. Businesses from emerging markets in particular have a lot of catching up to do. 

For example, this informative article outlines useful content localization strategies for Iranian businesses and how they ought to attract foreign audiences. It’s a cut throat environment out there so businesses need to stay up to date with the best business practices for them to have any chance of competing, let alone succeeding.

About author: Ofer Tirosh is the founder and CEO of Tomedes, a leading translation company that has been providing professional translation services and also localization services for more


Published by Charlesa Gibson