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Localizing Your Global Brand: 3 Elements to Consider

Alpi Mantry
Alpi Mantry
Alpi Mantry is the VP of growth and relationships. at Translate by Humans

You won't find international success if you don't optimize for different cultures.

People buy products and services they understand. This means localization is one of the most important elements of a global marketing campaign for different audiences to trust your brand – attuning your icons, symbols, currency, text, visuals, and brand name according to the local culture and behavior of your target audience.

An international marketing strategy goes far beyond translating the marketing material and website into different languages. After all, you want a message that speaks to your target users, not an error-riddled version barely making sense. Failure to humanize your brand for different cultures, regions and geographies could become the limiting factor for your worldwide success.

Here are three reasons why you should localize your brand to gain more traction and attention of potential customers.

1. Capturing the target audience

According to a report by KPMG and Google, nearly 68 percent of internet users consider digital content in their local language more reliable than content in English. Hardly surprising, right?

Would you as a user buy from a French website you cannot understand? In a currency you don't use? "Everyone speaks English" is among the biggest misperceptions. In reality, only 25 percent of global internet users speak English.

With this is mind, consider elements as simple as how you express measurements and other data. For instance, some countries display weight in grams and kilos, while others display in pounds and ounces. Dates and times are also used in different formats in different countries. For example, while Apple's U.S. homepage says of a product, "Preorder 10.19," its India homepage says, "Available from 26 October."


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Another example of internationalization done right is vacation rentals portal Airbnb. In the U.S., the user can sign up with their email, Facebook or Google account. Airbnb's decision to allow the user to sign up via WeChat or Weibo grew the company's Chinese customer base by 700 percent in just one year.

The demands of the international market will vary in different countries for the same product. Research the needs of the target audience to tweak your global brand according to the local sentiments. Break the language barrier to gain the trust of your target audience.

2. Addressing cultural diversity

The meaning of the same words, images, signs, colors and gestures vary significantly in different cultures.

For example, "gift" in English means a present. The same word in German implies "poison." The thumbs-up sign means "well done" in Western cultures; in the Middle East, it is considered insulting. Yellow represents cheer, warmth, joy and happiness in Western cultures, while it indicates envy in Germany. White is associated with peace, purity and elegance in Western cultures; in China and Korea, it represents death and is worn at funerals. 

Look around for local interpretation of words, symbols, colors and the habits of your target audience while expanding your business to another country. Remember to think deeper than the overall language: Spanish may be spoken in 22 countries, but that doesn't mean the diction, vocabulary and connotations are the same in all regions. You can hire a local translator to identify such sensitive aspects and localize them according to dialect.

3. Localization vs. machine translation

Localization vs. machine translation is a heated issue that we try answering again and again.

Let's start with machine translation. The translated text is presented immediately. Google Translate and Skype Translator are available for free to anyone with an internet connection. These tools feed data from a storehouse of hundreds of languages. The bonus is that this technology is constantly updated. If a few years ago you typed the Italian phrase "faccio la doccia" into Google Translate, the translated English would be "I do the shower." Today, Google Translate produces "I take a shower."

The main disadvantage of machine translation is its inability to pick up idioms, tone, context, style and metaphors. The machine first breaks down the words and structure of the source text into sections, which are then reproduced in the target language. When the language is complex and cannot be simplified, the machine translation fails. For example, the French idiom "se taper le cul par terre" means to laugh hard. Enter this phrase into Google Translate and the English translated result is "get your a** screwed."

Let's talk about localization via humans. Humans can understand and capture context, which machines are so far incapable of doing. When translating, people take into consideration puns, metaphors, slang, humor and the cultural differences in the language to find the most suitable alternatives.

For an example of when the difference is crucial, clinical trials are increasingly globalized. The trials are being conducted in countries other than their country of origin. The target audience follows a different culture and speaks a different language. When a trial that originated in the U.S. is being conducted in China, the consequence of mistranslation by a machine or foreign translators potentially involves loss of lives, the reputation of the company and massive costs. A local translator understands the terminologies, the native language and cultural context to ensure the target audience is comfortable with how the information is conveyed.

As information is interpreted differently across cultures, localization goes way beyond word-to-word translation. It should make your brand's message resonate in the language of the target audience without altering the intent. The translators you hire need to be familiar with the culture and potential customers.

As a business owner, you may be bogged down with numerous other tasks, such as marketing, sales, striking partnerships and building a user base. Instead of getting mired in the complex localization details of every new country you penetrate, you can hire a localization agency to do that for you.

Image Credit: Vasin Lee/Shutterstock
Alpi Mantry
Alpi Mantry
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I'm the VP of growth and relationship at Translate By Humans. With 10-years of experience at Oracle, Deloitte and Infosys, I now helps Translate By Humans cater to global brands such as Vogue, Nike, HSBC Europe, Amazon and many more. I share my knowledge about localization on credible outlets such as Apptentive, Applift, Nimble, Business2Community and many others.