Why even the biggest brands can’t afford a localization faux pas

Why even the biggest brands can’t afford a localization faux pas

A cut and paste approach to global marketing simply doesn’t work. Just because a product or service is a hit in one region doesn’t mean it’ll enjoy similar success in other locations.

Take China, for example.

China may be the world’s second largest economy but it has always struggled to expand into foreign territories. Chinese companies commonly fail to effectively localize their brands and offerings to cater to the preferences and cultural structures of consumers in different markets.

To put China’s struggles to make an international mark in context, a 2014 survey by Millward Brown found that only 22% of consumers outside of China could actually recognize a Chinese brand. Similarly, the 2015 Interbrand Best Global Brands list only featured one Chinese name – telecom equipment and smartphone maker,  Huawei, which ranked 94th.

The power of perception

One of the biggest problems lies with perceptions. Many consumers have negative associations with items labeled “Made in China”, perceiving them to be poorly made or cheap imitations of better quality products. But the reality is that much of the global manufacturing industry is located in China and many of the brands we use everyday  – such as Samsung and Apple – actually outsource a lot of their manufacturing to Chinese firms.  

Failing to properly test the waters

It isn’t just Chinese brands that have failed to localize their offerings effectively; Western brands often struggle to meet the needs of Chinese consumers too. Take Google, for example, a massively successful company across the globe that has failed to find success on Chinese shores. It may be tough to believe that the search engine giant would falter anywhere but Chinese consumers typically favor domestic companies, such as Baidu and Alibaba.  

The problem with playing pretend

While localization is important, it would be foolish for a brand to pretend that they’re from one location, when they’re actually from somewhere else. Many Chinese brands who set out with global expansion in mind, masquerade as foreign companies to seem more credible and upscale. La Chapelle, Marisfrolg and Metersbonwe are all Chinese fashion brands that have chosen rather ambiguous names because they wanted to sound more Western.

Understanding your customer

Companies entering new markets need to consider two things – a location’s unique legal, regulatory and governmental environment and the different consumer preferences of the people living in that region. Many Chinese companies neglect to do adequate market research before entering foreign markets and have suffered both tangible and intangible losses. One of the essentials to globalization and product localization success is having locals on the ground who have extensive knowledge of the market and of customer preferences. Often, Chinese firms adopt a centralized approach with all decisions being made by senior management somewhere in China. Removing the freedom and autonomy from local staff hinders them from leveraging their knowledge of the region to make smarter decisions.

The reality is that even the best product or service from the most successful company could fail when making an international move. This makes it ever more important to partner with the right translation and localization services provider to ensure that you have a proper understanding of customer needs and market expectations. Want to better ensure that your messages are always appropriate for your target audience? Download our Marketing Messaging Guide to find out more.

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[SlideShare] Product Localization vs Product Globalization

[SlideShare] Product Localization vs Product Globalization

The allure of entering a brand new market has seen Ikea set up shop in Shanghai, Zara open its doors in South Africa and McDonald’s sell burgers on every single continent bar Antarctica. These brands owe their successful global expansion not to product globalization, but to product localization. But before you set your sights on greener pastures, you’ll need to decide how to tailor your business and your product offering to meet the unique needs and preferences of new markets. Click through to find out some of the best ways to adapt your product to a new market.

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Conquering the complexity of localization

Conquering the complexity of localization

Having the mindset that potential buyers or clients will “probably speak English” drives inadequate localization. But research shows that people are less likely to buy products that don’t appeal to them or use services that they don’t understand. In fact, the same research reveals that 56% of consumers believe that the ability to obtain product information in their own language is more important than price.

Understanding your customers and adapting your content and products to meet their needs is the essence of localization. Many businesses fail to localize their marketing content, website and product brochures because of the time, effort and money involved. But this needn’t be the case. Partnering with a translation and language service provider (LSP) takes the complexity out of localization.

Here’s how the right LSP can make the process an absolute breeze:


Product planning

When launching a new service or product, planning how to appeal to an international customer base and how to best handle the multicultural aspects of your product should be done right from the start. During the product design phase, developers should be aware of any cultural allusions and regional colloquialisms that could be tricky to localize. Everyone involved in the conceptualization, marketing and design of the product must be informed that what they are producing will be sold to a diverse audience. Making necessary changes at this stage is far easier than attempting to resolve internationalization issues after the product has been debuted.  It’s also important to ensure that your LSP has the tools you need to get the job done. At Rubric, we offer a holistic localization strategy – from conceptualization to launch. And our translation automation tools can be customized to meet your unique needs.


Designated project manager

An in-house person who is tasked with overseeing the entire localization process is essential. The reality is that localization is a rather complex undertaking. It shouldn’t be assigned to a staff member as an additional responsibility – it’s a full time commitment; especially in cases when you have a complex product or service and you need content translated into several languages. When we worked with Amway, our project managers ensured that there was effective communication between all stakeholders and that content was localized by the stipulated deadline for each market.


Monitoring changes

Often, there are various iterations of web copy or a product brochure, meaning that the content has to be changed several times. To make things easier, content updates should be scheduled in advance so that the localization process happens smoothly and all changes are executed properly. Timing is everything, so clearly brief your LSP about when the product is being launched. Again, this is where an effective project manager is key. When we partnered with AccuWeather, we knew we had to provide them with around the clock and localization services. Being made aware of these tight deadlines from the start of the project made it easier for us to meet their needs.

Understanding the complexity of localization helps you make the process quick and easy. It’s important to partner up with an LSP who will ensure that you introduce international customers to your offerings in the best way possible. Take a look at this Amway Case Study, to see how we helped them take the complexity out of their international expansion.

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Localization – how long will it take?

Localization – how long will it take?

When briefing in any project, the first question should always be: how long will it take? And when that project has a localization component, understanding the project timeframe is even more important.

The key is to plan early. As soon as you’re aware that translation is required, your starting point should be sitting down with a localization service provider (LSP) so that they can help you plan effectively. Good project management from your LSP can help you scope your project thoroughly, assess risks, provide a clear schedule so tasks are done in the right order and help you move tasks off the critical path. This helps reduce stress and time to market.

Having a gauge of the number of words you need translated is essential. A good rule of thumb for translation is 2 000 words per day, on average, once translation is in progress. For small volumes there’s a ramp up time for the LSP, so the earlier you start to plan with the LSP, the smoother the project will run. And if you’re looking to send English content and your target market content together, then you need to plan extra carefully. One also needs to factor in the time needed to create glossaries and style guides.

When planning any translation project, you should ask yourself a few simple questions:

  • When do I need to have the content ready?
  • Is there a need for a pre-final content stage?
  • When is the source content final and ready for translation?
  • Have I clearly identified the content for translation?  
  • In what format will I provide the content to be translated and are all source files available?
  • What languages do I need this content in and which countries are being targeted?
  • What other tasks need to be done for this to be ready for market?
  • Will we have reviewers look at the content?

When it comes to localization different things take longer than others, of course.

With video localization, translating the script is often the smallest part of the project because scripts are generally quite short. It’s the other tasks that can prove complicated. Your LSP needs a clear idea of the project schedule to ensure that voice samples can be recorded and provided on the correct dates. If your LSP is creating videos, they need the source videos and should know the software that these were created in; they’ll also need information around output formats, video quality and screen resolution to ensure you get the correct deliverables back.

Here are a few questions you should be asking:

  • Do I have the source video?
  • Do I want a voice-over for this video?  If so, what sort of voice?
  • Do I need subtitles?
  • What should the subtitles look like?
  • Are subtitles already used in English?
  • Is there on-screen text which requires localization or will this remain in English?
  • Who is going to create the videos for the target markets?

With website localization, it’s important to involve your web team early to plan effectively.

Often the translation of web content is the simplest part of the process, but planning how that content will be exported/imported can take a lot longer. Discuss with your web team and your LSP how best to export content for translation. For smaller projects, you can copy and paste from Word or Excel. However, this probably won’t work for larger scale projects.

A few website localization questions to consider:

  • Which pages need to be localized?
  • Is there localized content already on your website?
  • How will you set up the local pages?
  • Will people access these pages via the main site or will there be country-specific URLs?
  • How will you map the local content within your CMS?
  • Are there graphics which require localization?
  • How am I going to keep localized content in sync with US content going forward?
  • Will content be regularly updated?
  • Who will be responsible for getting the content back into the CMS?

Looking for an LSP to make your content translation easier? We offer all the localization services you need to make your project a success. Click below to find out more.

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Why Mad Men-esque marketing is dead

Why Mad Men-esque marketing is dead

Technology, and the rapid pace at which it’s evolving, has changed the way we live our lives. With more information available than ever before, served via a variety of devices and in a variety of forms, today’s consumers are savvier than ever before. Thanks to the avalanche of information we’re exposed to on a daily basis, attention spans are short, expectations are high and alternative options abound. Meeting the requirements of modern day consumers requires a new approach, one that serves them with content and information that’s valuable, relevant and engaging. Successful marketing today is a far cry from a mere decade ago. Here’s how the marketing game has done a 180:

Then: Everyone
Now: Somebody

Old-school marketing tactics were largely aimed at a nameless, faceless group of people who might or might not have been interested in the product or service in question. In what was essentially a numbers game, launching a campaign in the hope that it would resonate with enough people who would eventually become customers entailed big budgets and generic messaging.

Today, the marketing campaigns that successfully capture the hearts, minds and wallets of consumers are those that are strategically tailored to their unique needs, interests and lifestyles. One-size-fits-all marketing is out; bespoke, personalized marketing is in.

Then: Push
Now: Pull

In the past, brands relied on marketing methods that ‘pushed’ their messages in front of audiences. While this approach may have worked a couple of years ago, consumers no longer take anything at face value. Today, this ‘take it or leave it’ attitude is ineffective, as it essentially ignores the consumer’s autonomy, which is more damaging to brand sentiment than anything else. Today, the most effective approach is one that ‘pulls’ consumers toward your brand, via content that’s of interest and of value. If you can serve someone by giving them the information they need, in a format that’s enjoyable or easy to consume, on their platform of preference, you’re far more likely to be thought of as a brand that understands what someone is really about, and as a result, win their patronage.

Then: Shouting at
Now: Conversing with

Brands used to rely on a marketing approach that was akin to shouting “Look at me!”, and then waiting for consumers to take notice. Some did, but many didn’t. Following a mantra of ‘More is more’, brands clamored to plaster their logos anywhere and everywhere. Today’s consumers have a serious case of marketing fatigue, which means that if you want to get their attention, and hopefully, their business, you need to start a conversation with them. This entails listening to what they have to say (whether in person, via social media or via analytics), and then reaching out on their terms, in a way that recognizes their autonomy, intelligence and individual needs.

Then: Brands dictated buying behavior
Now: Consumers hold the reins

Thanks to the vast amount of choice today’s consumers have, they’re no longer beholden to a brand. As customer value begins to outweigh price as a determining factor, brands can no longer take their market share for granted. Today, consumers can pick and choose which brands they want to support, and if they find a service or product lacking, they’ll move on to another who is able to meet them on their terms.

If you want to succeed in a buyer’s market, you need to make sure your marketing strategy is tailored to your market’s unique needs, requirements and cultural context. When launching your brand in a foreign market, it’s advisable to seek the guidance of an expert localization services provider to help you do just that.

Download our guide, ‘The Psychology of Marketing Messaging’ to learn more about winning over your target market, below.

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