Localization Best Practices: Empathize to Optimize Your Global Strategy
When you think of your brand identity, you cannot not think about consistency – something you do to make an impression and a connection with your audience, to claim the white space in the industry and to make yourself recognizable in an ocean of competitors.
And when you have different markets to cater to, content localization is yet another way to scale video content while staying consistent… with a twist. Whether you have – or are part of – a local, regional or centralized team, producing ad-hoc content for specific markets is essential to ensure that your message resonates with your target audience in each location.
According to a study by CSA Research, companies that invest in localization typically see an average return on investment of 25% or more. How awesome is that?
A practical example
Take Uber, the ride-hailing service everyone knows about. Since 2009, it has expanded its operations to over 10,000 (!) cities worldwide, highly investing in ‘hyperlocal’ localization.
But, to stay on a country level, let’s say you’re in India. In that case, you have an app choice to make. You can either use the regular Uber app to hire a car driver or you can use Uber Auto for hailing auto rickshaws, something that reflects the local customs as an indispensable part of the Indian urban commuting landscape.
And, as for visual content… did you know that Uber, despite it no longer being accessible in China, initially changed its car icons in the country and made them red as the color represents luck. A simple yet effective tweak – from black and gray to bright red – that relies on the power of colors for brands with culture at its core.
The complexities of content and marketing localization
And yet, “nobody said it was easy”, Chris Martin told us, probably thinking about localization. There are so many different factors you need to consider: language differences and cultural nuances, local laws and regulations as well as customer preferences when it comes to engaging with and receiving information from brands.
But, what goes wrong if localization is not done right? Leaving localization to chance is a risk you can’t take. We’re not saying we’re clairvoyants but we might know a thing or two.
Worst-case scenarios if you don’t localize
Your engagement is meh
If you take the same video content you had in France and replicate it in a neighboring country like Belgium without taking into account that Dutch could be preferred, you risk alienating your customers. Belgians speak French as one of their main languages. Failing to do your research could make your content seem unfit for those who don't speak the language or dialect literally and tonally. This could lead to misunderstanding from your target audience. And what you don’t want to lose, on top of your reputation, is their attention.
Those revenue opportunities? They missed you like crazy
If your conversion rates are at historic lows, this may translate into just a bunch of customers, if you’re lucky. After all, why would they trust you if you didn’t make the effort to understand their needs, habits and preferences in the first place?
Each region has its own currency, pricing and payment options. Having a one-size-fits-all approach will make you unawarely miss out on revenue streams. You may want to know that, in another survey by CSA Research, 76% of online shoppers said they prefer to buy products with information in their native language while 40% said they’ll never buy from websites in other languages.
Your brand reputation is at risk
The Internet can be unforgiving these days – and rightly so. Any cultural faux pas or offensive language can be damaging for your reputation and, as a consequence, turn your customers from loyal ambassadors into resentful haters.
The competition out there is fierce
If your competitors have built brand loyalty in different regions while you haven't, well, it's time to get inspired and reassess your transcreation strategy.
The missing ingredient? Optimized empathy
For something as techy as localization, words like ‘empathy’, ‘emotional intelligence’ and ‘sensitivity’ are not your usual go-to terms. And yet, they should be.
An even better term for this would be ‘optimized empathy’ because yes, you can be productive and empathetic at the same time. While we don’t expect you to know every single culture difference by heart (that's where your local marketing team comes in), we’re sure you know that, to cultivate empathy, it’s essential to start with research and understanding.
From East to West, Localization is Best
Producing a global campaign that can be localized is a sure way to maximize your marketing budget, as it’s a more time- and cost-efficient approach than creating several localized campaigns. It also allows for better brand control, as there’s less risk of unwanted local inconsistencies in terms of messaging and design. Plus, when a campaign proves successful in one market, you can easily scale it into other markets – something that gives you the chance to harness your successes while achieving faster turnaround times. Shall we make it happen?
Actionable tips for your next localizable campaign
Leverage data to identify which markets are most important for your business to focus on
Collaborate with local experts to nail down cultural nuances and audience’s behaviors
A/B test whatever you’re doing, gather feedback and reiterate
For localization at scale, make sure you pay attention to:
You want to make sure the photos and videos you choose make sense in the context of that market.
- Acknowledge that some countries have more people who look a certain way or certain practices that are taboo or still uncommon
- Think of location-specific factors like landscape, weather, flora, fauna, houses, transportation methods and driving on a certain side of the road
- Pro tip: produce images that work for culturally similar countries (that’s how you increase reusability!)
- But don’t be too generic, or else you’ll end up resonating with no one
Word length and other alphabets
Keep in mind the typical word length for different languages, especially for languages like German, known for having extremely long words such as Kraftfahrzeug-Haftpflichtversicherung. Yep, that’s a thing. While you can decrease text size for certain languages, there’s a limit. And when it comes to native English puns, please remember: some jokes don’t work in other languages. Also, have support for non-Latin characters (e.g. Chinese, Korean, Japanese, Cyrillic).
On top of having non-Latin characters, languages like Hebrew and Arabic read from right to left. This also applies to user interfaces, so make sure to flip any relevant elements like websites or app phone screens in your ad or video content.
Depending on the target market, you may need to follow certain rules when creating your content, such as requirements for labeling and disclaimers or additional regulations. An example? In some countries, you're required to have superimposed text in television advertising. Familiarize yourself with the advertising code of your target country (better safe than sorry).
Put this into practice
Let us know how it goes. Ideally, you localize up to the point of personalization. Although, we get it, it’s not always practical – real-world constraints such as workflow, budget or infrastructure might interfere. But having a fast time-to-market localization strategy in place is what makes you gain a competitive edge and establish your brand as the main leader in your industry. Outrunning competitors, anyone?
Using technology in conjunction with human expertise is the key to ensure that your content is properly localized and meets the quality standards you aim for, so make sure you have the right technology for this. For instance, if your marketing teams work with local translators make their lives easier by providing them with a possibility, perhaps an optimized data sheet, to update the content in one go. Most importantly, keep it simple and avoid using a gazillion different tools and softwares for tasks you or they need to take care of.
Having a tool that has a video/image templating system makes it way easier to create localized videos and images. All you need to do is simply adapt your copy, photos, clips or voice-overs. By using Cube’s creative automation video templates, your local and regional teams can adapt the content themselves whenever they need. Something that reassures global teams that brand guidelines and high-quality standards are being met.
And if you’re still in doubt, don’t trust us. Trust them:
See how Booking.com localizes campaigns for other countries and touchpoints while optimizing the creative for the best performance
“Before Cube, we had a really complex localization process. This meant that we were working with a lot of different partners and people to make sure that we could localize one asset into a specific market.” – Carine van der Heijden (Head of Brand Marketing)
Connect with customers worldwide through localized content and maximize your impact.
Localization is crucial for global businesses that want to have success and maximize impact in foreign markets.
Neglecting cultural sensitivity and empathy can hinder your success: they’re the foundations of creating content for different regions and languages.
Investing in localization tools and templates can streamline the process and increase efficiency, leading to reduced costs and a healthier ROI.
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