9 Ways to Localise Your Marketing


Even if you have a strong marketing strategy, coming up with stand-out advertising can still be a difficult task. And it can be even more challenging when you’re looking to grow your business and engage new consumers by taking your brand into different territories. In this instance, it’s fundamental that any marketing strategy works just as well in a new county as in the current one – which is where marketing localisation comes in. At SWC Partnership we’ve helped many clients build businesses globally through localisation across the years. 

Here’s an overview of areas we look at for our partners when they’re looking to localise their marketing: 

  • The cultural differences that may span the different countries and how a foreign target audience may react
  • How potential new customers’ purchasing habits may differ
  • How the company / brand image might be perceived differently when not in the home country
  • How communications across all channels may be interpreted from a design, copy and tonal point of view
  • How the new market differs from the original, and how the current marketing and communications strategy may need to be reworked for best results.

However, before we explain some of the lessons we’ve learnt over the years, what exactly is marketing localisation?

Well, when you’re looking to expand your business and embark on local marketing in another country, simply translating your adverts from one language to another usually won’t work.

Marketing localisation is therefore making your marketing local to the region it’s in, and ensuring your messages are engaging and appealing to the foreign market’s cultural and social norms. It is usually part of an overall localisation strategy, which is focused on converting your current communication strategy and marketing content across language, imagery, tonality, and creativity. 

Marketing localisation usually runs deeper than this. You need to think about not only the words and images but also the expression, tonality, inference, and emotions – everything that may be seen in a different way by a different audience. And, when you reconsider your current advertising for your new target market, you need to look at not just the language, but also how it may or may not be culturally relevant, so that you capture the attention of your new audience in the same way you would those consumers at home. It’s all about transcreation, not translation. 

Getting started

A great starting point is to take a step back and look at the country you’re currently marketing to and compare this to the country you’re looking to target.

It’s key to do your market research. Look at local competitors and what they’re currently selling to your new international customers. Understanding what marketing has been successful in your home country and how that can – or can’t – translate into your new target market can be key to success.

Putting it into practice

Perhaps in your current territory, you’ve already created the perfect plan of placing the right marketing content on exactly the right channels at the right time. Your messaging and design are engaging and resonate with your audience. All in a way that increases your brand awareness AND pulls in the sales.

You may think then, that when you’ve cracked it in one place, you can simply take that plan and roll it out across other territories. Watching your new markets also engage with your products and those new customers increase sales.

Unfortunately, marketing localisation doesn’t quite work like that…

Global audiences from an international market need a different marketing approach due to cultural differences. Your marketing localisation, therefore, needs to be planned clearly and concisely, taking into account the nuances you’ve identified (in your market research) across not only your business sector but also within your customer base.

Making your marketing plan work locally

However, there is help at hand in the form of local marketing teams. In fact, using their knowledge to help with localisation can be invaluable. Local teams not only understand the culture of the new country and are language natives, they also can help you build an understanding of the target market in that territory. As such, they can help with not only marketing in general but more specific tasks such as website and search engine localisation. 

Their ‘on the ground’ advice on how to effectively speak to your new audience can help you reach your marketing goals faster and easier, helping you have the best footing from the start. 

Easy mistakes to make…

Some brands can be quick to jump in with ready-made marketing campaigns. Simply taking their current adverts and translating the copy or believing that all images work across all countries is a quick, easy and seemingly cheap way of launching. But this doesn’t take into consideration the nuances and cultural differences in the audience, and if you get your local marketing wrong, it can be a costly mistake for the business.

Let’s look at an example. You’re a brand in the USA and are looking to break into Europe; Germany to be specific.

On the surface, German and US cultures aren’t a million miles apart – both progressive in business, straight-talking, forward-thinking and open to evolving. However, from a business perspective, they often have a very different approach.

But what might those differences be? And how does your current marketing campaign need to change to appeal to your new international audiences?

Here are some lessons we’ve already learnt on how to localise your marketing successfully, distilled into easy steps.

Step 1: Regional creative changes

BMW is an incredibly well-known global brand. They’re also really good at making their marketing relevant to the local region they’re advertising in. Let’s look at the creative examples below which show how the same BMW product has been targeted at two different audiences in different countries. 

German BMW Advert
USA BMW Advert

Despite the fact that both adverts are for the same car, you’ll notice several specific changes which have been made to appeal to the different target audiences. 

In the German creative, the car colour is dark, it’s shot up close, showcasing details and the angle is ‘on the move’. The colour plate uses muted tones, with monochrome grey, white and black being the dominant themes. 

In contrast, the American advert is light and bright, with the colour of the car matching the blue sky. Surrounded by clean snowy spaces, the vehicle is looking onto a winding road – the epitome of the American open road.

The headline messaging has also been changed, with the German wording promoting creative directly highlighting the precise amount of snowfall, whereas the USA advert gets a more emotive stance.

Analysing the differences between BMW adverts from the USA and Germany shows that in Germany they tend to lead with informative information, focussing on the car’s quality, its added value and its technology. In the USA, the adverts are more emotive, promoting the more masculine and individualistic elements of the car. 

Audience understanding and territory research have allowed BMW to create very different adverts for one product which will resonate with the different markets – a great example of marketing localisation.

More marketing localisation examples…

SWC Partnership also works with aPriori, a USA-based digital manufacturing insights platform. When they contacted us to say they wanted to launch in Germany, we worked alongside our German arm to ensure that transcreation and marketing localisation into the German market was exactly what was needed for the new market.

The KPIs from the client were to steal market share from the competition and increase sales within the region. As always, we conducted a deep dive into the region, researching the new target market and competitive set. We also considered all current elements of aPriori’s marketing, from creative to digital assets to make sure that we got it right from the ground up. 

American version for aPriori

We explained to aPriori that if they entered the German market as a brand that understands the cultural and social nuances of the country, who created specific, customised advertising and marketing campaigns they would get a much better response. They may also be seen as a foreign company, but one that cares about and understands its new customers – imperative for entry into a new territory. 

German version for aPriori

Step 2: Practical Product Category check

With aPriori, we also checked that the key product categories that they wanted to promote ‘translated’ into the same in German. Was the way in which they were spoken about easy to understand? Did they translate well to the new market? Did we need to supplement information by directing potential customers to other resources that would help them understand the categories and products more easily? 

So even before we started on localising creative and marketing messages, we took a step back to ensure what we were talking about was right and relevant to the German market. 

Step 3: Digital and Print localisation

Through market research and conversations with our local teams, we gathered insights which told us that Germans reacted better to more informative and formal adverts. 

Longer text was good as long as what was written was useful and relevant, and a strong focus on product features would engage the audience further too. 

So, we took the original US creative and checked it against what we’d learnt, looking to see if the messaging was direct and to the point, or too emotional and ‘American’? If we needed to revise headlines or body copy, keeping the tone but changing the inference? And was there enough ‘proof of concept’ for our new pragmatic audience to want to buy? 

We wanted to ensure that the images and palette were right too. So we asked ourselves – were the people featured ‘right’? Did they look ‘real’ and representative of these new international audiences? Did the design and colour of the creative work for the German market? 

And when we were satisfied we had explored enough and found the right answers, we made sure that all of the changes were applied to all of the different assets and media channels. 

Step 4: Website Localisation

Despite many Germans being multilingual, we also found studies that showed that they still strongly prefer to read (and buy) in their native language.

As such, alongside advert creative being transcreated, we also recognised that a German version of aPriori’s current website needed to be more than landing pages, and that a partial localisation of the current US site would garner much better results. Our local German team transcreated copy and we pulled through the messaging from the adverts into the web, creating a seamless customer journey. 

We also created a bespoke USA / German style guide to ensure brand cohesion from country to country, allowing for any of aPriori’s marketing and sales team to work across both territories easily and effectively. 

Step 5: SEO Localisation

Paid search and organic SEO were also key elements for aPriori’s launch into the German market. However, what worked in the US wasn’t necessarily going to be the same in Germany, and in the world of SEO, language matters.  For example, look at the difference between a simple search such as “Marketing” in Germany and the USA:

The Keyword “Marketing” in Germany
The Keyword “Marketing” in the USA

Our German SEO plan was therefore executed differently, and we also considered the way that German text is written and formatted. Umlauts and compound nouns are everyday occurrences in German, but they can confuse search engines and skew their results, so we ensured this was taken into consideration across all SEO strategies.

Step 6: Social Media

Social media can offer multiple touchpoints to any digital marketing strategy. As a new entrant into the market, aPriori had limited brand authority, and wanted to use this channel to not only encourage brand awareness, but also build consumer confidence. 

As such, it was imperative that we didn’t just take US content and post it in German. Content needed to be relevant for the German audience and it also needed to help us achieve aPriori’s German marketing goals. 

With this in mind, our local team suggested different social media channels in Germany that aPriori should be using, and we trialled Xing and LinkedIn – a good example of how taking local advice can reap rewards.

Step 7: Checking Local Regulations

It’s also worth understanding and remembering that new territories sometimes come with new rules. For example, we knew the regulation of German advertising and what is allowed differs from the USA, so our local team were invaluable when we were checking copy from a compliance standpoint. 

Data laws are also different in this market. Added to this, we also knew that German customers are more anxious about how their personal information is used and stored than those in the USA, so we took this into consideration when planning marketing campaigns to ensure we kept the new market as happy as possible. 

This may be a more unusual element to check, but covering as many areas as you can makes your local marketing efforts work just that little bit better – and also keep you within the local rules. 

Step 8: A Business Difference?

Is all business conducted equally? Well, that depends what country you’re in. Germans are formal, direct and straight-talking compared to the more easy-going, relaxed approach those from the USA take. They’re also discussion-based and incredibly honest. For example, telling your boss openly that they’re wrong is acceptable in Germany – but perhaps not so much in the USA.

Following on from this direct approach, Germans care very much about business planning – they work with a structure whereby all relevant facts are collated first and then discussed in order to define a solution. The Americans usually already have a defined course of action even before a meeting (normally the quickest solution to the problem) which is implemented immediately and can be changed organically if needed – a much more flexible route. 

Two very different approaches, but things that are key to ensuring you’re speaking to your audience in the right way. For example, knowing that Germans are detail-oriented in business can help to tweak your marketing campaigns to appeal to this trait.

This is again where having local experts who understand the local culture and target language can really pay dividends and can ensure your sales and marketing efforts reap rewards.

Step 9: Thinking About Your Customers

It’s all about the buyer…

When entering foreign markets, it’s also key to put yourself into your customer’s shoes and see things from their point of view.

As we have covered, all your localised marketing materials need to speak to your new audience in the right tone and with the right design, helping you to cut through the competitors and get those all-important new consumers to pay attention to you, your products and services. 

Understanding key similarities and differences between your current market and new territory will allow you to determine if you can simply take existing creative and re-use it in a new territory or if you need to re-work, re-write and re-design to get the best results. 

Consumer Behaviour Across Boundaries

Continuing our example of the USA and Germany again, like their business counterparts, German consumers are far more straight-talking than those in the USA. They’re looking for information that’s quick, short and straight to the point. So, get your key points over and make your product descriptions exact.

Don’t believe us when we say Germans are direct? We’ll let them speak for themselves… 

So how does that compare to US consumers? Well, they prefer to have a conversation, possibly with the occasional sugar-coating to entice them to buy. However, when it comes to selling, Americans are very wary of cold calling, so you’ll need to pull out all of the stops to keep their interest and stop them from hanging up. 

Germans, on the other hand, aren’t as used to cold callers so you may find a more open and positive reception from them. It’s just all about knowing your target market…

Purchasing-wise, in both countries, consumers are happy to buy online. However, Germans are not keen on foreign shipping, so note where your company address is. Bank transfers also are still relatively normal in Germany so make sure that’s an option alongside credit cards for quick and easy payments.

And everyone loves to know that they’re buying quality, so any product or service reviews you can link to will also do well for both regions.

Finally, when you’ve closed the deal, make sure you deliver to your German market on time, and exactly as you said you would – lateness is frowned upon and will not make for happy customers. Also, make sure that your customer service and after-sales help are top quality in both countries – Germans especially can become loyal repeat customers if you get the follow-up right. 

Localised Marketing and Globalisation

Even just concentrating on two counties, Germany and the USA, it’s clear to see that marketing localisation is as much an art as it is a science. There are many, many social and cultural nuances across different territories to take into consideration in order to make your marketing really resonate with the new audience. 

As such, having local marketing teams who can help you plan and execute your campaigns within your desired territory really is key to success.

About SWC Partnership

SWC Partnership are experts in helping clients expand into foreign markets. We appreciate that not everyone across the globe sees things in the same way, and that understanding how different cultures work can have a positive impact on marketing activities and business bottom lines. Our tried and tested method of creating localisation strategies has been successful for many companies. Get in touch if you’re keen to see how we can help you. 

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