8 Ways to Make - or Break - Your Localisation Strategy


By Beth Bayliss, Account Manager at SWC Partnership

A localisation strategy is really important for brands who are looking to launch in new territories and markets in new locations.

But what exactly is it?! Well, it’s essentially tailoring your communications to ensure that you’re speaking to the local market in the way they’d expect. Small tweaks to language, behaviours and mindset can make a big difference when breaking into a new country and can help build trust, credibility and legitimacy that will translate to sales in the long term.

So, when considering a localisation strategy, you need to think about: 

  • Thinking globally but acting locally – Ensuring you consider cultural nuances and consumer trends whilst staying true to your core brand values and ethos
  • Speak the language – Making sure what you’re saying works in the local context
  • Not just translating – Get local language help to ensure that the messages you’re promoting are said in the right way. Think transcreate, rather than simply translate  
  • Using social – setting up social media accounts that are local to the country you’re in is fundamental to ensuring your brand feels like it belongs
  • It’s not just words – making sure you’ve considered all aspects of your creative and marketing to stop any embarrassing mistakes. 

Read on to find out how you can ensure you cross borders without a hitch. 

The definition of a localisation strategy

In case you’re still a little confused, a localisation strategy is essentially taking your content plan, and translating that content into brand or sales communications that your new audience will understand and resonate with. 

Given that you’re in a new market or country, you’ll need to consider how that particular foreign market might react to you and your business. For example, do you understand any cultural differences that potential customers may have? 

Understanding the fact that local markets and global audiences are very different – and then reacting positively to these differences by offering a personal, localised experience for customers – can make the difference between a successful launch and business longevity and failure, so it’s worth ensuring that you get this right from the outset. 

Wait – don’t just jump in!  

Prior to starting on a localisation plan, it’s also worth considering a go-to-market strategy for that region – essentially looking at how you plan to reach target customers and achieve a competitive advantage.

A go-to-market strategy is basically a blueprint which maps out how your product or service will be delivered to your end customer. This may be through utilising outside resources such as distributors and/or platforms such as Salesforce in order to deliver your unique value proposition to customers and ensure that you’re offering an enhanced customer experience. It pays to be one step ahead of the competition and ensuring repeat purchases from loyal customers. 

This thinking needs to work alongside your localisation strategy, so make sure you’re keeping plans on track and not losing focus on the end goal – everything needs to be pushing in the same direction. 

Ways to make or break your localisation strategy

So now you’re thinking more locally and have also considered a go-to-market plan, here are some suggestions that can help make sure your localisation strategy goes without a hitch.

Think global, act local

Thinking globally but acting locally is a great mantra to keep in mind when it comes to planning your strategy. Essentially, whilst you need to stay true to your core brand identity and ethos, you also need to appreciate and understand cultural nuances and customer behaviours in your new market.

Doing so allows customers to easily and quickly understand your product or service as you’re communicating with them ‘in their language’. As such, understanding your goals for the content you’re creating is also important, as working in a new territory may mean amendments to your overall marketing strategy which are particular to the new target market you’re looking to reach. 

On the back of any tweaks, it’s also therefore incredibly important for your brand to look and feel as if it’s been created specifically for your new customers and ‘home market’, irrespective of their native tongue, culture, or religion. 

The importance of content creation, translation and graphic design is one thing, but you must be aware that marketing messages need to feel ‘real’ and ‘truthful’ to the people who buy your products or services. 

After all, your customer experience needs to be the best it can be to maximise customer loyalty, grasp that all-important market share, and drive your business forward. 

Check and localise social media accounts

Social media channels can be one of the most-used inbound marketing routes to reach your target audience. However, just sticking with one ‘global brand’ social media account across social platforms usually won’t be enough. 

The clue is in the name. ‘Social’ media is just that – social. Therefore, if you’re keen to create dialogue and interact with the local market, you should look at launching country-specific channels to actively engage with the local community. Speak to them in their own language, whilst considering both copy and images that reflect their own culture.

A good example is German retailer Lidl when they launched in the British market. Their British Twitter account promoted their sponsorship of the popular Sunday Brunch cooking show, and their content marries this with foods that are distinctly British.

The weather is also a ‘very British’ subject. As such, the post around this provokes engagement and encourages debate. 

And they also tap into the emotions felt across the nation around bigger sporting events.

They’re also great at promoting their own customers, going so far as to use shoppers’ own social media in their offline marketing, resulting in this great, tongue-in-cheek example below. Is there anything more British than describing a bottle of Chianti as “Well nice”? 

And the lesson from all of this? Your social presence needs to follow the same rules as your overall localisation strategy, making sure that your marketing messages and resulting content appeal to and engage your new audience through sharing information in a way that’s relevant to their interests and needs.

Transcreate, not just translation

Simply deciding to use ‘straight translations’ of your marketing messages and content might feel like an easy option, but, in reality, it may not be the right one. It’s important to view your localisation strategy as so much more than that.

At SWC Partnership, as a transcreation marketing agency, we find that localisation strategies can be a highly advantageous option for companies who employ them, which is why, when our client decides to break into new territories, we take the following steps to help them. 

Firstly, we conduct simple market research around the market, then carry out a deep dive into the local customers and their purchasing habits. This allows us to gain an understanding of any cultural barriers that may hinder our client’s efforts in their new markets. 

It also helps us find ways to overcome any problems – the importance of the right tone of voice in communications cannot be overstated.

Additionally, we are then able to ensure that advertising and marketing messages are locally relevant – and this often allows us to include elements within creative and messaging that are key to engaging new target markets.

Why does transcreation matter?

As such, you can’t really consider a solid localisation strategy without considering translation and how you’re going to go about making your current copy relevant for your new market. There are several options around translating copy, each with their own pros and cons.

Firstly, you can run your original copy through a computer programme. Quick and usually fairly cheap, machine translation could seem like an easy option for a translation process.

However, even the best programmes can throw up incorrect sentence structures which can do more harm than good. Even if you only get a few grammatical errors or some incorrect formatting, we believe that when it comes to entering a new market, first impressions really do count, so we urge our clients to go for a higher-quality translation where possible.

Transcreation is a mixture of “translation” and “creation”, mostly because – due to the copy or creative being used in a different country and culture – the content isn’t translated word for word.

By using local experts or people who are well-versed in the language and culture of the country, translations can be adapted to become more of a transcreation, i.e. using language that feels familiar, with local preferences that resonate naturally with the audience. 

Having in-country feedback from an actual human being is therefore invaluable and worth every penny. So even if you run your copy through a computer first it’s worth getting it proofread by a native speaker. Any extra budget you need to use on this should be covered by those incremental sales you might just get from using the right phrasing.

Making the web work

Translating your website into other languages can feel like a huge task but is key if you’re looking to break into a foreign market. Having an online presence that allows your potential customers to read all about your company, products and services in their native language is incredibly important to a successful localisation strategy.

Your site will often be the first place that people go to find out more about your company, so ensuring that it’s talking to them in ‘their language’ is key to encouraging them to engage right from the off. 

How software localisation can help

To make this task more manageable, software localisation may be something to consider. ‘Normal’ translations are typically done when a document has been finalised. Software localisation can run in parallel with the development of your website to allow all language versions to launch together – perfect if you’re looking to develop dual, or even multi-language sites.

A word of warning – the process can be a lot of work for a development team as it’s fairly labour-intensive, but the translation and localisation of your website will help it to look and feel as if it’s been specifically designed and written for your new local community, so it’s often worth the extra time and effort. 

Also, if done correctly, it can cover everything from the font size and the design of your site right through to the nitty-gritty, such as the correct number and address formats for that region, to the right payment methods, time and date formats and even multiple currency options. 

Additionally, for any online copy, a quick local SEO review can make sure your target market can find you, your service or product, so it’s also worth investing in a multilingual SEO tool for your website and any digital copy created.

If you’re already developing great products for new people to buy, or offering an excellent service, why not make your website – one of your key sales tools – exceptional too? 

Don’t just concentrate on the words…

But it’s not just copy and design you need to consider in your new territory. 

For example, did you know that colours are viewed differently in different countries?

Take red. In Western cultures, it stands for excitement, passion and danger. Use red in China, and it means good fortune, happiness and luck. But decide to use red in South Africa, and it may not have the effect you were expecting.

Here, it’s linked to mourning, where it’s seen as bloodshed linked to the struggle for independence.

Similarly, green in Europe and North America is lucky – images of St. Patrick’s Day being celebrated by happy people in bright green hats are fairly common. It’s worth knowing though that if you use images like this in China, wearing a green hat is associated with cheating on your spouse. Additionally, in many Latin and South American cultures, green is the colour of death – so perhaps to be avoided if you’re making products for the living! 

So, as you can see, even just concentrating on one small element within your marketing can have big repercussions if you get it wrong, so getting a good understanding of local culture before you even begin with translated content is a really, really good idea.

Be aware of body language

Alongside your website looking just right, your copy working just as it should in local languages, and your colour palette looking beautiful rather than upsetting anyone, you might think you’re all set to launch your marketing campaign and wow your potential customers.

However, before you set all systems to go, there are a couple of additional considerations around a localisation strategy that you should also take into account.

Alongside words and colours, it’s also key to consider your advertising images – and specifically any people within your advertising – as their body language can also make or break a campaign.

Arms crossed is a powerful stance in Western cultures, but in some countries folding your arms across your chest can appear standoffish and even insulting. Not ideal if you’re looking to engage local consumers with your business and goods, so worth considering your hero image if you’re using your adverts across a global marketplace.

Similarly, locations matter. A white Christmas in the UK is totally different to a sunny Australian Christmas – and a mistake on a festive promotional campaign for example, could make your company stand out for all the wrong reasons.

Whilst cross-cultural marketing can be a little tricky, your agency can guide you through, ensuring that you have a strong understanding across ‘other’ markets, and helping you seamlessly integrate localisation into your marketing activity.

Taking some time to check the details and create thoughtful localisation across your marketing and communications will help to engage your local market more, along with making sure you integrate (or stand out) as a ‘local’ business. 

A Localisation example: aPriori Case Study

When our USA-based digital manufacturing insights platform client aPriori wanted to start doing business in Germany, we advised on creative, translations, imagery, media and much, much more.

However, we didn’t just take their US creative, change the words and hope for the best. We worked with them to understand how their business needed to grow and how best to do that in Germany. 

The upshot of our research was that they needed a super-personalised localisation strategy, driving their business forward into a healthy market with the best chance of success. Adverts were scrutinised and reworked as needed, with messaging, pictures and tone revised to appeal to the German market, ensuring that all marketing was on brand and on point for the new customers in the new territory. 

Advice plus experience

It’s clear then, that as a business, you need to work with an agency that is just right for you, your business and your localisation goals. This is absolutely key to making your localisation strategy a successful one. Ideally, your agency should work as an extension of your team, understanding your goals, the market you want to enter and happy to conduct valuable research into that target market to provide data on which to build your communications strategy. 

Because understanding and planning around the language, beliefs, social norms, culture, customer behaviour and buying habits of these new customers is essential and allows you to adapt, plan and execute the best strategy for your business.

As a European marketing agency, SWC Partnership knows that a proper localisation strategy can help your business create the foundation of a successful tactical plan to enter other markets across the globe.

If you’re interested in learning how we can help your business be locally relevant, get in touch for a chat. We’re always happy to listen, advise and help where we can. 

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