5 Localization Steps for Global Brand Loyalty

5 Localization Steps for Global Brand Loyalty

By Liz Elting

Marketing Tech - June 12, 2012

Too often, companies don’t recognize the competitive nature of the global market and aren’t aware of the impact of a flawed localization effort. To initiate an international marketing effort that is successful, recognize the importance of communicating with people accurately in their native languages — and demonstrate that you know something about their local cultural preferences. That, essentially, is what localization is all about. And that effort is what a sufficient share of your overall global expansion budget should go toward.

In a July 2011 report, global analyst firm Euromonitor International found that global consumers reported that language is a significant factor in their purchasing decisions, particularly among emerging, non-English speaking customers purchasing high-end items like electronics or luxury goods. In fact, multiple reports reveal that international customers are far more likely to make purchases from localized websites than from English-only sites.

Even with all of this data and the opportunity to successfully enter new markets through translation and localization, a majority of global executives continue to put translation and localization last on their list of priorities for growth. However, a rapidly growing number of businesses are realizing that consumers prefer to communicate in their own languages and will happily engage with companies that demonstrate cultural understanding and sensitivity. Further, if these customers are presented with positive experiences in their own languages, they will return for future purchases and even share that brand with friends and colleagues.

By following these five steps, companies can build positive customer experiences and brand loyalty.

1. Create compelling and culture-relevant content.

The importance of quality content marketing cannot be understated. Writing content that is direct and engaging for your audience is the best way to build relationships — but that’s not all. In addition to building a trusted communications platform for prospects and customers, companies must be sure to follow localization and translation best practices so that content — both text and images — is accurate and resonates with the target audience.

2. Go beyond Google.

Did you know that in Russia, the leading Internet search engine is a local company called Yandex? Companies looking for international SEO success should develop strategic international search engine marketing (ISEM) strategies by working with skilled translation and localization professionals who understand the nuance of regional dialects, colloquial speech, and cultural preferences. These experts can also identify the preferred search engines for each target market. Worldwide, Google is not always preferred search engine, knowing what is in your target markets will enable SEO success — and help businesses define regionally relevant keywords.

Once the most effective keywords are identified, businesses can start to develop their marketing strategies for other countries. This might include targeted pay-per-click ads, relevant landing pages, multilingual rich media, adapted banner ads, out-of-home advertising, experiential marketing with people on the ground, philanthropic community involvement, events like launch parties and networking functions, and social media outreach.

3. Give consumers language choices.

Don’t assume you’re choosing the best language for your customer. Residents of many countries speak more than one language. Automatically translating content into French Canadian when a customer might prefer English can annoy rather than attract prospects. A simple but highly appreciated solution is to offer customers a drop-down menu of language choices.

For example, Expressions of Humankind, a Swedish non-profit foundation, implemented a clean, easily navigated drop-down menu of language options on the international website for its ADay.org campaign. (Think of the impact of that for Switzerland alone, where residents speak multiple languages.) By allowing consumers to select the language of their choice, the foundation was able to successfully attract international participants to capture digital images from daily life and upload them to the site as part of the world’s largest interactive photography experiment.

4. Man or machine?

Machine translation technology offers a growing number of tools to assist in the translation process. However, the technology is too literal and not a reliable enough to create accurately localized translations. For example, translating a slogan for a writing pen, “It won’t leak in your pocket and embarrass you,” from English into Spanish could appear as, “It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant.” Such an error can damage a company’s multicultural marketing efforts, and consumers are quick to publicize these errors across social media channels. Brands can avoid such mistakes by using a mix of human and machine translation.

5. Commit to the customer.

Any customer-facing business knows the golden rule of business: respect the customer. This principle should still be followed when developing a campaign for international expansion as well. Too frequently, consumers encounter websites or marketing materials that are not available in their native languages. Even worse, they are faced with careless translation or dated and stereotypical information about their countries/cultures that has not been localized. This turns consumers off dramatically.

If brands fail to localize their marketing activities, they are diminishing all their efforts to build positive brand recognition. As globalization makes the world seem smaller and more connected, companies need to realize that consumers want to be spoken to in their native languages, and they will give their business to a company that offers that option. By following these international marketing best practices, companies can build strong customer relationships and experiences, and stand out among the other businesses that fail to localize.