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Why localisation is vital to grow your brand overseas

Image credit: oaltindag/iStock
in Language Connect

Building a brand within a single market can be challenging in itself, but when your business makes the decision to expand overseas, you are likely to encounter an entirely new series of tests and obstacles.

We may live in a globalised economy, but there are still many telling differences between countries around the world, perhaps most significantly in terms of their languages and cultural quirks. English may be recognised as a ‘global language’, but when it comes to making a real connection with people as you seek to build your brand, there is no substitute for communicating naturally in your target market’s native tongue.

This is where localisation – the process of tailoring your products, content, marketing assets and promotional messages to suit a particular market – can be critical.

Why is localisation so important?

Businesses that want to succeed in their international brand expansion should place a big emphasis on localisation, partly because it could hold the key to making a positive impression on customers and forming new relationships.

The connections people make with their favoured brands should be viewed as a relationship, and consumers will want to feel a sense of familiarity and engagement with a brand before this relationship can begin. It’s impossible to achieve this if the business hasn’t invested in localisation to guarantee relevance for particular markets. Localisation shows that you care about making a real connection with your customers and are willing to work to earn people’s interest and loyalty.

Localisation also carries great importance from a financial perspective. Taking your business into foreign markets can represent a big investment, with the potential for substantial losses if the expansion fails to deliver the necessary results because key assets have not been localised.

According to figures from California State University, cited by the Globalization and Localization Association, around two-thirds (65 per cent) of multinational enterprises believe localisation is important in order to achieve higher company revenues.

Cultural sensitivity

As well as forming the foundation for positive relationships with new customers, localisation reduces the risk of a business committing any cultural ‘faux pas’, which could do serious damage to a brand and have long-term financial repercussions.

There are many examples of global businesses taking special action to reflect the unique expectations and characteristics of certain markets, and also of companies getting into difficult and potentially embarrassing situations by getting it very wrong.

In India, for example, where a large proportion of the population are vegetarian and people of the Hindu faith regard the cow as sacred, McDonald’s has completely removed all beef and pork from its menus. Failing to do this could have spelled disaster for the chain’s attempts to expand in India.

Being aware of the unique traits of certain cultures and languages, and taking the necessary action to respect them, is a key part of the localisation process.

The role of language in localisation

As the above examples illustrate, it’s important that the process of localising your brand for certain markets includes focused research on cultural traditions, potential sensitivities and linguistic idiosyncrasies. This minimises the risk of your brand being tarnished by negative associations that could have been easily avoided.

Furthermore, using the right language can be hugely effective when it comes to elucidating your brand message and building customer relationships in new markets. It is often the visual elements of your brand that have the most immediate impact, but words can have a longer-lasting, more meaningful effect.

Prioritising localisation when you come to translate your various brand assets and campaigns can help to ensure that your business realises the full potential of effective language for brand building.

Simple policies – such as working with translators who speak the local dialect as their first language, and have an innate understanding of cultural references and forms of communication in the relevant market – can help to avoid potentially costly mistakes.

In the long term, this early research and preparation could prove to be one of the fundamental elements in your brand’s successful expansion overseas.


Image credit: oaltindag/iStock

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