Why your content localization strategy needs fresh thinking | Insights

How localization extends the reach of your brand in potentially unexpected ways

November 2021


  • Jeremy Burrows, CEO
  • James Chutter, Digital Strategist

Competing in the digital marketplace, brands face what can seem like a strange paradox. Fundamentally, the Internet allows even the smallest company to reach a worldwide audience. But to be successful, all but the biggest companies need to function as a local business everywhere their customers reside.

Opening a physical location on every corner isn’t feasible for most brands. But by localizing your content for the distinct regions you're targeting, you create a sense that your brand understands where its customers are coming from. And, by creating a campaign that speaks the same language, you demonstrate that you’re attuned to their needs.

However, localization is much more than translation. You have to show that you understand every aspect of your customers’ cultural experience to establish a real connection. Our experiences vary around the world, from how we spend free time to what's on our breakfast tables. Get one of these details wrong, and at best your entire product launch can be derailed. At worst, your brand has to walk back an embarrassing misunderstanding.

On the surface, localization sounds like a costly and difficult process to get right. But you don’t have to hire a new agency in five regions to reach five new markets. While there is no substitute for local expertise, you can reach a global audience with the right approach from your digital agency of record.

Localization doesn't necessarily come at the expense of your budget

At one time, marketing your brand in a new region typically required a huge investment of time and money. To ensure a campaign connected with local consumers, you could go right to the source by hiring a different agency in each target market. Not only does this approach stretch the limits of your budget, it produces work that’s inconsistent from region to region. Plus, it’s simply inefficient to enlist multiple agencies to tackle the same marketing problem.

Alternatively, your brand could pay to conduct in-depth market research before developing a campaign. Large agencies and research organizations can collect massive databases covering the many cultures of a given region and their consumer habits for a specific market. Then, after taking months to incorporate years of data, your brand receives a campaign informed by all the information that’s available.

Unfortunately, the digital marketplace simply moves too quickly for this kind of conventional approach to market research. By the time your agency has collated and interpreted all the appropriate details from a long-term study to inform your campaign, the information is out of date.

If you want to create a lasting customer connection, you have to move at the pace of the internet. And, if you’re working with the right agency partner, you can stick with a creative team who both understands your brand and can conduct live in-market research on the Internet.

How your agency can keep pace with the demands of localization

To have any idea about whether your campaign approach will be effective, you have to know your user. No wonder research is the cornerstone of any campaign. But conventional approaches to research are less reliable with today's digital audience.

The internet has opened avenues for research that would have never been possible 10 years ago. An effective search can yield a number of case studies and ad campaigns that were successful in a given region. By tapping into a few indicators from another culture, your agency can understand how to approach a new market.

Social listening reveals the habits of your target customer

Digital channels reveal a world of insights about your audience. Just as user research reveals whether your target customer uses Twitch, Instagram, or TikTok, those same channels can offer a wealth of insights into another region.

Given the power of the algorithm, anyone browsing YouTube can travel to a whole different world by following the application’s breadcrumbs. As one video leads to the next, you’re experiencing an immersive virtual reflection of the culture of somewhere as far off as Brazil with a few clicks.

Additionally, your agency can scan for specific keywords on social channels. If you’re marketing a videogame in another country, you can target a few terms to understand how your consumer talks and what’s important to them.

Consult the expertise of the local audience

Virtually parachuting into a different culture’s digital platforms is informative, but it’s not always an accurate approach to research. To verify the insights gained into your target market, your agency needs to talk with someone who has a finger on the pulse of the culture.

Sometimes, your agency’s inherent diversity will allow them to pressure-test the approaches drawn from their research with a native from a given culture. Otherwise, consulting influencers in various regions can provide insights with more outsized examples of cultural norms and behaviors.

Localization introduces new and valuable creative perspectives

Localization functions along a continuum. At worst, localization offers a direct translation of a pre-existing campaign, which opens the possibility for a variety of misunderstandings. At the next level, a brand digs deeper into colloquialisms to capture the language of its message, but misses the cultural nuances.

A true localization effort marries your product and its unique selling propositions with the full cultural specifics of a given place. After all, your agency is selling the same thing. It just needs to be positioned differently.

At its most effective, localization provides insights that can also inform your brand’s marketing approach in more familiar geographic areas as well. For example, if you were trying to market to Latin America, your agency could look toward the region’s cultural values of family and spending time together. When the resulting campaign is delivered, its central idea may not reflect your usual approach to your home market. But in the hands of the right agency, these unexpected directions could be viable for those audiences as well.

When conducted thoughtfully, the benefits of localization don’t just outweigh the costs. They can reach back and deliver a stronger approach to your overall marketing as well.