What is Localization in Marketing: A Detailed Guide
12 min. read
Localizing your website, software, product, or content is one challenge. It’s another to get your target market interested.
This is where localization in marketing comes into play.
Localized marketing is the bridge that connects your localized offering with your audience. In this post, you will learn what is localization in marketing and how to go about it.
Protip: Leverage a professional localization suite like Centus to streamline your marketing localization efforts, overcome challenges, and achieve your goals faster. Learn more.
Marketing localization refers to adapting a brand's marketing materials, messaging, and strategies to align with a localized offering and resonate with a specific target audience in a region.
Examples of marketing materials that are typically localized include:
Video material: Models, voiceovers, and subtitles
Website content: Landing pages, product descriptions, and calls to action
Print and digital advertising: Copy and graphics
Social media content: Social media advertisements, images, and subtitles
Email marketing content: Subject lines and content
Product packaging: Product labeling, including instructions, and warnings
Event materials: Signs, gift items, and promotional materials.
Your localization marketing efforts should cover every part of your customer’s journey with your localized product, from awareness to purchase. This requires extensive market research, cultural knowledge, and the transcreation of marketing materials to guarantee effective communication, brand positioning, and customer engagement.
There are several reasons why a localization marketing strategy works well:
1. Competitive advantage
Meeting the specific demands and expectations of local markets might help you differentiate yourself from rivals that don’t modify their offers.
For instance, Coca-Cola has a long history of developing regionalized advertising campaigns that connect with consumers worldwide, allowing the brand to maintain a solid competitive advantage.
2. Improved customer engagement
Adjusting your marketing to regional tastes helps provide a more relevant experience for your audience. This improved connection can lead to better customer engagement, as consumers are more likely to interact with and respond to marketing messages that resonate with their values, interests, and culture.
Spotify, for example, alters its curated playlists and content suggestions based on users' listening behavior and interests in different locations. This individualized strategy guarantees that consumers receive relevant content, leading to increased user engagement year-on-year.
3. Enhanced brand image
A properly localized marketing plan exhibits cultural awareness and respect, which may enhance your company’s brand image and trustworthiness.
Nike has a history of working with regional artists and athletes to produce engaging and culturally-relevant ads, such as the 2018 "Nothing Beats a Londoner" campaign, highlighting London's distinctive sports culture.
4. Increased market penetration
Understanding and catering to local nuances can help you penetrate new markets more effectively, driving growth and expansion.
Amazon India reported an increase in new customer acquisition, partly attributed to its localized marketing efforts, including regional language support and localized content on its platform.
5. Greater ROI
Optimizing your marketing efforts for certain locations allows you to distribute resources more efficiently, thus enhancing your return on investment. You can increase the effectiveness of your global marketing campaigns and make better use of your budget by concentrating on the platforms, messaging, and tactics that are most effective for that market.
Gucci, for example, has effectively raised its ROI in China using a specialized digital marketing approach that leverages popular local channels such as WeChat and Weibo to engage Chinese consumers. This targeted approach has allowed Gucci to optimize its marketing spend and achieve better results in China’s high-growth market.
Here are five examples of brands acing marketing localization and what to learn from them:
With over 27,000 locations in over 145 countries, KFC has a solid marketing localization strategy. The company urges local executives to utilize an adaptable, culturally-sensitive, and local-focused marketing approach when implementing campaigns for locations outside of the United States.
In Japan, KFC successfully launched a Christmas campaign featuring a "Kurisumasu ni wa Kentakkii (Kentucky Christmas) meal”, since Christmas is not traditionally observed in Japan.
In China, KFC launched a series of sustainability campaigns after a survey showed that Chinese consumers were becoming more environmentally conscious.
In South Africa, KFC produced a “conspiracy” ad featuring beloved comedians Trevor Noah and Sizwe to promote their “Chicken for Breakfast” campaign.
KFC also sponsors the Australian Big Bash League, a cricket sporting event that attracts cricket-loving fans from as far as India, South Africa, and Australia.
Key takeaways from KFC’s marketing strategy:
Adjust marketing campaigns to suit local culture and preferences
Address local concerns
Leverage popular local talent and cultural elements
Marketing is not a one-size-fits-all scenario
As of 2022, Nike operated 1,046 stores in 77 countries worldwide. Nike is notable for its emotional marketing campaigns in different locales, positioning itself as more than just a luxury sports brand.
In China, Nike’s Annual Chinese New Year collection provides sneakerheads the opportunity to purchase one-of-a-kind, limited-edition items inspired by traditional Chinese style.
Let’s not forget the Nike Pro Hijab for Muslim sportswomen, which is the first of its kind amongst brands like Nike.
The brand distinguishes itself from the competition in every market via product innovation and a show-stopping marketing localization strategy. For instance, its stunning OOH 3D billboard promoting Nike Air Max in Japan
Key takeaways from Nike’s marketing strategy:
Sell ideas, not products
The way to your customer’s pocket is through their heart
Cater to local tastes in your campaigns and address the unique preferences of the target market
Solve a problem your competitors haven’t
Use local talent and celebrities
Gucci, a high-end clothing company, has succeeded at localized marketing by highlighting the uniqueness of its customers next to its products.
Gucci has collaborated with celebrities like Harry Styles, Miley Cyrus, and Dakota Johnson, and even immigrant restaurant owners for its campaigns, moving away from supermodels to more relatable people.
The brand also took a unique approach in China by leveraging popular local social media platforms, like WeChat and Weibo, to engage with Chinese consumers. Gucci also uses Chinese zodiac marketing to launch its limited-edition lines, like its 2019 Year of the Pig Collection.
In the Middle East, and in honor of Ramadan, Gucci launched the Nojum line campaign, which featured modest pieces made entirely in Dubai. They even developed a sky segmentation AR Lens to connect with Gen Zs and Millenials on Snapchat.
Key takeaways from Gucci's localized marketing strategy:
Collaborate with ordinary people from your market
Use user-generated content
Leverage local social media platforms
Embrace local culture and traditions
Utilize innovative technologies to reach younger audiences
Adapt to regional fashion preferences
Coca-Cola is a global beverage brand well-known for its unique and elaborate marketing campaigns worldwide. Its USP is that it sells the experience of drinking a Coke and not the drink itself. The company is not afraid to work with local businesses either.
For instance, in parts of the world like Pakistan, China, and Nigeria, Coca-cola partnered with delivery services and food vendors to pair select meals with Coca-Cola products and market them together.
In Japan, Coca-Cola launched a special collaboration featuring the popular Jujutsu Kaisen anime hero, Yuji Itadori, to promote its beverage.
Coca-cola also uses local elements when advertising in other regions too.
In India, Coca-Cola introduced the Thums Up Stump Cam for cricket enthusiasts. By scanning a QR code on a product label, customers could access exclusive match highlights from the ICC T20 Cricket World Cup, captured by a camera mounted on the wicket.
“Throughout the 45-day tournament, we used first-party data and artificial intelligence to send personalized content to consumers based on their favorite matches, and we amplified the experience through sports influencers [...] This drove about one-quarter of India's total volume growth of the year,” CEO, James Quincey said on an earnings call to recap the fourth quarter of 2022.
Key takeaways from Coca-Cola's marketing localization:
Emphasize the overall experience of using your product
Collaborate with local businesses for joint promotions
Engage with local celebrity figures and cultural elements
Employ technology to enhance customer interactions
Deliver personalized content based on target markets
To launch its new store in Penang, Malaysia, IKEA created a regional marketing campaign celebrating the city's culture through wordplay.
The company made use of the city's dialect, Hokkien. Since several Hokkien words end with "Kia," the campaign used the phonetic similarity between some Hokkien words and IKEA. For instance, it compared an image of a tall guy and the IKEA Billy bookcase with the line “We are not Lo Kha Kia (a tall guy). We are IKEA.”
In India, IKEA sells different colored spoons instead of children's plastic cutlery packs, considering the local eating habits, and also advertises a portion of its site dedicated solely to weddings — an important event for Indian families.
Key takeaways from IKEA’s marketing localization strategy:
Know when to switch from a global marketing strategy to a more localized one.
Celebrate local culture in marketing campaigns.
Utilize regional languages or dialects for relatability.
Create targeted promotions for important local traditions
Don’t be scared to share your fun side with your target audience
Localized marketing presents unique challenges as businesses adapt to various cultural and linguistic preferences. Let's examine common issues that may hinder your marketing localization process, and ways to solve them.
Challenge 1: Cultural sensitivity and context
Companies that disregard cultural norms and values risk unintentionally offending or alienating their target market.
Solution: Extensive cultural study and consultation with local specialists
Collaborate with local specialists who are familiar with the target market's culture, language, and beliefs to avoid any potential misunderstandings or misinterpretations.
Challenge 2: Language and translation errors
Bad marketing translation and linguistic problems can cause distrust, misinterpretation, and even unfavorable opinions of a brand, damaging marketing efforts in a new market.
Solution: Professional translators
Investing in experienced translators who are native speakers of the target language and are knowledgeable about the business helps guarantee that marketing messages are presented effectively and appropriately.
Challenge 3: Inconsistent brand messaging across different markets
Sustaining a consistent brand message while catering to each target audience's distinct wants is difficult. Fumble it and risk a fragmented brand identity that confuses customers and reduces the brand's overall effect.
Solution: A global brand strategy and a reliable TMS
Establish a comprehensive global marketing strategy that defines your brand's core values, mission, and positioning. Use this strategy as the basis for all localized marketing initiatives, ensuring consistent brand identity across all regions.
Additionally, invest in a translation management system (TMS) equipped with a centralized content repository for storing marketing materials, guidelines, and approved translations.
Your TMS should have the following features:
Real-time collaboration: Instantaneous collaboration between marketing and localization teams, designers, developers, and in-house/external stakeholders.
Multiple file formats: An effective translation marketing system should accommodate various file types, including HTML, JPEG, SVG, and Office documents. This assures interoperability with multiple content management systems and simplifies the translation of marketing materials.
System integration: Seamless integration with other marketing tools and systems, such as content management systems, marketing automation tools, and customer relationship management software. This simplifies access to data and lowers the possibility of mistakes and delays.
Extensive translation memory and glossary: A cloud-based memory and glossary to store previously translated phrases and terms. This enhances productivity and lowers the cost of future translation efforts.
AI-enhanced machine translation: The TMS should leverage artificial intelligence to provide fast and accurate machine translations.
Streamlined automation: Automate repetitive tasks, such as file preparation, transfer and downloads, translation assignment, and project management.
In-depth analytics and reporting: The system should have extensive analytics and reporting features, allowing your team to track project progress, check translation quality, and evaluate the overall success of their localization efforts.
Quality assurance: The system should include quality assurance capabilities such as automated tests for grammar, syntax, and terminology consistency.
Scalability and flexibility: Make sure your TMS can develop and change with your company, meeting your growing needs as you expand into new markets.
Cost-effective solutions: A good translation management system should provide variable price alternatives and cost-effective solutions without sacrificing quality.
Centus provides all this and more.
Centus is the Translation Management System (TMS) for brands seeking to efficiently execute their global marketing localization strategies without compromising quality or affordability.
By incorporating essential features such as process automation, integration, real-time collaboration, AI-driven machine translation, and file support, Centus streamlines the localization process and simplifies the translation of your marketing materials.
Centus’customizable workflows and cost-effective solutions make it a perfect fit for businesses of all sizes, enabling them to scale their marketing localization efforts within an affordable budget.
See Centus in action. Schedule a demo today.
Why is marketing localization important?
Localization in marketing helps companies reach and connect with target audiences in diverse markets through the creation of personalized experiences, that improve brand perception and increases sales.
When businesses tailor their messaging and offerings to align with local cultures, languages, and customs, they can significantly enhance their relevance and appeal in these regions.
What is an example of localization marketing strategy?
Netflix's method for reaching its international audience offers a useful illustration of a localization marketing strategy.
In addition to localizing its material for new markets, Netflix also makes an investment in local original shows. For instance, "Squid Game", which was staged in Korea, has become a worldwide phenomenon. This displays Netflix’s dedication to producing material that connects with regional storylines and tastes, while also garnering international appeal.
What can happen if businesses avoid marketing localization?
Avoiding marketing localization can result in lost opportunities. If you enter a new market with a run-of-the-mill marketing plan, you might find it difficult to connect with your target audiences, which could result in fewer engagement and sales.
Even worse, companies run the danger of offending or misunderstanding customers if they don't have a thorough grasp of regional cultural nuances. This could damage their reputation, cause a decline in customer confidence, and in some situations, have legal ramifications. For instance, a poorly translated advertisement may unintentionally transmit a message that is unsuitable or objectionable in a particular culture, resulting in backlash and brand damage.
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