In the era of the internet and social media, with generations who’ve grown up with Google searches and online ads, brands can’t get away with using stock photos and standardised messages. Marketing today is synonymous with personalisation, but what does this really mean?
Marketers know that global marketing campaigns need to be adapted so that every customer can feel that the brand is addressing them and speaking their own language, but how can we create personalised content on a global scale? Should we just translate one message into hundreds of languages and leave it at that?
The short answer is no. Translation is not enough. Instead, localisation – defined as the adaptation of content to a specific market – is the process that should lie at the core of every global marketing campaign if the content is to be diverse enough to include different values, lifestyles and ethnicities. However, this is often not the case.
Localisation and global marketing go hand in hand
Many global marketing campaigns ignore the localisation process and concentrate on translation instead, which is often postponed and deemed unimportant. In general, this is not the “official” stance, as nobody will openly admit that such a crucial part of the campaign is being disregarded, but actions speak for themselves. Linguists get rushed and budgets are tight. Often translation feels like an afterthought: it’s brought into the equation at a later stage, often right before a campaign is launched.
The reason for this is that translation is perceived as a mere transfer of words from one language into the other, as if culture had nothing to do with the process. The term “localisation” is used, then, to highlight the broader context that needs to be considered if a campaign can be expected to deliver the desired engagement and sales results.
Localisation and translation take culture into account. There can be no localisation without intercultural competency, because culture frames our perception of reality, so any content must cater to individuals as cultural beings. By prioritising localisation from the get-go, the targets of global marketing campaigns become easier to achieve.
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Advantages of localisation as a global marketing aid
- Localisation can expand your brand reach and awareness, as well as offer a SEO boost.
- Localised marketing strategies help brands overcome market entry challenges, such as customer loyalty and economies of scale.
- Localisation fosters personal connections with users and consumers because it helps humanise your brand.
- It also produces higher levels of engagement with existing customers.
- Localisation shows respect for local cultures and values, as it acknowledges them and tries to adapt rather than impose the content.
- Localisation can make marketing investments more cost-effective and increase your potential for sales.
- Ultimately, localised content helps cut down customer support costs by offering adequate material that individuals can understand.
If you do it right, localisation can certainly become an organic growth strategy. If you don’t, it can become an unforgivable cost. So what are the localisation options that can help global marketing campaigns benefit from this process?
Localisation options for global marketers
To find a localisation strategy that best fits your goals and expectations, you first need to assess the level of impact of your different content pieces. Is it high-impact content, such as a slogan, or is it less important content such as reviews for an online platform? Understanding that different types of content may require different strategies can save you time and help your language service provider allocate efforts properly.
We’ve talked about personalisation, so we know how crucial it is. Sometimes, the best way to ensure that this content can truly match a particular target audience is to create region- or country-specific campaigns in order to convey messages that are culturally and contextually appropriate.
Literal translations must be avoided at all costs, as they can cause misunderstandings and lead to considerable loss of meaning. Content should be transcreated instead, taking tone and style into account, having consideration for the design, the surrounding images and the broader context. After all, we are cultural beings, remember?
Full human translation
This is what you might call the traditional approach to content localisation. A human translator takes a text in one language and translates it into another, taking into account colloquial expressions and idioms so the text reads like it was written in the target language. However, this doesn’t take into account cultural references and norms, and the meaning of images and symbols.
Machine translation post-editing
Some content such as slang and idiomatic language cannot be subject to machine translation because of how culturally specific and ultimately human it is. However, when localising low-impact content, machine translation can be used in conjunction with human post-editing for a good and affordable option.
There is more to SEO than simply translating keywords! Keyword localisation acknowledges the fact that the keywords that are popular in one region can be completely different in another. SEO needs to be tailored to each particular market.