Best Practices for Localization

Today, there is immense potential for every business to expand its market share beyond geographical boundaries and capture markets that have been inaccessible, until now. This opens up virtually unlimited opportunities for the business to improve its profitability. But all of this hinges on how well the business has managed to localize itself so that it enters a foreign market and blends in with the existing business-scape perfectly, making it easy and intuitive for the local to ‘adopt’ as their own.

Not all businesses succeed in this task and some big names have floundered miserably and had to pull out of some huge markets. Clairol introduced a curling iron in Germany branded as the ‘Mist Stick’ but in German ‘mist’ means ‘manure’. KFC’s ‘finger licking good’ tag line was translated into ‘eat your fingers off’ for their Chinese outlets. There are many other big brands that have got it wrong when taking the brand global. To ensure that this does not happen to your business, here are some of the best practices to follow.

  • Don’t lose the message in translation

Unlike Mercedes- Benz which introduced the brand to the Chinese with the name ‘Bensi’, meaning ‘rush to die’, you do not want your brand name or message to get lost in the translation. Pay heed to the local language and invest enough attention in making sure that your name or tag line is being translated correctly so that it communicates the same message as it does in your home base.

  • Cultural differences can make a big difference

Understand the culture and make sure that your branding is in line with it. A brand that regularly advertises with beautiful women may want to use a very different approach when expanding into an Islamic country. The audience may steer clear of product packaging or websites with skimpily clad women prominently displayed.

  • Make your message easy to understand

Let’s face it. If you really want the common man on the street to associate with your product and feel like he wants to become a customer, you need to communicate effectively with him. This means that your brand or tag line or website language needs to be easy for the layman to understand. In your native tongue you may be aware of what the everyday language sounds like but when you are localization for a foreign audience, you are not aware of the common phrases or terms used. Get a native speaker or writer to do the translation for you so that your audience does not need a dictionary to understand your webpages or Twitter feeds.

  • It’s not just words that you should heed

Colors, color combinations and spellings are all important because what works for one country may be disastrous for another. That’s not all, when you are localizing, make sure that your date and time is presented to each audience in the way they are accustomed to using it. For example, the Indian way of using Date/ Month/ Year can cause confusion for an American accustomed to the Month/ Date/ Year format. In contrast, the Japanese write their dates with the Year coming first, followed by month and day.

  • The all important question of payments

Businesses are all about making money so why ignore this basic aspect? Many businesses make the rather disastrous mistake of ignoring the most popular, preferred payment methods in areas where they are trying to grab new customers. Some locations may be cash- transaction intensive while others have popular local options. These preferences of the audience have to be given enough consideration, and if necessary, the design tweaked to adopt them. In this regard, another point that you should remember is to give the user the option to see prices in his/her own currency. Expecting your potential customers to do some quick currency conversion is simply not realistic at all!

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