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Why Global Brands Must Prioritize a Localized Experience

Added reach puts a wealth of opportunities on the table, it also presents new challenges.

September 24, 2020 5 min read

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Your company probably has a deep understanding of how to create lovable brand experiences for customers and audiences in your home market. You know which messages resonate and when the best moments to deploy them are. You know what your audience expects of you, and you are consistent in meeting those expectations. 

As soon as you begin to expand your business globally, however, you will find that branding suddenly becomes infinitely more complicated. Translating your brand experience for different markets is a complex process, and anyone who’s done it before can tell you that doing it well requires more than simply trying to duplicate what has been proven to work in your home market.

All of the elements that combine to form a company’s brand identity are informed by cultural context. When these brand elements are viewed from outside the specific cultural context for which they were created, they often no longer resonate in the same way.

Advancing technology has enabled businesses to become truly global in scale and reach. While having global reach puts a wealth of opportunities on the table for your company, it also inevitably presents new challenges. Chief among these is the question of how to build brand experiences that resonate in each unique local context. 

Related: Lessons All Entrepreneurs Can Learn From the Shop Local Movement

Why localization matters

However hard you have worked to build your brand in your home market and hone your message to your local audience, these things will never translate directly when applied to a different geographic market. Elements like language, tone, humor, consumer behavior and values and user experience design are all highly culturally specific. What works for a consumer at home is unlikely to have the same impact in a foreign market. 

Language is the most obvious difference between geographic markets. The importance of being able to speak to consumers in their own language is a given. But beyond the relatively straightforward matter of translating words on a page, there are also the complexities of tone to be taken into account. 

Failure to strike an appropriate tone or communicate in a way that conveys respect can result in muddled messaging or, even worse, unintentionally offending your audience. In one culture a friendly, casual tone may work best, while elsewhere a more assertive approach is more effective.

Consider that consumer values are also likely to be unique to different geographic regions. For example, a differentiating factor or selling point that matters a lot to an American consumer may be less compelling to a consumer in an overseas market. Some cultures will be more price-sensitive while others will place a higher value on overall product quality. 

Modern marketing is all about delivering a high degree of relevance to your audience. It’s impossible to do this on a global scale without investment in a localization strategy.

Approaching a localized strategy

Of course, this is all very easy to say and slightly more difficult to actually execute. Localization is time-intensive and not easily scaled. Meaningful cultural understanding can’t be achieved overnight and the process is unique to each market which means that depending on how many global markets your company is expanding into, it may need to be replicated dozens of times. 

While technology in general, and AI more specifically, certainly have a role to play in bringing greater efficiency to some of these processes, effective localization can’t be achieved through automation alone. 

Competitive analysis and in-depth user surveys and testing should help inform your localization decisions. This kind of research will allow your brand to identify areas where locally optimized content is essential. 

For example:

Related: You Don't Need to Leave Your Hometown to Start a Great Business

Lovable localized experiences

Hopefully by now the case for designing localized experiences and branding is clear. Meeting customers on their own terms is key to achieving local relevance, and as such it’s essential to your company’s success in an increasingly globalized landscape.

Soliciting input from local audiences will enable your brand to gain greater insight into cultural preferences and values. Use these insights to inform branding decisions when expanding into new markets and you will be one step closer to local lovability.

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