A Guide to Brand Localization for Building Trust in Local Markets

Stay Updated April 26, 2024
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A Guide to Brand Localization for Building Trust in Local Markets

People like local. In an era of globalized resources and international systems, there’s something reassuring about the notion of dealing with a company that knows your area. 

But beyond this, in an era of worldwide commerce, brand localization can mean the difference between whether your target markets actually understand you or not. And, if they do, whether they want to buy from you.

Wondering how to get started? We’ll explain – but let’s start with a definition.

What is brand localization?

There are a couple of ways to localize your brand, and it depends on the scale.

Small-scale localization

Free to use image from Unsplash

A great example of this is coffee shops. Quite often, a local standalone coffee shop might have the edge over a chain due to its independent character, which can reflect the local environment. It might have drinks named after local historical figures, like a Memphis cafe with ‘All Shook Up’ milkshakes. It could feature work by local artists in a constantly changing display, or feature coffee cups made by local potters. Anything that gives it that touch of truly being embedded in the local community.

However, a coffee shop chain can choose to appropriate this technique by loosening up a little on image compliance. By all means, keep the core branding, but alongside it, build in an acknowledgment of the coffee shop’s surroundings. So, you can have the logo, branding, and colorway that goes with all your Daily Grind Coffee Shops. But to this you can add Flapjack Nicholson if the actor famously lives near one of them or custom packaging created by a local designer featuring recognizable images or landmarks from the area.

Get the idea? Now upscale the whole concept.

Large-scale localization

The internet is great for globalization. You can reach markets now that used to require a proficiency with international languages, and hire digital marketers experienced in those markets to help you nail it. With the internet, it’s a case of instantly being able to access a global market that extends beyond your wildest dreams.

However, there’s a snag. The language we’re using right now is very widely spoken around the world, which is great news for the strict Anglophones among us. However, it’s not spoken by everyone. This is why, although the number of websites using English is colossal, it’s not by any stretch every site.

Edited image from Statista

In fact, almost half the sites on the internet use a language other than English. Ignore this fact, and you ignore up to half of your potential customers. The lesson? You need to think about selling what you’re offering in a language to suit the area. In other words, localization.

Now, add in other such concerns as cultural factors. Take a country with a high level of religious-based rejection of alcohol, for instance. It’s probably fair to say that you shouldn’t carry out a large-scale vodka launch in that particular part of the world. If you have an alcohol-free product that suits the region better, use that in your localization strategy. 

Just as with the coffee-shop concept above, this kind of localization doesn’t replace the company brand. It augments it. The branding carries on as elsewhere, but there is also an element that acknowledges the area in which the selling is taking place.

It’s popular, as customers feel understood and talked to on their own terms. It’s also good for your business, as it means your products will actually make sense to the market. So, let’s see how it’s done.

How to undertake brand localization

As we’ve mentioned, brand localization involves a variety of factors, and you can’t just launch and hope for the best. Here are some key steps you should follow:

  1. Do your research
Free to use image from Unsplash

It may be the case that your business is well placed to expand into a region you know absolutely nothing about. Thankfully, the possibilities for research have never been better than they are today.

The internet is packed with data that you can access to fill in any gaps in your knowledge. Of course, you need to be wary of believing everything you read – try to stick to reputable sources, such as Statista, Forbes, and the BBC. You could also hire local consultants and freelance developers to fill you in on the finer details, and make sure you don’t make any major errors.

What kind of things should you be researching? Consider:

  • Language
  • Cultural differences and practices
  • Ethical standards
  • Statutory landscape (especially regarding product standards and customer data collection)
  • Legislation concerning sales practices
  • Local market behavior
  • Business courses that provide insights into the unique business practices and consumer behaviors of the target region.

Think about the significance of various aspects of your proposed customer experience. Does a particular color that does the trick in Western culture, signify apathy or deceit in your target region? You might need to tweak part of the branding accordingly.

  1. Use the language

So, you’ve got your target language. Do you have any expertise in it? If not, you need help before you launch into your marketing strategies. Google Translate is not enough – instead, you might benefit from a freelance translator, or translation agencies. You could also hire a candidate if your need is long-term.

Thanks to the rise of remote work, you can find native language experts who live in the market you’re expanding into. That way, not only can they perform this invaluable translatory role, but keep you clued in on the very latest social and economic developments that may impact language and tone in that region.

Using the services of a foreign language speaker will open up various possibilities in terms of tone and nuance, and you can be sure that you’re using, for example, direct but not rude phrasing. You can also be sure that your brand is being represented in a TOV that resonates with your target audience at the same time as being brand-faithful.

While a translator is a must have, you can also augment their work with some of the best AI tools for small business. They shouldn’t be relied on for the actual translations, but they can be great for analyzing customer responses, maintaining a localization database, and otherwise helping your team focus on the tasks that need a human eye.

  1. Test (and re-test!)
Free to use image from Unsplash

The next step in your localization process is crucial, both at the beginning and throughout. Use A/B testing to see how initial forays hit the local market. Look at the engagement stats and the results in terms of resulting sales.

Also throw some survey invitations out there to get a more in-depth response. Are people understanding the messaging? Are cultural preferences addressed? Do they like your original content? Are you securing customer trust? Are they moved to make a purchase? Is there a better tone that could be adopted?

Although it’s crucial to test early to establish the right course, it’s just as important to carry on testing as you go, to ensure that you’re not drifting away from your target audience as time moves on. Continually monitor and iterate for continued relevance and efficacy.

  1. Stay consistent 

Now that you know what’s working and what’s not, it’s time to put your brand localization fully into action. But here’s the kicker. You have to ensure that there’s consistency across all your brand assets, right the way across your enterprise sales process in that region. Why? Because inconsistency breeds at best confusion, at worst mistrust.

If you want your localization efforts to build trust in local markets you need to speak their language and adopt the right tone, but you also need to demonstrate an identifiably authentic and consistent profile that at least has something in common with its worldwide branding.

This is an important point. Let’s say a world-famous soft drink brand is trying to break a remote region famous for its mountains and hikes. It might be tempting to push the soft drink as the kind of thing that trekkers should take with them to ensure refreshment in an outdoor setting. However, in other branding, the drink is characterized as something easy to enjoy on a night out or when hanging out with friends. This will lead to unclear branding and mixed marketing.

Of course, you may think that you can entirely re-shape the product to engage with customers in a particular country. This is not so: such is the connectivity the internet provides that prominent brands tend to have something of a profile even before you go to work. Campaigns can reach those who speak English in the most distant lands, and people talk to each other.

  1. Implement a brand localization plan
Free to use image from Unsplash

When you set your localization in motion, you need a clear idea of what’s happening and when. This plan of action needs to take into account events, anniversaries and holidays that are specific to your target territory. The plan also should include an awareness of trends and developments so that your timing can be optimal.

Once you have a temporal framework which accurately conveys the landscape that applies to this region, you can start scheduling the issue of content so that it has the best chance of getting results. 

Obviously, this plan will need to be appraised from time to time. For example, say you’re selling to Canada, and your localization team found that Victoria Day and Saint-Jean-Baptiste Day are not the best days for selling Canadian domains. Well, you can always adapt your domain-selling timetable to accommodate this.

Think locally, sell globally

Brand localization is simply an extension of what all good salespeople do: they put themselves in the shoes of their customers. This is because being able to sell often boils down to understanding what your customers want, and being able to show that you have the right answer. 

With the right techniques and reliable help, you can ensure that you carry this basic principle into any international market. Without any embarrassing faux pas en route!