Hey! This article is part of our Ultimate Guide to Localization – check it out for a full, comprehensive post about this method and what it entails, who it is for, and much much more!
A brand is far more than just a name and a logo. If it were, maybe it’d be easier for experts to agree on a universal, concrete definition. Marty Neumeier’s The Dictionary of Brand defines a brand as “a person’s perception of a product, service, experience, or organization.” This perception is built through symbols, words, colors, and a general tone. A brand is a color palette and a set of products, as much as it is a personality, a culture, a story, and a mission.
Companies that aspire to operate on an international scale might be prone to consider that the way to go global is to make their brand broad and “culturally neutral”, with a single, unified brand image. But this is actually not the best formula for international success. For starters, international customers demand highly-targeted products and campaigns. And, as Dr. Nitish Singh notes in a Brand Quarterly article:
“The complex nature of the international marketing environment promotes diversity in terms of physical environment, political and legal systems, cultures, product usage conditions, and economic development.”
The best approach to growing our brand overseas begins with acknowledging this diversity and working with it, not against it, and approaching our expansion locale-by-locale.
Internationalizing your brand should only be the groundwork for another process: the localization process. Localization consists of adapting all the elements that make up your brand to a certain locale, considering legal, cultural, and format-related standards and trends.
In this post, we’ll take a look at the localization process, step-by-step. All your brand assets should be localized, but for the sake of simplicity, we’ll use the localization of an e-book as an example.
The Localization Process, Step-by-Step
We can explain the localization process as involving 8 steps:
- Content analysis
- Content management
- The translation process
- Back conversion
- Desktop publishing/adaptation
- In-context QC
During the first step, the localization professionals in charge will examine the content and consider the necessary adaptations for your target market. These adaptions might involve changing formats when it comes to currency and dates, replacing images with more culturally-appropriate ones, etcetera.
During the second step, the content is isolated from the format, so it can be easily handled during translation and proofreading. Then, the localization team will translate, proofread, and edit the material. What will follow will be a series of quality assurance (QA) steps, both automated and manual.
Once the necessary rounds of QA are done, the files will be converted so they can be handled throughout the next steps of the process. Next, in the case of the e-book translation, a desktop publishing professional collaborating with the localization team will integrate the new content into the e-book’s format, and adapt the format to the target culture’s requirements.
The final step before handing over the work to the client will be extensive quality control, both of the product per se, and of the file. Finally, of course, the new piece of content will be delivered to the client in the necessary format or formats.
Localization vs. Translation
Speaking your target audience’s language is never enough. When working to establish themselves in any market, brands need to share a common cultural code with their potential customers. This is the case for brands of any size, in any industry, in any region.
The key difference between localization and translation is that localization requires a more comprehensive view of the source material. For instance, while someone conducting a website translation might simply focus on having the copy read as proper copy in the target language, a localization team will also ensure that the website’s images will resound in the target culture. They’ll also consider technical differences and challenges, and whether UI elements will need to be repositioned or changed.
Some localization services providers will even rely on transcreation professionals and marketers who will make sure that your new web copy targets the right keywords and has the same tone, intention, and power as the original.
While the goal of translation is converting a message written in a certain language into another, the goal of localization is that that message resounds with your target audience just the way you want it. While translation is neutral to cultural factors, localization acknowledges them and works with them.
How to Make the Most out of your Localization
Make sure you count on a highly-experienced and reputable partner for your linguistic and cross-cultural needs. A low-cost approach might be tempting, but you only get one chance to make a good first impression. Localization is a necessary investment, failing to localize or localizing poorly is far too expensive.
Remember that localization should be a part of a broader globalization strategy. A website can be flawlessly localized, but it won’t reap the results it could if your company hasn’t properly researched the target market and culture and doesn’t have a solid, competitive business strategy.
It’s also worth mentioning that the “to become global, act local” approach can create governance challenges within an organization. So expansion can also serve as an opportunity to begin to rethink and future-proof your organization from the inside-out.
Beyond Localization: Transcreation
Transcreation (also known as “creative translation”) consists of transforming a text, so it conveys its original meaning, in a way that resounds with its new target demographic. Transcreation aims to preserve the original text’s purpose, style, tone, and context. The message and the “feel” of the text remain the same.
A localized branding campaign might translate colors and messaging to a new language and culture, but transcreation might go even further, creating a completely new product or story based on the original material. Check out our free guide on transcreation and international marketing.