When Do Businesses Need to Localize Their Content?

Think global, act local. What does this mantra mean to marketers? It’s the idea that global expansion shouldn’t occur at the cost of a relevant customer experience.

Research conducted by global management consulting firm A.T. Kearny shows that 90% of companies believe they must change their strategies in order to “succeed in the current global business environment.” 89% are therefore “pursuing or considering localization.” That includes creating content in local languages, designing marketing materials for specific regions, and adapting marketing campaigns for increased relevance and effectiveness.

One of most iconic examples of this strategy comes from Coca-Cola and its long-running Share a Coke campaign. Starting in 2013, the company printed a selection of first names on its bottles and cans in countries like Australia, Israel, and the U.S. in an effort to connect with customers by making their interactions with the brand feel more personal. When it came to China, however, the huge volume of first name options led Coca-Cola to take a different tactic.

In Chinese markets the company swapped first names for nicknames like “Superstar” and “Sweetie Pie.” Coca-Cola also customized bottles with quotes from popular movies and song lyrics. Meanwhile, in the UK, bottle labels were printed with “Wills” and “Kate” to celebrate the birth of royal baby Prince George. Around the same time, Belgium released limited-edition Share a Coke cans that read “De Koning” and “Le Roi” — which translates as “king” in Flemish and French — when the country swore in Crown Prince Philippe as its new king.

In every market, consumers received a slightly altered product and marketing message that spoke specifically to their culture. The global campaign is credited with boosting revenue in key markets. After all, after launching in the U.S., Coke sales increased for the first time in more than a decade. But customizing packaging for local markets isn’t the only way brands can localize their marketing strategies. What’s more, connecting with consumers on a personal level is only one advantage of localized content.

Building Brand Affinity

A big advantage of localized marketing is that it allows companies to promote and build affinity with your brand.

  • Airbnb is known for partnering with local social media influencers to attract young consumers. In India, the brand works with bloggers and Bollywood celebrities who have stayed in Airbnb properties.
  • When they share their experiences online, Airbnb India’s marketing manager Varun Raina says he’s able to “garner a positive visibility for the brand.”
  • Local influencers can help brands appear more relevant to their local target audience. Be sure to look for an influencer whose image, style, and outlook is in line with your brand.
  • When you need to build customer loyalty in specific markets, as with account-based marketing (ABM), a localized strategy enables you to speak directly to your most important buyers. Forrester Consulting reported in 2018 that 64% of technology buyers value localized content that’s “tailored to their country or geography” during the technology decision-making process.

Expanding to New Markets

Another scenario that warrants localized content is expansion into new markets, where your brand isn’t established and competitors may have the upper hand. Brands the world over are modifying their advertising creative to appeal to local preferences and capitalize on local trends.

  • Creating localized content lets your audience know you understand their geographic region and can meet their specific needs.
  • Develop content in the local language to encourage interaction and show prospective customers you respect their culture.
  • When entering a new market, get to know the marketing landscape. Start with the most popular social networks, sites, and search engines in the area. For example, when the NHL began expanding its brand presence in China earlier this year, it marketed through mobile video app Douyin (known in the U.S. as TikTok) and news aggregation service Jinri Toutiao. Both are highly popular among Chinese consumers.
  • If your goals include increasing your brand’s appeal, consider partnering with local charities and non-profits that reflect your brand values. Supporting a good cause is “no longer a choice for brands,” Adweek reports. By promoting your involvement with organizations that support the local community, you can gain a foothold in a new market.

Mergers, Acquisitions, and Rebranding

Mergers and acquisitions often involve rebranding, and getting your evolving business off the ground requires an aggressive marketing strategy. By developing digital content and marketing messages that local consumers can relate to, you’re more likely to boost interest in your products and services.

  • After a merger or acquisition, companies often find themselves struggling to convey a unified message. Speaking to the advantages that a merger can provide each local community — for example, by expanding your product offering or the area you’re able to service — can strengthen your brand’s new image. A consistent omnichannel campaign is the key to success.
  • Localized marketing allows you to build a bond with local vendors, suppliers, and distributors to further grow your business.
  • Localized content can also increase your market share, help build rapport with new potential customers, and solidify your business in the minds of consumers.

Regardless of your marketing objectives, localization is increasingly vital to business success. Show your customers you understand them, their local culture, and their environment, and they may see your brand as a long-term partner rather than just another company.

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