Media Brand Safety Globalization

Bad localization harms your brand – can an agency fix it?

By Chris Ford | Head of CRO



Opinion article

October 13, 2022 | 7 min read

Good localization may be pricey, but bad localization is far more costly. For The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive, digital agency Croud’s Chris Ford makes the case for specialist agencies to help you through the thicket.

A city scape with blurred lights from lens flare

Localization can be daunting – do you need an agency to help you? / Marc-Olivier Jodoin

All brands, irrespective of industry, undertake the same journey. Identify a gap in the market. Develop a product or service that caters to a specific consumer need. Consistently deliver premium consumer experiences.

A strategy that works at home, however, will not automatically resonate abroad. Operating effectively beyond your border means investing in a new blueprint for success. This requires a comprehensive understanding of your new target audience and market. Localization is key.

Croud recently examined shifting attitudes towards localization among 1,600 consumers across four international markets: Germany, Japan, China and France. Our International Localization Report found that 57% had experienced cultural problems while using a UK brand’s local website. 24% of this group said that these issues reduced purchase likelihood.

Bad localization can be attributed to multiple factors including resource-related problems and a lack of access to local experts. But what does best-in-class localization look like in today’s business environment? And how can agencies support you in getting there?

Moving parts

Translation remains an integral part of successful localization. 26% of respondents across markets acknowledged that badly-translated copy causes purchase likelihood to fall; 24% said it negatively impacted brands’ trustworthiness.

It takes more than using the right words to flourish in a new market. While Google Translate can hold its own in simple social situations, its inability to pick up on religious sensitivities, idioms, colloquialisms and tone of voice makes it a liability for businesses.

Cultural nuances can be a major pitfall for brands trying to expand operational horizons. McDonald’s Portugal stole headlines in 2019 for its ‘Sundae Bloody Sundae’ ad campaign, appearing to reference Bloody Sunday during the Troubles in Northern Ireland.

A world beyond

Effective localization goes beyond avoiding faux pas, while technological advancements have made localization increasingly complex. Consumer expectations have shifted; user experience is now a key differentiator in both brick-and-mortar stores and digital experiences. This means knowing where to look for your audience.

Mastery over Facebook and Instagram will typically suffice in European markets. The same cannot be said for China, where Weibo and WeChat are among the leading social media channels. 46% of Chinese respondents cited social media as their preferred digital entry point. Brands cannot afford to overlook social’s popularity and influence.

To penetrate a new market, brands must consider multiple factors simultaneously. Quick and easy wins are important to gain a foothold, as is a solid plan to sustain growth. Agencies are the final piece of the localization puzzle.

Two heads are better than one

Making a positive first impression is vital, and this hinges on your localization strategy. Agencies can provide the knowledge, both practical and theoretical, to ensure brands navigate new markets with ease.

Building your reputation quickly is crucial. 42% of respondents said that testimonials, either in their native language or from their local market, were ‘very important.’ An experienced agency can help you foster relationships with local influencers to get the ball rolling.

‘Key opinion leaders,’ for example, possess immense influence in the Asian markets. Products and services, with their endorsement, thrive thanks to their large follower bases. Forging partnerships with relevant local figures is the first step toward market penetration.

Technical support can also be valuable. 37% of respondents were willing to wait between 5-10 seconds for a web page to load before abandoning it; 32% believe mobile optimization is ‘very important.’

The need to maintain a strong digital presence shouldn’t be underestimated. Appointing an agency that delivers premium virtual support helps you compete with long-established local brands.

Localization processes are multi-faceted. You cannot focus all efforts into a single aspect (translation or consumer testimonials). Rather, you need to acknowledge every component. Leaning on an agency for support can be pivotal.

Planning on taking a business trip?

UK brands will never be content to sit still when there are business opportunities around the world waiting to be explored. But the desire to go global must be tempered with patience. Collecting data for each unique location takes time, and best-in-class localization strategies shouldn’t be rushed.

Appointing the right agency is the catalyst for unlocking new markets’ potential. Their knowledge of effective localization mechanisms, coupled with an unrivaled understanding of evolving consumer habits and expectations, can ensure that cultural problems quickly become a thing of the past.

For more on what marketers and their partners need to do to succeed on a global level, check out The Drum’s Globalization Deep Dive.

Media Brand Safety Globalization

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Croud is is a global, full-service, digital marketing partner for some of the world’s leading brands. Through the seamless connection of data, technology and creativity, we develop strategies for sustainable growth that drive immediate business impact.

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