As a business owner, your goal is to expand into new markets and serve customers all around the world. But simply translating your content into multiple languages isn’t enough anymore.
In order for you to effectively reach global audiences, you need to understand something called “culture localization” – the process of adapting products, marketing materials, and other forms of media to local cultural norms in different countries or regions.
By understanding how culture localization works and implementing its strategies when expanding overseas as well as serving domestic customers with diverse backgrounds, you will be able to create more effective campaigns that connect with a variety of cultures.
What is culture localization?
Culture localization is the process of adapting a product, service, or content to meet the linguistic, cultural, and social expectations of a specific target audience or market.
It involves understanding and respecting the local customs, beliefs, and values of a particular region or country, and tailoring the product or service accordingly. The goal of culture localization is to create a product or service that feels familiar and relevant to the local audience, rather than feeling like a foreign or generic import.
Localization can include translation of content into the local language, customization of graphics, colors, and imagery to reflect local preferences, and modification of marketing messages to appeal to local sensibilities.
This process is often necessary for global companies to successfully enter and compete in new markets, as it helps them connect with local consumers on a deeper level and avoid cultural misunderstandings or faux pas.
Successful culture localization requires a deep understanding of the target audience's culture and values, as well as a commitment to adapting the product or service to meet their needs.
What cultural elements should you add to your product/service for a different place?
When you want to sell your product or service in a new market with a different culture, you need to make sure that your product or service is adapted to that culture.
Here are some things you can do:
Conduct market research
Before localizing your product or service, it is important to conduct market research to understand the cultural values, preferences, and expectations of your target audience. This can involve analyzing cultural norms, beliefs, and practices, as well as studying consumer behavior and preferences in the local market.
Identify key cultural elements
Once you have a good understanding of the local market, you can identify key cultural elements that should be incorporated into your localized product or service. This may include language, design, colors, symbols, images, and other visual elements that resonate with the local audience.
Adapt product features and functionality
In addition to visual and design elements, you may need to adapt the features and functionality of your product or service to meet local needs and preferences. For example, you may need to adjust the size, shape, or packaging of your product to meet local standards, or you may need to modify the functionality of your software to accommodate local language or cultural practices.
Engage cultural experts
To ensure that you are accurately representing the local culture and avoiding cultural faux pas, it is a good idea to engage cultural experts, such as local consultants or advisors, to provide guidance and feedback on your localized product or service.
Test and refine your localized product
Once you have incorporated cultural elements into your localized product or service, it is important to test it with a local audience and gather feedback to identify areas that may need further refinement or improvement.
By following these steps, you can ensure that your localized product or service is culturally relevant and resonates with your target audience.
How to plan culture localization?
Planning for culture localization involves several key steps, including:
- Researching the target culture: Before beginning the localization process, it's essential to research the target culture thoroughly. This includes understanding the local language, customs, values, and preferences, as well as any legal or regulatory requirements that may impact the product or service.
- Identifying localization requirements: Once you have a good understanding of the target culture, you need to identify the specific localization requirements for your product or service. This could include translation of text, images, or videos, as well as customization of graphics, colors, and design elements.
- Creating a localization plan: Based on the research and requirements, create a detailed localization plan that outlines the steps involved in adapting the product or service for the target market. This should include timelines, budgets, and resource requirements.
- Assembling a localization team: To execute the localization plan effectively, you will need a team of experts, including linguists, designers, and developers, who are familiar with the target culture and can provide valuable insights into the localization process.
- Testing and validation: Before launching the localized product or service, it's essential to conduct thorough testing and validation to ensure that it meets the local market's requirements and expectations.
- Continuous monitoring and improvement: Localization is an ongoing process, and it's essential to continuously monitor and improve the product or service to ensure that it remains relevant and resonates with the target audience.
Common mistakes to avoid in cultural localization
Cultural localization is an essential aspect of any successful international business strategy.
It involves adapting products or services to meet the cultural preferences, expectations, and values of a specific target audience. However, there are some common mistakes that companies often make when attempting cultural localization. Here are some of these mistakes and tips on how to avoid them:
- Not Conducting Adequate Research. A crucial mistake that companies make is not conducting sufficient research on the target culture. This can lead to a lack of understanding of local customs and preferences, which can result in misinterpretations or misunderstandings.
Tip: To avoid this, it is important to conduct thorough market research and gain a deep understanding of the target culture's values, beliefs, and behaviors.
- Overlooking Language Differences. Language is a vital aspect of cultural localization. Many companies assume that a direct translation of their product or service will be sufficient for a new market. However, this approach can lead to linguistic mistakes, awkward phrasing, or even offensive language.
Tip: Hire professional translators and editors who are native speakers of the target language to ensure accuracy and appropriateness.
- Ignoring Visual Elements: Visuals such as colors, symbols, and images can have strong cultural connotations that companies may overlook. For instance, colors may have different meanings in different cultures. Failure to consider these elements may lead to a lack of appeal or even be offensive to the target audience.
Tip: Consult with local designers, artists, or marketing professionals to ensure that visual elements align with the target culture's preferences and avoid any cultural faux pas.
- Relying Solely on Technology: Technology such as machine translation or software localization may seem like a quick and cost-effective solution, but it can result in errors or misunderstandings that may harm the brand's reputation.
Tip: While technology can be useful, it should not replace human expertise. A combination of technology and human input is essential for effective cultural localization.
- Failing to Test and Refine: Companies often make the mistake of assuming that their localized product or service will be successful without testing it with the target audience. This can result in missed opportunities or even negative consequences.
Tip: Test the localized product or service with a focus group or survey before launching it to ensure that it resonates with the target audience. Gather feedback and make adjustments as needed.
Cultural localization is a critical component of a successful global business strategy. By avoiding these common mistakes and taking steps to be respectful and sensitive to the target culture's values and norms, companies can successfully adapt their products or services to resonate with their target audience.
Examples of cultural faux pas
Here are some examples of cultural faux pas that companies have made in the past:
- Pepsi’s commercial featuring Kendall Jenner. In 2017, Pepsi released a commercial that was widely criticized for its tone-deaf portrayal of protests and social justice issues. Many viewers felt that the commercial trivialized the important and serious issues that it depicted.
- IKEA’s catalog airbrushing. In 2012, IKEA removed images of women from its Saudi Arabian catalog, citing cultural sensitivity as the reason. However, the move was criticized for perpetuating gender inequality and discrimination.
- Dolce & Gabbana’s “Chopsticks” ad. In 2018, Dolce & Gabbana released an ad that showed a Chinese model struggling to eat Italian food with chopsticks. The ad was criticized for being culturally insensitive and perpetuating stereotypes about Asian culture.
These examples show the importance of being culturally sensitive and aware when localizing products and services for different markets.
Some good examples of cultural localization in the Nordic markets
In Sweden, McDonald's has introduced the McVegan burger to cater to the growing number of people who follow a plant-based diet.
The burger is made with a soy-based patty and has been well-received by Swedish customers.
Insider.com: McDonald's competes with Max burgers in the flexeterian food market, with the latter chain providing a new Green menu for its customers. According to Animal Rights Sweden, a recent poll found every tenth Swedish (9%) responded to being vegetarians or vegans. This number rose for under-30's, with one in five shunning meat products. Sweden has about twice as many vegetarians and vegans as the UK does.
IKEA Norway launched a range of furniture and homeware products that were designed specifically for the Norwegian market. The products included items that reflected the country's culture, such as reindeer skins and traditional Norwegian patterns.
H&M Denmark launched a sustainable fashion collection that was inspired by Danish design and culture. The collection featured clothing made from sustainable materials and included traditional Danish patterns and designs.
Fazer, a Finnish food company, introduced a line of chocolate bars that were inspired by traditional Finnish flavors, such as cranberry and blueberry. The bars were marketed as being uniquely Finnish and were popular with both Finnish and international customers.
These examples demonstrate how cultural localization can be used to create products and marketing campaigns that are tailored to the specific cultural preferences of a particular market.
What is the role of cultural consultants in localization?
Cultural consultants play a crucial role in the localization process by providing expertise and guidance on cultural norms, values, and practices.
They can help companies understand the nuances of the target culture and avoid cultural faux pas in their localized products or services. To engage cultural consultants effectively, companies should identify their specific localization needs, establish clear goals and objectives, and communicate openly with their consultants to ensure a collaborative and culturally sensitive approach. It is also important to select consultants with the relevant cultural knowledge and experience and to provide them with sufficient resources and support to achieve successful localization outcomes.
To engage cultural consultants effectively for cultural localization, companies can follow these steps:
- Identify the cultural consultants: Identify cultural experts by conducting online research or reaching out to local organizations and cultural institutions. It is important to look for individuals who have expertise in the specific culture and market that the company is targeting.
- Establish communication: Once the experts have been identified, establish communication with them through email, phone, or video conferencing. It is important to introduce the project, explain the company's goals, and discuss the scope of work with the experts.
- Provide guidance and feedback: During the localization process, companies can provide guidance and feedback to cultural consultants to ensure that the localized product or service meets their expectations. The experts can review the content and provide feedback on cultural appropriateness and accuracy.
- Compensate the experts: Compensate cultural experts for their time and expertise. The compensation can be in the form of a flat fee or hourly rate.
- Build a long-term relationship: Build a long-term relationship with cultural experts by maintaining regular communication and engaging them in future projects. This helps to ensure cultural relevance and accuracy in all future localized products and services.
Hire a "local" localizing expert
A "local localization expert" is not a common term in the localization industry, but it may refer to an individual who has expertise in adapting a product or service to meet the specific needs of a local market or audience.
A local localization expert should speak the target language, have knowledge of the target culture and customs, and can provide guidance on how to best adapt the product or service for the local market. They may also have experience with translation, localization project management, and quality assurance processes to ensure that the localized product or service meets the local market's expectations and requirements.
A "local" localization expert is a valuable asset for companies looking to expand into new markets or connect with local audiences on a deeper level.
At Localize Nordic, you can expect expertise in localizing your business, products, or services for the Nordic markets. For more information, please get in touch here.
Expanding your business globally is a great way to grow and promote your product or service further, but it's crucial to understand the importance of culture localization when doing so.
Culture localization will provide you with an array of new opportunities, allowing you to reach out to a wider range of customers and position your brand in new markets. By understanding how culture localization works, you will increase your connection with target audiences more effectively.
Therefore, if you want to create campaigns that will truly resonate worldwide and compete on the global stage, take the time to get familiar with culture localization today. Is there something in particular about culture localization that has been piquing your interest?
Take a closer look and uncover its secrets!