Localizing your Brand - An Example-Packed Guide

24 January 2021

If your company’s serious about taking over the world, then it’s not enough to translate your website into 10+ languages. As a language services company, you probably think we’re crazy for pointing this out. Still, while translating your website is a good start, there’s usually a carefully considered localization strategy that helps the best companies in the world to make a lasting impact when they expand into new lands. 

Each country has its unique history, challenges, religion, politics and even pop culture. If you really want to succeed on an international scale, you’ve also got to account for the subtle nuances of the local market you’re targeting. Not sure if your company is localizing the right way? We’ve put together a quick guide to help you make sure your next international launch is a roaring success. 


Is your brand name globally marketable? 

We all remember when Juliet asks Romeo “What’s in a name?”, but you don’t have to be well versed in Shakespeare to know that names are one of the most important, identify-defining parts of a brand. 

The first asset to consider for localization? Your brand name. 

Car manufacturers often have to change car model names so that they are pronounceable and linguistically appealing to international consumers. Here are a few famous examples to get you thinking about your own international brand appeal. 


Nissan’s Worldly Approach to Names

If you’re entering a foreign market, you need to know if your brand name is still going to be culturally appropriate, and whether or not your brand can be pronounced by the people in the country of localization. Nissan provides a great example of cultural and linguistic flexibility, and have released a number of cars with multiple names across different geographies. 

Take the (now discontinued) Nissan Tiida. If you’re reading this in the Middle East, then you probably recognize this as the name of a popular sedan model often seen on roads across the land. However, if you’re reading this In North America or Europe, then you’ll only know this car by its original name; the Nissan Versa. Stranger still, in South America, the exact same car is called a ‘Dodge Trazo’! 

Interestingly, one of the most important reasons for the Middle Eastern name change is that there’s no ‘V’ sound in the Arabic language. Selling a car that no one can pronounce isn’t exactly a winning marketing strategy, and Nissan’s localization approach probably involves a degree of cultural modification. 


Vauxhall’s Car Crash Spanish Marketing 

Another cause for the importance of brand localization is also made by Vauxhall, who faced a rather tricky translation situation when they released the (now discontinued) Vauxhall Nova. At the time of release, General Motors didn’t realise that in Spanish, the word ‘nova’ literally means ‘not going’. A damaging oversight in a market where you’re looking for a vehicle that’ll take you places! The last thing you want is a car that’s not going anywhere. Poor brand localization can be a seriously costly mistake, so it pays to do your research before launch. 


Cultural Sensitivity 

Words, phrases and even dates can have different meanings across the globe. Making cultural mistakes can be disastrous, so do your market research early, and make sure you’re conscientious about your cultural presence with your audience. 


The one where GAP offended the entire Chinese market 

A classic example of bad localization is when in 2018, American retail giant, GAP released a t-shirt depicting a map of China that didn’t include Taiwan and other Chinese-owned territories on it. The Chinese market was furious about the error, and in the region, the t-shirt and all related products were pulled from shelves and destroyed. 

Brand imagery that relates to your target audience is another key part of brand localization that’s often overlooked by newbies in the globalization game. Particularly in the Middle East where values are more conservative, and religion and tradition play a prominent role in society, marketing products or services with lots of bare skin on display, may be seen as distasteful and even offensive. 


Adapt Your Offerings

Are the customers in your country of origin the same customers who will buy your product in a foreign market? Sometimes localizing your brand also means changing the price points, packaging and even the products themselves. 


How McDonald’s go McLocal

A good example of this is how American fast-food chain McDonald's localizes its offerings to adapt to different cultural needs. In the Middle East, you can pick up a McArabia, an Arabic bread sandwich with halal chicken patties, while in Japan, the Golden Arches offer fishy options like the Ebi-filet, a shrimp filled burger and even shrimp nuggets. Yummy! 


The Big Takeaway 

When it comes to marketing your brand for a global audience, a one size strategy definitely doesn’t fit all. Language is one component of making waves around the world, but market research and a localization strategy need thought too. Localizing your brand can be a fantastic way to enter new markets and expand your business reach, but this is a project that needs time and talent! 

And speaking of talent, if you’re looking to address your global language, then how about a free consultation with our language specialists? At e-Arabization, we’ve got a bit of an empire-building reputation, and we’d love to help you localize yours. 


Drop a quick marhaba our way or visit e-arabization.com to check out all the incredible industries we help connect with audiences all over the Arabic-speaking world.