4 Mistakes You Should Avoid When You Localize Your Marketing Content

For global companies, localizing marketing content is essential. I don’t think a lot of international businesses would disagree with this statement. However, many companies paradoxically don’t give localization half the attention it deserves, which can sometimes produce poor/interesting/hilarious results (choose whichever word you want). Even big brands aren’t immune to localization failure.

Most of these failures are actually caused by the fact that few businesses really understand the very concept of localization. Before going any further, here is a definition of localization:

“The practice of adjusting a product’s functional properties and characteristics to accommodate the language, cultural, political and legal differences of a foreign market or country” (http://www.businessdictionary.com/definition/localization.html)

Now, please read this sentence, remember it, and put it on the wall of your office, right between your diplomas and your family pictures:



(Sorry for the capital letters. As you may have guessed, this is slightly important.)


Having said this, here are some concrete examples of what you shouldn’t do when you localize your content:


1) Don’t use poor translations

That should be obvious for everyone… or maybe not. There are plenty of examples of bad translations on the Web, and while some of them actually proved to be urban myths, others are (unfortunately) genuine, such as KFC’s famous “Eat your fingers off”.

So if you don’t want your next marketing campaign to promote the virtues of cannibalism, be very careful about the quality of your translations, and think twice before entrusting your employee who “speaks Chinese fluently” with the translation of all your marketing materials. Instead, hire the services of a professional translator or a translation agency: even though the investment may seem significant, it’s nothing compared to what a single bad translation can cause you to lose.

Find out more: How To Choose The Best Translation Service Provider For Your Needs


2) Don’t assume that each culture is the same

By using quality translations, you have already done half of the job. But as I wrote earlier, localizing and translating aren’t the same thing. The next point to consider is the culture of the country or region targeted by your content. Just because your content has a great impact in your country doesn’t mean that it will work everywhere. You should especially be very cautious about the cultural and religious background of the targeted country: sometimes, your content can be accepted in your country while being offensive in others.


3) Don’t forget the details

Sometimes, details can have much more importance than you think. And the first big “detail” you should double-check is the name of your brand or your products. Did you know that “lumia” means “prostitute” in some Spanish dialects? You can imagine the success of the Nokia Lumia after its launch in Spain, then.

Another element you should be aware of when you market your services or products abroad is the colors you use in your content. For example, although white is often linked with peace and purity in western cultures, it’s also the color of mourning and misfortune in Asian cultures. Other colors have different meanings depending on the cultures, too. Therefore, you should always find out about the meanings of the colors used in your content in other countries to make sure that you can also use them in your localized content.


4) Don’t use the wrong keywords

When you wrote your content, you used the right keywords to improve its search engine rank, didn’t you? Well, good news! If you have neglected keywords during the translation of your content, you have just undermined all the efforts you put in SEO!

When you translate a text into another language, you have to make sure the translation will be as effective from a SEO-point of view as the original. One single word in the source text often has several different translations in the target language: how can you know which of them will be the best keyword to get the best ranking in search engines and grow your audience?

The solution here is to find out about the most effective keywords in your target market. Once you have them, send these words to your translator or your agency, and let him/them know that they must absolutely be used in the translation.


The bottom line

  • Hire a good translator. Seriously. You will regret it otherwise.
  • Before you localize anything, start by making an in-depth study of the market you’re targeting. Try to find out about the keywords you should use, as well as what you should or shouldn’t write/say in this market. Finally, show your localized content to several natives from the targeted market before you publish it. That could help you reconsider your strategy if you are doing something wrong, and save you a lot of hassles afterwards!


Have you ever localized your marketing content? What would you do differently now?