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How to Localize your Ad Campaign – A Step-by-step Guide

How to Localize your Ad Campaign – A Step-by-step Guide

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We’re exposed to ads so regularly it’s impossible to keep count anymore. In fact, marketing experts reveal that the average person is exposed to 4,000 to 10,000 in a single day! Let that simmer for a little bit.

Creating a truly memorable advertising campaign that turns heads and makes headlines is extremely rare – and when you’re expanding into foreign territory, the struggles inevitably magnify. You might be thinking “how do I speak to an audience I have no connection to?”. Worry not, as in this article we’ll explore all the different factors you need to consider when localizing your ad campaign, step-by-step.

Below are the 6 steps you need to take for an effective and memorable localized advertising campaign. But first, let’s consider why localizing your ads is always a good idea.

Should I localize my ad campaign?

You probably know the answer to this question from our side already, and that’s a resounding “YES!”. There is ample evidence to support the importance of localizing your ad campaign for guaranteeing success and the reason lies in the numbers.

A major payment solutions company that analysed the performance of localized ads in three major international markets (Germany, France, and Spain) by comparing them to their English counterparts, found that the localized campaigns outperformed the English campaign by 86%.

Ultimately, you can’t beat the effectiveness of a localized marketing campaign in global markets if your aim is to yield the best results possible.

1. Do research on your target market

After you’ve chosen the market you want to localize your ad campaign for, it’s time to proceed with the most important part of the localization process: figuring out what makes your audience tick.
Building a winning localized ad campaign requires you to develop sensitivity to your international audience’s cultural preferences and values, as this will have a significant impact on how you market your brand, the ways you package your marketing messages, the slang and other vocabulary you use and how you adapt the brand experience to meet your consumers’ needs altogether. A native translator that’s well-versed in your target locale can significantly reduce the legwork involved.

How to make the research process easier:

Start with what’s familiar. If you have multiple markets for international expansion in mind, you might prefer to kickstart this endeavour by localizing your campaign for the market most culturally similar to yours. Create a list of all the differences and similarities between the two markets, and from there you can pivot your original ads to speak to your target audience.
Study ads in your target market. Find examples of successful advertising campaigns in your target market, since this will allow you to identify patterns between them that you can make use of in your own campaign. Look out for unsuccessful ads and translation mishaps too – they’re just as informational (if not funny, sometimes). There are websites that provide you access to millions of international ads you could check out.
Create a checklist of culturally-relevant elements. Examine specific factors including dialectal differences, imagery, colours and symbols, numeric units of measurement and script direction, as they all influence how culturally-accurate your ad will appear.

2. Localize your ad copy

Localizing your copy involves adapting your message in a way that resonates with your audience and delivers the necessary emotional impact. There are two important considerations to keep in mind.

The language of your ad

Are you using the correct slang terms, idioms, writing system and sentence structure that make sense to your audience, so you can minimize the potential for causing confusion or offense? Here, make sure not to rely on word-for-word translation practices, such as the use of ineffective translation tools, that don’t take cultural and linguistic context into account.
Take Perdue Chicken’s costly ad campaign mistranslation error as an example. Frank Perdue’s tagline “It takes a tough man to make a tender chicken,” was translated into “It takes an aroused man to make a chick affectionate” (“Hace falta un tipo duro para hacer un pollo tierno”) for a Spanish audience. A mistake that’s not only embarrassing, but also incredibly costly to rectify. Not to mention these mistakes’ potential for wrecking reputations in international markets.

The concept behind your ad

Rather than simply switching out words and making sure all grammatical rules are adhered to, consider whether the concept behind the copy itself aligns with your market’s culture and values.
Be bold when making changes to your copy, and don’t be afraid to transform it into something completely different. Given this can be a highly creative process, it might require the assistance of a native transcreator from your target locale. These linguists are perfectly equipped to judge whether your ad hits the right tone.
Consider Christmas holidays in China. If the concept behind your original Christmas ad is related to exchanging gifts with your loved ones, you could alter your copy’s message to reflect the Chinese tradition of gifting apples to friends and family.
No matter what, make sure to stay away from clichés or stereotypes that’ll make your ad seem forced or insincere, as that can deliver a highly damaging blow to your brand imagine. For example, IKEA made the huge mistake of playing into the Chinese stereotype that women that remain unmarried into their 20s and beyond are somehow lesser than in one of its ad campaigns, a taboo topic over in China.

3. Localize your ad design

Localization isn’t limited to language only – it extends to design too. That’s because visuals and layout are as important for sparking engagement as the words you’ll use. You want to ensure that the colours, fonts, symbols and other elements of your ads align with your audience’s cultural perceptions and evoke the right emotion.
Colour, for instance, should be appropriately adapted to the target market. You can’t use the colour blue in your Westernized ads if your aim is to evoke a sense of excitement and urgency. That’s because blue is a colour denoting safety and trust – so, in this case, it’s advised you stick to the colour red. We have a blog post listing all colours and their associative meaning in different locations to assist you in this process which you can check out here.

4. Align your design with the copy

When localizing your ad design, take advantage of visuals and layouts to take your customers’ attention away from language and cultural references that didn’t properly translate in the copy.
It might also be wise to shrink or expand your copy so you can avoid cutting off text, having too much empty space or accentuating less significant aspects of your ad. That’s because localizing your ad in another language can cause the copy to shrink or expand significantly, thus affecting your ad’s UX, quality and feel.

5. Align your international ads with your website

Don’t make the big mistake of hyping up your international audience with a localized ad and then direct them to a non-localized website that neither speaks their language, nor considers the nuances of their respective culture. Your brand needs to remain consistent across your marketing, because brand inconsistency can limit your potential for building trust within your market.
Let’s say you’ve made a decent effort to build an outstanding ad campaign for a Japanese audience, and it’s ready to launch. You’ll get all the right clicks and immediately lead your prospects to an English or French-speaking website. And then what? Most of them will click right off, and your campaign will likely be a major disaster!

6. Conduct quality assurance

After localizing your ad campaign, you should ensure you’re faithful to all linguistic, contextual, and cultural guidelines you established at the beginning of your project.
It’s difficult to put yourself in your audience’s shoes if you’re not a member of your target market – you’ll have a hard time telling whether the language in your copy flows naturally and whether your ad creates the intended emotional impact for your target market.
If you haven’t hired a professional translator and transcreator to take care of the project from start to finish for a spotless final result, there are more options available to you. For example, you could consider having a native speaker and expert translator evaluate your ad campaign’s quality to ensure your copy meets the appropriate linguistic and cultural standards and is capable of evoking the right emotions.

Want to empower your localized ad campaign? Hire experts to do it for you.

From communication mishaps to lacking cultural relevancy, there are many things that could go awry during the arduous localization endeavour, which might end up costing you way more in the long-run. It’s also highly time-consuming for the average person lacking the right background, such as the necessary experience or language fluency.

Ads give you a limited space to showcase how your brand meets your target market’s needs, and you’ll need some creative magic to really make your message fly. An expert professional localization company, like Pangea, can remove all the guesswork and deliver impactful work for your localized marketing campaign in a timely fashion. Our services cover more than just localization, spanning market research, transcreation, graphic design localization, website localization, and QA testing, so we can take care of all steps outlined above for you.

Get in touch and let your ads pack a punch!

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