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Top 9 Localization Pitfalls to Avoid in 2022

Top 9 Localization Pitfalls to Avoid in 2022

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Want to expand abroad? Perfect, but do you know how to localize your brand and keep your brand reputation intact?

Scaling internationally comes with challenges. To ensure your brand’s success across borders, you have to research, find the market or markets where your product or services fill a need, team up with local partners, secure financing, make an impact, and finally – sell, sell, sell.
Considering that more than 80% of the world’s population does not speak English as their mother tongue, translating and localizing your marketing content tops the “to-do” list of your business.
Having said that, no brand is safe from localization failure. Popular brands like Pepsi, Apple, and Starbucks, have all made surprisingly bad mistakes and paid a hefty price.
Pepsi, for example, generated a hilarious effect when localizing its “Come alive with the Pepsi generation” slogan into Chinese, which came out as “Pepsi brings your relatives back from the dead”. 😖😖😖😖😖😖😖😖
Starbucks mistranslated the title of its delicious latte in German, leaving coffee lovers to wonder, “Does this coffee come with any extras if….?” in front of the warm, coffee-like drink with a cheeky name – “erection” (in German slang). “Latte” also means “pole”, but well, as a German, you wouldn’t think of “pole” first, would you? 🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣🤣
Today’s trillion-dollar juggernaut, Apple omitted the umlauts, cedillas, accents, and other special characters from its keyboards when localizing to Europe. 🤭🤭🤭🤭🤭🤭🤭🤭
If they failed, how can you succeed? You can if you…

Avoid these 9 localization mistakes

1. Say “No” to machine translation

We all use it once in a while, especially in straightforward contexts. Machine Translation (MT) is fast and increases efficiency without placing any pressure on your translation team. However, despite the advancements of this technology, machines cannot be relied upon in contexts where complexity and nuance are focal to communicating the message correctly. Machines lack the personal touch, industry expertise, and rigour necessary to localize non-standard language – humour, sarcasm and technical jargon. Avoid this pitfall by using the services of a human translator with a background in your industry.

2. False friends

A common mistake in marketing localization is translating content word-for-word. Although sometimes, you may be able to convey the actual meaning and intent being expressed in the source language through direct translation, this isn’t the case of false friends (words with a different meaning in the source and target languages). This is where linguistic research can either make or break your international branding. Automakers offer enough vivid examples of good and bad brand name translations.

Ford’s Fiera model was less popular in Spain than the carmaker had hoped because “fiera” means “angry” in Spanish slang. Hence, they subsequently changed the name to Ford Fiesta (“celebration”).

Rolls-Royce luckily figured out from an early stage that their brand name Silver Mist would not work in the German market since “mist” means “manure” in German. Eventually, the Rolls-Royce model that went to the German market was named “Silver Shadow” (“Silberner Schatten”).

3. Bad name translation of names and places

Translating or rather “adapting” proper names of countries and places to the target language is crucial. While some names may stay the same in any language, as is the example of Canada, others change form and spelling. Italy becomes Italie in French while preserving its original Italian spelling and form in Hebrew – Italia. But in Chinese, it is Yìdàli (意大利). So, do your research well.

4. Keeping the same payment methods across all regions

Different regions use different payment methods and currencies. PayPal and credit/debit cards may be considered standard payment options in North America and certain European countries; Polish users may prefer PayU, while German consumers like to use Sofort or Revolut.

Therefore, it is essential to study all the payment options available in your target country or region and integrate them.

5. Not supporting diversity and inclusion

It is vital to ensure your diverse audiences find themselves in your content in an increasingly connected world. Offering your multilingual clients a meaningful experience through content marketing should be a top priority.

Having said that, choosing images and videos that resonate with your local audience plays a pivotal role in your brand’s success. Remember, words create stories, but pictures give them colour. So, be colour-conscious.

6. Misperception of a calendar week SEO

Although the Western world sticks to the Friday-Sunday weekend, the Middle East does not. So, if you wish to localize your products or services in the Middle East, avoid creating content or special offers around a weekend or Black Friday they do not share. Before running any big campaign focusing on special days, make sure to get your calendar sorted.

7. Dwelling on taboos

Topics such as politics and religion have always stirred scornful debate. Each nation has its own perception of politics and religious matters. Diving deeper into such taboo matters may be offensive or even unlawful. Avoid this mistake by not mixing politics into your marketing campaigns.

8. Linking code strings

Linking code strings end-to-end may be design-efficient in your language but not when you localize your website or mobile app. Every string must be uniquely coded to enable seamless translation, regardless of the target language. Accommodate special characters, alignment particularities (i.e., right-to-left text orientation for Arabic and Hebrew), number and date format, units of measurement and currency symbols.

9. Not adapting your UI/UX to the target locale

Your website, mobile app, or platform is the first point of contact between your brand, products and services and consumers. Therefore, your UI/UX interface should reflect your brand identity regarding colours, fonts, imagery, formatting, messaging, etc.

In addition, your user journey from the moment of onboarding to checkout should be as seamless as it is in the target language. It is easier to create a neutral design right from the start than retrofit all these elements to each target audience. Eliminate all content and design ambiguities to allow local users to navigate your website or platform easily. Running A/B testing will help you determine which UI elements appeal to your local users best.

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