These days there is nothing to stop you expanding your brand globally if you see a market for it in other parts of the world. Websites are accessible from anywhere in the world, online payments mean there need be no delay in completing transactions, and the international shipping market is booming. But all too often, companies fail to seize that expansion opportunity simply because they don’t follow the principles of marketing localisation.

And they are missing out on a huge opportunity to take their brand global:

  • According to 49% of global marketers, marketing localisation increases ROI
  • Localised content received 6x more engagement
  • 86% of localised marketing campaigns outperform the English-only campaigns that were traditionally seen as the easiest route to global expansion

What is marketing localisation?

Marketing localisation is the process of adapting your digital marketing to make it relevant to other markets you want to get into. It is all about improving user experience and adapting your marketing materials in such a way that they feel organically created rather than obviously translated.

Sometimes this will involve wholesale changes to reflect the language and culture of your intended new audience, for example when translating your content from English to Indian. At other times, for example if adapting from UK English to US English, it may just require a few small changes to ensure the content remains culturally relevant and appropriate.

There may even be times when it makes sense to adapt your content for different regions of one country.

Translating your site using Google Translate

This may seem like the most straightforward way to localise your content, and Google Translate can certainly form part of the process. But we all know it is not always 100% accurate.

Google Translate takes no account of cultural nuances and will translate idioms and local phrases word for word in the same way it does the bulk of your content. Relying wholly on Google Translate will almost certainly lead to a situation where you have content that makes no sense to your new audience or worse, is insensitive or offensive.

It can be a good starting point, but human intervention is required to make the content truly relevant to your intended audience.

The importance of language in the process

There are several high-profile cases of companies who got it horribly wrong when translating their content:

  • KFCs ‘Finger Lickin’ Good’ slogan was presented to a Chinese audience as ‘Eat Your Fingers Off’
  • American Airlines ‘Fly in Leather’ tagline was translated into Mexican as ‘Fly Naked’
  • US beer manufacturer Coors translated ‘Turn in Loose’ into Spanish only to discover its new meaning was ‘Suffer from Diarrhoea’

Wherever you go in the world, language is full of nuances that often make sense only to natives. Italians use the phrase ‘In bocca al lupo’ to wish somebody good luck. The phrase translates literally as ‘In the mouth of the wolf’. It’s easy to see how this phrase could be confusing to natives of other countries if directly translated.

The English version of ‘In bocca al lupo’ is ‘Break a leg’. To anybody outside of the UK this may seem an odd way to wish somebody well and it could be disastrous if translated to another language.

But while phrases such as these have the potential to go so wrong when translated, they are the exact types of local dialect that marketers look for when trying to connect with an audience. Marketing copy is often full of local dialect, made up phrases that mean nothing outside of their original context (remember ‘Don’t just do it, B&Q it’) and puns that only work in their native language.

These are often the most important parts of the content as they establish the intended audience, define the brand and speak directly to the target market. These must be translated into something that is equally appealing to the new market – but rarely will a direct translation be the answer.

B2B marketing and localisation

B2B marketing is no longer the staid, transactional process it was once seen as. Globalisation coupled with the way people of all generations now accept digital marketing as the primary way to source any product or service, have catapulted B2B marketing into the digital transformation.

Localised content is now translated and adapted in the same way for B2B as it is for B2C. It allows B2B marketers to speak to rather than at prospects and to engage with them in a way that is professional without being overly formal.

One of the key principles of digital marketing in the modern age is finding content that resonates with your audience. This can be through videos or images that are culturally relevant as well as with words that connect with your audience and show you ‘get’ them.

A good B2B content marketing strategy is created by determining your brand message and the way you want that to connect your brand with your intended audience. By getting to the crux of how you want your brand to be relatable, you will create a strategy that is adaptable to any market because you are able to convey the underlying principle to creatives who understand the local market you are targeting and have them produce something that fits even if, on the face of it, it seems very different from the marketing material you use in your home country.

Best practice in marketing localisation

The first and most important thing to remember when creating localised content is that you must start work on it as soon as you decide to move into a new market. You can’t expect to establish yourself in the market and then adapt your content as you will spend the initial weeks or months deliberately distancing your brand from your target market. Content must be localised from day one.

Most brands typically have the same types of content:

  • Brand content (About us, vision, mission statement etc)
  • Marketing content (Landing pages, blog posts, product pages, social media posts)
  • Technical content (Manuals, how to…, product descriptions, user guides, FAQs)
  • Legal content (Terms of use, disclaimers etc)
  • Back-end content (Form entries, number formats etc)
  • Contact information

Each of these is treated differently when it comes to creating localised content.

Brand content

The majority of this will be fairly simple to translate and will only require minor edits to make sure it is accurate and written appropriately for your target audience. Remember, readability is a key part of SEO and your content will need to gain the approval of Google’s web crawlers for the locality you are targeting.

Marketing content

This is what really connects you with your target market. It is likely to use idioms, slang terms and images/videos that appeal to your audience as you aim to create an emotional connection with them. It is vital that you make sure this content conveys your intended meaning after being translated and is not likely to cause offence or drive people away.

Technical content

This must be accurate. As with marketing content, nuances can make a difference and getting this wrong can damage the trust your clients have in you.

Legal content

There is no place for ambiguity here. Everything you say must be truthful and line with local laws and regulations.

Back-end content

It would be easy to forget this when creating localised content but that could have serious implications. For example, in some countries, it is normal to have just one name. While users could feasibly fill in a box for a second name to fulfil your criteria and sign up, the likelihood is that they will feel put out by this and choose to go elsewhere. Even if they do decide to sign up, this does not show your business in a good light. Likewise, different countries have different standard date formats. Getting these details right will almost certainly go unnoticed. But getting them wrong is potentially damaging for your reputation.

Your content localisation strategy should be based on these 4 core principles:

1. Know your market – If you don’t have in-depth understanding of the market yourself, find an agency that does

2. Translate, localise and optimise – Be aware of cultural nuances and SEO techniques for your target market

3. Promote your content – You have content that you can be proud of, so get it out there. And use those local experts to help craft your blogs and socials too.

4. Analyse, amend and expand – You’d do it with your marketing materials in your home country, so do it with your localised content too. Just because it’s not rude or offensive, there is no guarantee that your localised content will work. If you’re using A/B testing, make sure all iterations are accurate and appropriate.


Success with localised content is about balancing cultural and linguistic nuances with your branding. At MWJ, we work with companies from all around the world, helping them to target the right customers, in the right locations, with the right content.

For more details and to discuss how we can help make your localised content impactive and effective, get in touch today.

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