Efficient Pharma Localization Tactics in 2022

Pharma Localization

Global pharma companies seem to be in a position of advantage when it comes to entering emerging markets (now also dubbed “pharmerging countries”). Why, with bigger R&D possibilities, more advanced digital maturity stages and communication strategies, it seems fulfilling the mission of drug accessibility is as easy as pushing a button at the corporate HQ. At the same time, there are nuances to observe besides translating global content into target language – and at many organizations, the current processes of localizing content simply don’t allow to plug in the additional expertise. This leads to inefficiencies along the way, from internal constraints at local level to inexplicably lower-than-projected ROI. Here, we analyze the benefits of a well-thought content localization strategy – and localization management tools that can help.

Global companies, local markets

Spending on medicines is growing unequally across the world. According to prognoses, the US share will increase from $485 bln in 2018 to $625 bln by 2023, while the pharmerging countries are expected to spend up to $385 bln, rising from the 2018 baseline of 286 – growing by almost 1/3. Now, these are pre-COVID estimates, but the pandemic has not removed the underlying factors (such as aging populations and consumer awareness) to a considerable extent everywhere. Some more recent research has found the emerging markets will yield CAGR of 10.4% in the half-decade from 2021-26.

At the same time, while COVID has not disrupted this growth, it has changed things a lot when it comes to actually penetrating these markets. Traditionally, the use of conventional (but costly) channels of communication like medical reps, has been low in many regions, or field force were insufficiently furnished with visual and other promotional aids. The push toward digital that occurred in Q2-Q3 2020 has given the potential to level the capacities here. Granted, global companies still have the advantage of more mature omnichannel engagement strategies – but simply importing them along with content would be a major mistake. Regional specifics are crucial to make these subtle customer journeys work properly.

Meanwhile, the established local markets are growing, too (somewhere in the middle by CAGR), but also much more saturated both with products and communication. Treating these like secondary to global markets by underlocalizing the communications is becoming unacceptable.

What is this ‘underlocalizing’, then?

Localizing content vs. Localizing strategies

While agencies collaborating with pharma have long emphasized that localization does not equal translation, adding the extra parts (like content transcreation, more sophisticated local campaigns) has been reserved to the more conscientious marketers within pharmas themselves. In many cases, operationally, “localization” was a term only applied to content – and content translation, while local affiliates were either copying the global directives, or ignoring the best practices from HQ to go on doing things in the way it had always worked on the spot.

Ideally, though, there is a difference between localizing content – and localizing entire strategies. In a particular country, content types and even entire channels preferred may differ from what is expected at HQ, socially acceptable touchpoint frequency may vary from culture to culture, etc.

What’s more, even when there is understanding of these two “localizations”, the strategic one invariably influences the content localized. Failing to establish a firm link between them results in squandering opportunities. This is the case of a company localizing wrong content, or a really energetic local manager with a genius strategy being bound to use only partly suitable (but shiny) materials. Establishing this link requires understanding of what content there is already plus the local specifics. In some cases, this leads decision makers to establish local content hubs (or appoint special local liaisons at their Content Factories).

Localization besides translation

No matter how proficient a translator is, there are things they simply cannot do with words to provide the native look and feel. Someone will have to dive into design and code to fully adapt these. So, what exactly is it that requires content to be transcreated, and not just translated?

  • Visuals. This umbrella term encompasses a lot of factors: what is the visual to text ratio that the customers are comfortable with? What are the preferred data visualization types? For example, while most countries accept the traditional pie charts, graphs, bar charts, etc., the more recent infographic designs are not universally considered aesthetic. Also, do the visuals correspond to the local realities? This has been a pitfall for some AVOD advertisers in Latin America, where 70% users feel underrepresented in the content.
  • Psychology. This includes things like casual attention span (the amount of time a person is willing to dedicate to information before deciding whether to get invested in it). Further down the list are common attention or reaction triggers, as well as perceptions of tone of voice. Some cases are really like an extension of the linguistic T/V phenomenon (like tú vs. Usted in Spanish). This atmosphere of (in)formality exists even beyond words, when HCPs sometimes consider the tone of voice unacceptable or slightly off.
  • Objective regional specifics. Epidemiology of the target condition(s), dominant patient profiles, official guidelines and which are recognized more, affordability, insurance policies – all of these impact the phrasing and choice of key messages. If some material layout proudly presents a box with text saying, “recommended by [association]”, and you have to remove it, what will go there?
  • Coding it all. Supposing you have found the necessary expertise to truly localize the content in all details, who is going to work with all the code? This is the place where the “give-it-to-an-agency-once” model may prove inefficient, because the coders and project managers will perform better when immersed in the context. Additionally, for some content types, it is better to code (and test) with the dominant target platform and device in mind.

Making localization more efficient

All of this influences the efficiency of any localization strategy. Needless to say, no matter how developed a strategy can be in the marketer’s mind, the end implementation ultimately can be thwarted by something as simple as ineffective workflows and blown budgets. But how exactly to fix the issue?

In practice, whenever Viseven experts are approaching the localization issue (be it within a Digital Content Factory project or an omnichannel campaign scaled to multiple countries), there are two efficiency factors: internal and external. In the basic ROI equation, you can increase the return by either reducing the initial investment or making sure the net return figure is higher. The “internal” factor is the bottom of the equation, the initial allocation of costs, time, effort (we’re being multidimensional here). You can reduce this by eliminating the “waste” byproducts and processes in something like a Lean approach. This means providing more convenient virtual workplace, establishing better workflows, and so on.

On the other hand, the “external” factor in localization efficiency addresses the net return – that is, how much this localized strategy or content yields in the field. To raise this figure, one needs to go beyond localizing content to localizing strategy and tactics (that is why we talked about it earlier), as well as account for local realities.

So what would the recommended to-do list look like?

Actionable steps

  • Provide convenient UX for translators. Even in cases where localization does equal translating things, there are plenty of nuances that only translators know about. For example, it is often necessary to see where a string of text fits into the visual layout provided by the creative. On the other hand, simply commenting on a PDF file is also inconvenient, especially if the PDF is of a pharmaceutical eDetailing presentation loaded with small print and subscript/superscript figures. When a translator is working, their speed is limited by small distractions like having to format the text or checking the contextual placement. Even when each individual moment of such actions only takes up 2-3 seconds, they add up to much more in the process. This is why we enabled several localization modes in our eWizard content authoring platform to provide a convenient interface.
  • Provide a content authoring platform to implement visual changes. For changes besides translation, the visual design component is important. Even when it’s simply the question of removing a text box or changing the amount of text, such alterations impact the layout. When such changes accumulate (and they do once you want to localize in earnest), giving each and every one of such edits to a developer team as a separate request is no longer feasible. Implementing a low code/no-code content editing platform allows to be flexible on this sort of issues and minimize the investment in paid time and effort.
  • Provide possibility for fast pre-MLR review by local experts (and streamline collaboration between them and project management). There are things that MLR review turns into edits, but which could possibly be nipped in the bud if only someone had a look before submitting the material. Informally, many specialists already do address their colleagues in the know before passing assets to MLR: “hey there, what do you think of it.” This spares time, as the correction loop before MLR is often shorter than after it. Making this practice the norm, and facilitating it with proper tools can help reduce localization time and effort. We even integrated a functionality for pre-MLR review into eWizard platform with interactive preview and commenting mode, notifications, and so on.
  • Provide a platform for content reuse (not to code or recode from scratch) + single standard and access to well-arranged DAM. This is a practice that allows to address both internal and external efficiency factors. Content reuse approaches (from block-based to modular) allow not only to save costs and time on development itself, but also to cover a larger amount of smaller segments with personalized messaging. Instead of a presentation or two plus an email or two, you can enter a local market with a truly personalized campaign (or at least a personalizable one), where you recombine pre-approved modules to deliver messages the way it’s already being envisioned in global offices across companies. Organizationally, to enable this, you need a platform to work with modules, a DAM system that supports them (Veeva Vault PromoMats), integration between the two, and expertise in onboarding the local markets to work in this paradigm.


At the first glance, ensuring proper localization at all stages may seem a daunting task – but ensuring efficiency with several pinpointed tactics will result in less troubles than continuing to work in the conventional ways. To make this transformation as easy as possible, we at Viseven have supplied the necessary functionalities inside eWizard content authoring platform. This allows us to provide localization services for our customers much more efficiently than before – and also helps many companies to streamline localization themselves. Learn more about how this works and book a free demo, where you can also ask our expert about other available options to facilitate localization.