Take Gerber’s attempt to sell baby food in Africa, all the while retaining the original package. It was aesthetically pleasing, only that in several regions there is a tradition of depicting the actual contents on the outside. Now, the industrial giant that it is, the company survived the situation none worse for the wear – but the episode could’ve killed a smaller one.
What makes the whole thing “juicy” is that the children theme is something most people are pretty much sensitive to. The general principle is, no matter what caused a particular misunderstanding (cultural conventions, national traditions, linguistic traps), the closer it is to things like family and personal wellbeing, the more painful it gets when something goes wrong. For a building company, poor brand localization is a minor embarrassment, but what if you are, say, a pharma company?
These days, marketing content localization is gradually becoming a full-fledged art, capable of not only avoiding anecdotal mishaps, but also of exerting control of much subtler brand to customer interactions. And THAT is the territory where you start actually getting some real revenue boosts. Like visual arts, with their rules on perspectives and golden sections, this new art also has its set of principles – with these two on top:
- No, you don’t just translate a bunch of catchphrases into a different language and call that localization. It may work, but so might a plain old roulette.
- The ideas dwelling in the HQ and those circulating miles away are like weights balanced on scales. Too much pressure from either side, and the whole thing gets toppled.
Now, with these preliminaries out of the way, let us work through some of the problematic issues of brand localization.