Some companies have grown exponentially by accommodating consumers with diverse dialects, languages, and cultures. Many brands have made localisation a force to help them conquer this kind of growth, allowing them to tap into the new markets. However, the trend of transforming content to a specific region or culture is not new. Many American software giants like Microsoft deployed their solutions worldwide back in the 80s. Today, with the help of digital communication, some famous brands are rendering content to countries outside their geographical location. It has allowed them to stay locally and globally relevant.
Companies like Coca-Cola and Visa have made their brand almost invincible by recognising the power of “local relevance.” These brands dare to translate their content to regional contexts and are confident in curating content specific to a region’s preferences and tastes. Gaming brands like Nintendo and PUBG have gone global while managing to keep their local relevance alive.
Localisation recognises the role of values, cultures, and dialects during brand messaging. It allows businesses to adapt to local language, style, and design. These elements take shape due to geographical barriers; however, localisation helps brands go beyond texts and phrases. Localisation does not mean mere “translation.” It is more than that. Although translators play a massive role in localisation projects, localisation has numerous key factors that come into play.
Competition in the international market is fierce; therefore, no two brands can afford to offer similar brand experiences. Such continuous differentiation has forced brands to pay great focus on a customer’s personal experiences. In addition, a brand with the ambition of going global cannot target diverse consumers using the same marketing campaign! Hence, we see companies optimising their ads for specific target markets. Consumers also want brands to communicate in their native dialects. It gives them a more personal feel.
According to a report by Common Sense Advisory, 72% of shoppers prefer purchasing from sites that use their native language. Almost 55% of them exclusively choose these sites over others. Let’s evaluate some brands communicating with global customers and understand how they connect with their audiences at a deeper level to drive engagement.
There is no doubt about how much of a marketing genius Steve Jobs was. He helped Apple establish itself as a desirable, unique, and fashionable electronics brand. Their simplistic yet stylish products differentiated them from the herd in the USA. Apple is one of the biggest companies globally that launches culturally-relevant marketing campaigns all over the globe. Their previous localised campaigns are noteworthy! For instance, let’s look at their campaign in Japan. The Japanese culture disapproves of criticising others; therefore, Apple’s Mac vs. PC marketing campaign couldn’t work in Japan. Apple couldn’t take a direct shot at Microsoft! Rather than translating their American ad, they collaborated with local comedians to show Mac is for fun-loving individuals. Their marketing team didn’t just translate their content but also aligned it to match the cultural expectations of the native audiences.
This brand sells more than 2 billion bottles every day! Coca-Cola was one of the few global brands that focussed on capturing international audiences. Their campaigns, such as “Share a Coke,” used common English names like Jack, Tom, Mike, Alisa, etc., on the label. It helped them build familiarity and gave customers a reason to share their drinks. In countries like Russia, Coca-Cola localised the names using native names to synergise with the locals. However, in China, people don’t use initial names to address others. They prefer to address individuals by their last name. Therefore, Coca-Cola used taglines like “Share a Coke with your close friend or classmate.” The campaign brought impressive results for the brand, allowing them to bypass cultural constraints in China.
If we talk about app localisation, we must address the brilliant work done by Nintendo. Nintendo invests aggressively in in-app localisation, allowing them to customise their content for a specific demographic. They tailor the gaming experience by inducing local elements that appeal to the local audiences. Their strategies have helped them double their growth! They have also localised business steps like segment testing, product development, and content translation. Today Nintendo works with numerous localisation experts to develop marketing content. They also customise their official releases as per different markets. All this makes the brand deliver native gaming experiences while consistently maintaining the same level of satisfaction.
PUBG, developed by Brendan Greene, is a popular action game with more than 400 million users worldwide! The game is widely popular in countries like China, the USA, the UK, Germany, India, etc. Acquiring such a huge base was impossible without translating or localising the content. You see, gaming is all about “emotional experiences.” That is why the game features twelve languages, including English, allowing them to engage local audiences and develop stronger connections. PUBG enables users to experience the same thrill regardless of their language.
As discussed, localisation is more than translation! It allows you to capture, grow, and retain new markets in the global economy. By now, you must have understood how localisation provides a competitive advantage to brands.
But branding your business in an unfamiliar market is a challenge in itself. It would be best if you had insights and data that could highlight the preferences of your target audiences. Your business should partner with a professional translation and localisation company that can provide the right intellect and strategy to localise your content. Or else, poor translation and localisation can have severe business implications. Let’s evaluate them.
If your brand wants to establish itself in multicultural settings, you must launch global marketing campaigns in many languages. To achieve that, you need to curate and deploy your final content within a fast turnaround. Failing to do so will hinder global communication and growth.
Imagine you have set up a website to expedite your products and services. What if your newly launched website is unable to deliver the right translation? What if the terms, measurements, and product descriptions are inconsistent? If your website translates your content into inappropriate language, it will severely harm your brand’s reputation and may lead to financial loss.
Low-quality translation and localisation can pressure your customer executives. What if customers come to your website and raise support requests because they cannot understand the content? Therefore, your brand must ensure that support materials are localised for native markets.
A slow translation process can hinder your international success. Imagine during an international launch; you cannot push out your content. Local players can benefit from that situation by launching the same services or content before you. Therefore, you may lose business to local players if the translation takes too long.
No centralised control over the content will lead to inconsistent translations. Your brand messaging may become unreliable if your business partners or stakeholders use different translation suppliers.
Falling for ineffective translation solutions can add severely to your business cost. Without a translation management portal, you won’t be able to keep track of your actual spending on translation and localisation. Exporting requirements, importing, billing, etc., requires you to keep a central solution for costing visibility and control.
Today, 60 percent of the websites are in the English Language. According to a report by Statista, 26 percent of online users search using English keywords. It means that a massive online audience is underserved! Hence, localising your content is not enough to drive new clients. That is why brands need multilingual SEO and eCommerce Localisation.
Let’s break these two factors into separate segments.
E-Commerce localisation can help you achieve excellence in the international marketplace. It allows you to transform your online business’ content (an app or website) in a way that it resonates with the native audiences you are targeting. It can help your eCommerce website or app adhere to local regulations, preferences, format, or currencies.
Since there are numerous users on the internet from different linguistic backgrounds, your brand needs to adopt multilingual SEO optimization. It can support your business in addressing and engaging the rest of the world! For instance, if your eCommerce business is based in the USA, you might consider attracting non-American clients or visitors from non-English speaking countries. Your brand must optimise its SEO strategy to attract and engage them. You can get visibility across different languages and locations. You’ll get to attract more traffic and more growth compared to your competitors. It will also help you evaluate the demands of your international clients.
International expansion of your business demands huge investment and a lot of resources. Your brand needs to have financial & operational stability before you sign up for this change.
If you have figured out an existing customer base for your product in an international market, it’s good to expand. Ensure you invest in the right metrics and surveys to evaluate the market potential and size.
As a gradually progressing brand, never focus on entering all spaces simultaneously. First, you must determine which market you want to tap. You can choose a market closer to your location so that your new customers share the same dialect, behaviour, or culture. It would keep your brand’s initial cost of translation and localisation low. Similar market space shares the same business climate, size, innovations, etc.
Before opening up to the concept of “going global,” your business must prepare for the new markets. Brand messaging, marketing assets, logos, content, images, taglines, etc., must be localised to make your brand sound native. For this checkpoint, eCommerce localisation and multilingual SEO can be very effective tools.
Into23 has a deep supply chain of professional freelance translators in key markets who use the latest technology during the translation project. We have years of experience as a language translation agency in Hong Kong. Check out our Portal for central billing, reporting, and ordering solutions.
We also provide automated translation management, which allows us to distribute content at lightning speed. Apart from automated content management, our team also offers Automated Translation Quality Assurance to meet the highest compliance standards. We help you adapt your brand’s message to your target audience’s cultural norms. Businesses like yours can develop custom translation workflow and achieve impactful marketing translation.
Clients can leverage our neural machine translation engines for localising support documentation and FAQS. For your legal documents, you can utilise our native language translators. However, the post-editing process involves the manual presence of editors who correct the output. Allow us to take away your pain of managing translations! We respond to all incoming inquiries within 1 hour during our operational hours. Contact us now!
In 2010, a Pro-Cantonese Movement （廣州撐粵語行動）erupted in the city of Guangzhou in Guangdong province, the epicentre of the modern Cantonese dialect we hear today.
It was triggered when the Chinese People’s Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) Guangzhou Committee submitted a proposal to keep Cantonese in mainstream media in order to preserve the ancient dialect, which was at odds with Beijing’s blanket directive to standardize Mandarin throughout all provinces.
As expected, these remarks propelled the topic to the top of the leaderboard on Weibo and other Chinese social media sites. The majority of netizens speaking up were from Cantonese-speaking Guangdong province, defending the language in a myriad of creative ways. Notably a comedic modification of the poster for Echoes of the Rainbow, a popular Hong Kong movie released in 2010. It was modified to “The Thief who smashes Cantonese” featuring Ji Keguang, the most prominent proponent of Mandarin standardization.
But it is not uncommon for multiple languages to co-exist in a single location. In fact, 3 of the top 4 most multilingual countries in the world are located in Asia (Papua New Guinea, Indonesia and India), with China ranking 6th on this list, with 300 different spoken languages located within its borders.
So why did this Cantonese versus Mandarin debate in particular garner such attention from the masses? How is it any different from China’s 299 other languages? To understand this, we need to take a deeper dive into the history of the language.
One of the main reasons Cantonese is of such interest is perhaps because it is significantly older than Mandarin. It was first recorded after the fall of the Han dynasty, around 220AD, over 2000 years ago. In contrast, Mandarin only came into being around 100 years ago. In addition, Cantonese came into being through natural evolution, whereas Mandarin was a top-down ‘creation’, made for a specific purpose: unification and simplification.
A map depicting where Mandarin and Cantonese are spoken, along with many of China’s other languages.
In February 1913, the ‘Unification of Pronunciation Conference’ was held in Beijing to examine and approve the standard pronunciation, known as ‘GuoYin’（國音）of over 6500 Chinese characters. Through a series of complicated voting, the version of Chinese we now know as ‘Mandarin’ was born. The voters hailed from all over China, many in fact preferring to speak Cantonese or Sichuanese (amongst others), yet the final result resembles most closely what was spoken in Beijing at the time.
From 1955 onwards, Mandarin was referred to as Putonghua（普通話）, meaning ‘common’ （普）and ‘universal’（通）.
The then-Head Minister of Ministry of Education Zhang Xiruo said at the time:
The common language of the Han nationality has long existed. Now it is named Putonghua. It needs to be further regulated and standardised. This is Mandarin with the northern dialect as the base dialect and Beijing phonetics as the standard pronunciation. For simplicity, this national common language can also be called Putonghua.
In 1982, only 40 years ago, Beijing enacted the ‘Tuipu policy’, whose purpose is to make Putonghua the nation’s only language. This has numerous advantages for the country’s economy and leadership, creating a homogenous society across China’s enormous landmass and simplifying trade, communication, education, and much more.
It was a logical move to boost economic development which China so desperately needed at the time in order to catch up with the developed nations of the world. But at what cost to the diversity of ethnic cultures and local identity? What’s more, with the rise of technology and seamless translation software now readily available, is communication in different languages even a hindrance to economic development anymore?
We at Into23 would argue that a language barrier creates a competitive advantage for those willing to put in the effort to localise their products. As a result Into23 has built relationships with hundreds of incredible companies expanding into and out-of China. All of whom understand the importance of language as a cultural identifier, and are working hard to solidify their presence in their local area through accurate translocalisation thanks to Into23.
This idea of localising communication is particularly prevalent in Cantonese-speaking Hong Kong, where many, especially young people, are beginning to question their Chinese identity. An annual poll run by the University of Hong Kong found that even though the proportion of the population that can speak mandarin fluently has doubled since the handover in 1997, only 31% of people said they felt proud to be Chinese nationals, the lowest ever recorded. In fact, according to Chan Shui-duen, a professor of Chinese and Bilingual Studies at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University, many young people “just reject it”.
The streets of Hong Kong, where both Mandarin and Cantonese are equally prevalent.
Against this backdrop, it is understandable that Cantonese is not just surviving but actually thriving. According to linguistics expert Lau Chaak-ming, businesses are picking up on the importance of playing to the local Cantonese identity. Writing in vernacular Cantonese (as opposed to standard Chinese) has increasingly appeared in public advertisements, magazines and other targeted media in the last 10 years, even “greatly accelerating” in the last four years.
60 million Cantonese speakers worldwide is a very considerable audience and as such should be considered when moving in to the China market. Translating your content from standard Chinese to vernacular Cantonese is often the difference between your product launch succeeding and failing.
Whether you are just curious or looking for multimedia localisation services, audio and video transcription services, E-learning translation services, website localisation, or indeed any kind of written or spoken translocalisation, please fill in the contact form and we would be happy to discuss the intricacies of translocalisation for multilingual Asian audiences.