Localisation Done Right!

In an era that celebrates diversity, consumers and clients want to know that you respect their lifestyle and culture. They want to know that you have put in the time and effort to get to know them and give them exactly what they need. If you don’t know them, you don’t get their business – as simple as that.

This simple truth is what drives Netflix the internet television giant. Content localisation, dubbing, internalization, subtitling and closed captioning are top priority for the company that has over 75 million members in over 190 countries. 70% of its video localisation budget is spent on dubbing alone! Now if this strategy is working for a company valued at $42 billion dollars, we better sit up and start taking notes!

Subtitling, dubbing and more on Netflix

Subtitling, dubbing and more on Netflix

Go Global; Think Local

While localisation encompasses several things (think McDonalds and its McAloo Tikki for India), we will concentrate on content. The localisation of content is much more than translation. It involves adapting the content to fit in with the local audience keeping their cultural sensitivities in mind. Millions of dollars are spent on global campaigns as companies try to get their brand to the world. All this could be futile however if what they intended to convey takes on a completely different meaning for a country or demographic. The results could be disastrous to say the least! Careful and strategic localisation efforts ensure that such flops don’t happen.

Localisation of content includes making changes to content allowing for a careful consideration of the differences in the following context:

  • Social norms, etiquette, myths, relationships and beliefs
  • Standards of measurement like weight, distance etc.
  • Date and time formats
  • Local slang and colloquialisms
  • Abbreviations and titles

Teeth so White … Not so Right!


A case in point to illustrate differences in cultural perception was Pepsodent’s pitch some years ago. Its marketing message promoting “whiter teeth” wasn’t such a great hit in South East Asia. Having stained teeth was a status symbol there. In fact, locals would stain their teeth on purpose by chewing betel nut! A small switch from “whiter teeth” to “healthier gums" perhaps, and this wouldn't be on our list of epic marketing fails. 

Images, designs, colours and graphics play an important role in localisation as well. It could sometimes affect the very essence of the marketing message.

A case in point is Proctor & Gamble’s packaging of the Pampers diapers, which featured an image of a stork delivering a baby. The reference of the “stork” was completely lost on Japanese parents. Japanese folklore says nothing about storks but has stories of giant floating peaches delivering babies. Without the context, a stork carrying away their baby was probably what it looked like. Not an appealing prospect certainly.      

The symbolism of colours is taken very seriously in some cultures. For example, products packaged in white boxes won’t be kindly received by Japanese consumers. White symbolizes death and mourning in Japan. Red on the other hand is a great choice for this audience as the colour red symbolizes passion and strength. This infographic by the Multilizer translation blog brilliantly brings out the different connotations that colours convey in different cultures.

As we’ve seen, there are many elements to localisation and a small slip could mean losing an entire demographic! That is why localisation is taken very seriously by our teams at Simpson Soft. Our global network of native language specialists has a keen insight into the cultures, technical formats and nuances of the language in their countries. Our DTP specialists can make any changes in design that you require for your localized documents. Have a chat with us and let’s see how we can “glocalise” your business.